Marseille played in the Europa League final in May. On Sunday they lost in the cup to club deemed too small to host the gameBy Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football NewsWhile gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests interrupted much of the Ligue

Marseille humbled by fourth-tier amateurs in Coupe de France

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While gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests interrupted much of the Ligue 1 programme in December, things are now slightly less chaotic in France, with the Coupe de France staging its round-of-64 over the weekend. The competition, which whittles down thousands of sides before including the top-flight teams at this stage, has always produced fairytale runs, with Lyon holding off third-tier Quevilly in the 2012 final and PSG beating Les Herbiers in last season’s showpiece.

Yet, on the wrong side of a result this weekend were Marseille, who lost to ASF Andrézieux, a fourth-division side from a suburb of Saint-Étienne. Andrezieux’s 5,000-capacity ground was deemed too small to host the match, so it was moved to the nearby Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. Whereas some sides rotated their line-ups or lost in dramatic circumstances – both Angers and Montpellier lost 1-0 to lower league opposition – Marseille not only played a first-choice team but also failed to score in a 2-0 defeat.

L’Équipe led with the headline “the lesson,” but Marseille fans must feel as if no lesson has been learned. With no win in seven matches, their struggles are impossible to ignore, even in the face of those of their neighbours, Monaco. The two clubs meet in Ligue 1 on Sunday. Despite Monaco’s struggles this season, Marseille are hardly big favourites.

Andrezieux players celebrate after winning the tie at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne.

The arrivals of Cesc Fàbregas and Naldo, a 36-year-old centre-back from Brazil, are not exactly inspirational, but at least Monaco are taking a proactive approach to dealing with their current predicament. Much like Marseille, Monaco spent in the summer, with an emphasis on younger players with no experience in French football. Some of their signings have been a mixed bag (Benjamin Henrichs), but others, most notably Aleksandr Golovin, have been unmitigated disasters.

Marseille face a similar situation, with the signings of Duje Caleta-Car and Nemanja Radonjic at a combined cost of more than €30m having hamstrung the club financially, for no return. Now, as Monaco try to turn around their fortunes in the transfer market, Marseille, having spent heavily in the summer without any significant outgoing sales save André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s £30m move to Fulham, must try to regain their verve with no mooted help from outside. Or, almost no outside help; a move for Mario Balotelli, who had been a target in the summer, has been rumoured, but with the Italian yet to score this season and unlikely to feature for Nice any time soon after his bust-up with manager Patrick Vieira, his potential arrival hardly seems a palliative.

Marseille could cash in on some of their prized assets in an attempt to restructure the team; Morgan Sanson’s guile and versatility has tempted several bigger sides but the €20m or so they would make from selling him would scarcely make a dent for a team that increasingly looks shorn of depth and quality. This, coupled with their crippling over-reliance on Florian Thauvin, has made Marseille the apotheosis of what can go wrong when a club with a proud tradition seeks to restore their reputation on the fly, opting for ageing or inconsistent players.

Andrezieux coach Jean Noel Cabezas celebrates with a player after their victory over Marseille.

The club has enjoyed positives under the ownership of Frank McCourt – their appearance in the Europa League final last season and the renaissance of Thauvin – but this is a squad whose best days seem behind them, with Dimitri Payet, Adil Rami and Steve Mandanda all playing far below their best this season. Rudi Garcia, a manager who earned an impressive reputation in France after his achievements with Lille, has also looked out of his depth, chopping and changing players and systems at will.

Given that McCourt cannot compete financially with PSG, Marseille simply must take an holistic approach to squad building. The Ligue 1 table serves as evidence of this: Lyon have relied on their academy and canny acquisition of young French players; Lille have placed their faith in a young, exciting side; and Montpellier have opted to base their side around the brilliant counter-attacking brio of Michel Der Zakarian.

Marseille, meanwhile, installed a manager whose best success came when he picked young sides who played in an attack-minded style, but then brought in the likes of Kevin Strootman and Dimitri Payet instead. Garcia should absorb some of the blame – as we have argued in this column before – but sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and president Jacques-Henri Eyraud are the ones who need to learn their own lesson.

Talking points

Viry-Chatillon players celebrate after beating Angers in the French Cup.

