Lowly Auxerre make the journey to the south of France to take on Champions-League-chasing Marseille this Sunday, in what will be the final Ligue 1 match of this month.
These two clubs have very conflicting goals going into the final six matches of the season, but both are in the position of still having something to play for and so desperately need three points this weekend.
The hosts come into this match with Champions League qualification firmly in their sights, having sat in second place for 16 gameweeks of the season. And were they to end up qualifying for the Champions League again after doing so for this season, it would be the first time since the season of 2007/08 that the club would have made the competition for at least two successive seasons, when they then went on to qualify for the competition five years on the bounce.
However, there is a danger for Marseille - only the top two spots in Ligue 1 guarantee direct group-stage qualification, while third place only offers a spot in the competition’s third qualifying round instead. And while Les Olympiens are currently second with 67 points to their name and look likely to still be there come the end of the season, third-place Lens are just a single point behind them and there is the very real possibility that they could overtake and finish ahead of Marseille depending on the outcomes of these final six matches.
Auxerre make the journey to the French Riviera in 14th place, sitting just two places above the drop zone and with their top-flight status in peril. The visitors have accumulated just 33 points, and 14th place looks to be the highest position that they can actually finish in this season, considering the fact that Montpellier who are above them have a seven-point advantage.
With bottom side Angers virtually relegated and both Ajaccio and Troyes above them looking set to also join them in the second tier (both clubs are on 22 points and 10 behind the final club in the zone, Stade Brest), it means that the final spot in the relegation zone is still to be decided. The battle to avoid that spot will be contested by four different clubs in Stade Brest, Nantes, Strasbourg and Auxerre.
Just a point separates the four teams currently, with Auxerre’s 33 just one more than the 32 that the other three clubs have. So in their fight for survival, as many points as possible from these final six matches are imperative for Auxerre. Even just a point from a match as unfavourable and as difficult as this one would be immensely useful for Christophe Pelissier’s men.
Marseille will come into this match confident of picking up what would be their third win on the bounce, after recent 3-1 and 2-1 wins over Troyes and Lyon respectively. Their win against Lyon on Sunday came as a result of a stoppage-time own-goal and ensured what was a third win in their last six fixtures, with the other three matches ending in draws.
Those aforementioned draws were worrying though, because they came against Lorient, Montpellier and Strasbourg - three bottom-half sides who Marseille should really be beating if they do want to get into the Champions League. And getting direct qualification will be a tough ask because third-place Lens are breathing down the necks of Les Olympiens. The two clubs will actually meet next Saturday in a match that could very telling in terms of who will bag that all-important second-place spot, but for now, three points against Auxerre will be enough to keep Marseille firmly on track.
Despite their precarious position in the table, Auxerre are actually on a run of good form having picked up three wins and losing just once in their last six fixtures. In fact, the Burgundy side have tasted defeat just once in their last 11 matches, with a loss to Strasbourg the only blot on an impressive recent run that saw them pick up five draws and five wins.
However, the kind of form that Auxerre were in before they began this miraculous recent run is where their problems lie – they lost seven consecutive matches, conceding a lot of the goals that condemned them to defeat late on in the second half of those matches. And that is a problem that will likely flare up again considering that they have some tough fixtures still to play, but because they are on a fairly solid run of form right now, they can come into this match with the confidence that they may be able to nick a point or maybe more from Marseille.
The three wins from Auxerre’s last six matches came against fellow relegation rivals in Nantes, Ajaccio and Troyes, which were very important results to pick up at this stage of the season and to also put a distance, however small, between themselves and the clubs below them. But Marseille are not like those clubs – they are a different prospect entirely. It will be tough to defeat them, but it can be done. Auxerre have already defeated Lyon earlier this season and did well in picking up an impressive point against fifth-place Lille on the weekend. A result like those is much-needed this weekend.
Now from their 27 prior meetings in the league, the gap between these two sides is surprisingly not that large. Marseille have 12 wins to their name, while Auxerre have seven. However, the majority of those Auxerre wins did come in the early 2000s when they were a Ligue 1 staple.
Since their relegation to the second tier in 2012 and promotion back up in 2022, these two sides have met just twice, with Marseille winning 2-0 both when the sides met in the 2021 Coupe de France and in this season’s Ligue 1. Marseille have emerged triumphant in five of the last 10 meetings between these two sides stretching back to March 2008, with their only loss from that 10 coming in 2009, which was also Auxerre’s last actual win in this fixture.
So, despite their impressive recent form, the history books are not in Auxerre’s favour, and that alongside the superiority of Marseille’s squad is why we can only really see Igor Tudor’s men winning this one. Marseille are priced at 2/7 odds to pick up three points, while Auxerre have been given 10/1 odds to leave the Stade Velodrome with a win.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our previews, tips and offers for this weekend’s action. Footy Accumulators is the #1 football betting site for the latest on betting in the UK - download the Betting Hub app for more!