Marseille desperate to stop the rot at Ajaccio
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps knows that his side can all but kiss goodbye to their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League if they fail to win at Ajaccio on Friday evening.
Tuesday night's 2-0 loss at Evian was Marseille's third consecutive defeat in Ligue 1 and left them eight points outside the Champions League places in eighth place, with 12 games of the season remaining.
Friday's game on Corsica is the second of a three-match run of fixtures against promoted clubs, with a home game against Dijon awaiting Deschamps' side after next week's Champions League trip to Inter Milan.
Marseille appear incapable of asserting their authority against the league's lesser lights, however, and they badly missed the creativity of injured duo Mathieu Valbuena and Loic Remy in their insipid loss to Evian.
"We're in a difficult period," admitted Deschamps, whose side have also reached the French League Cup final and the quarter-finals of the French Cup.
"I'd like to remind everyone that we've come a long way (since winning only one of their first 10 league games).
"We put a lot of effort in and now we're getting a bit stuck. There are still lots of points to play for but, looking at our rhythm in recent matches, I know it's going to be complicated.
"It's difficult to do without important players. And then, without wanting to name names, there are individual performances that are just not good enough."
Remy and centre-back Stephane Mbia are expected to be included in the squad to face Ajaccio, but Valbuena and injured striker Andre-Pierre Gignac are yet to return to full training with the rest of the squad.
After climbing out of the relegation zone in January following a four-game winning run, Ajaccio sank back into the bottom three last weekend after losing 4-1 at league leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Marseille's trip to Ajaccio has been brought forward by the French Professional League to afford OM maximum time to prepare for their game at Inter, when the visitors will be protecting a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their last 16 tie.
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