“Christmas in January,” read L’Équipe’s front page as major cup upsets punctuated the weekend. Beyond the third-tier National, France’s sprawling lower divisions are split into groups or regions meaning around 500 clubs separated Saint-Étienne and seventh-tier Olympique Strasbourg on Sunday afternoon, making the 6-0 result rather respectable. However, Marseille were not alone in humiliation. Despite fielding a strong team, Angers were beaten 1-0 by sixth-tier side Viry-Châtillon; National outfit SSG Entente embarrassed Montpellier by the same scoreline; Gazelec Ajaccio of Ligue 2 also excited to sixth-division opposition; and Nimes were routed 3-0 by third-tier Lyon Duchère. After National side Les Herbiers made the final last year, cup magic remains rife in France.

The FA Cup is the world’s oldest cup competition but the Coupe de France is the biggest. Just 64 of several thousand entrants from across France and its former colonies remained this weekend and among them were Aiglon du Lamentin of Martinique. Despite a near 7,000km journey for the Caribbean islanders, Ligue 2 Orléans needed extra time to overcome their visitors, 3-2. Their encounter mirrored Réunion representative Excelsior’s visit to Lille at the same stage two years ago. Having also battled through various qualifying rounds they too held their own before being overrun in injury time, 4-1.

While Adrien Rabiot’s supposed move to Barcelona will dominate the headlines, another Frenchman may exchange Ligue 1 for the Camp Nou this month. Just 18 and without a senior minute of action to his name, Jean-Clair Todibo seemed a long way from the Toulouse first team this summer but his opportunity emerged when Issa Diop left for West Ham and Stephane Mbia picked up an injury. The rangy centre-back has only made 10 appearances but his ability to play his way out of trouble, pick a pass and read the game quickly and intelligently has drawn significant interest. With his youth contract expiring in June, Todibo refused Toulouse’s longer term professional contract to facilitate a transfer, a decision that, mirroring Rabiot, left him banished from the first team by an understandably frustrated club. Both players are supremely talented but Ernesto Valverde may have to improve their attitudes if they are to succeed at Barcelona.

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Marseille humbled by fourth-tier amateurs in Coupe de France

European round-up: Real seal late win as Messi reaches 400 La Liga goals

Real Madrid snatched a 2-1 victory at Real Betis thanks to a late free-kick from Dani Ceballos that returned the European champions to the top four.

Luka Modric had given Real the lead in the 18th minute, lashing a loose ball home from the edge of the area.

Santiago Solari’s side were missing seven first-team players and lost Karim Benzema to injury at the end of the first half. They were pegged back by Betis’s Sergio Canales who levelled in the 67th minute.

But the substitute Ceballos, a former Betis player, secured a vital win with two minutes remaining, sending his free-kick outside the Betis wall and into the corner.

The victory took Real Madrid above Alavés and into fourth place on 33 points, although they are still 10 points behind Barcelona who beat Eibar 3-0.

Playing at the Nou Camp Lionel Messi became the first player to score 400 La Liga goals. Luis Suárez struck twice as Barça maintained a five-point advantage over Atlético Madrid at the top of the table.

Messi’s remarkable landmark strike extended his own La Liga record - Cristiano Ronaldo is the only other player to have scored more than 300 goals in the Spanish top flight - and came in his 435th appearance in the competition.

Paris St Germain’s manager, Thomas Tuchel, said his side’s 3-0 victory over 10-man Amiens was “deserved” as they extended their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 13 points. Edinson Cavani gave PSG the lead from a spot-kick after a goalless first half while Amiens managed only one shot on target in the 90 minutes.

Khaled Adénon was sent off for a second bookable offence after he brought down the marauding Kylian Mbappé just before the French forward added his side’s second goal minutes later. The Brazilian defender Marquinhos added a third to wrap up the game after being expertly set up by Julian Draxler.

Cesc Fàbregas during his Monaco debut against Marseille.

Cesc Fàbregas made his debut for Monaco two days after leaving Chelsea in a drab 1-1 draw at Marseille. Thierry Henry’s side remain one place off the bottom.

In the Coppa Italia goals from Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean took Juventus into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 away win at Bologna. Joining them are Milan, who knocked out Sampdoria 2-0 after extra time thanks to a double from Patrick Cutrone, and Lazio, who beat the Serie C side Novara 4-1 with goals from Luis Alberto, Ciro Immobile (two) and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic .

The Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik scored one goal and provided an assist for another as his side beat Sassuolo 2-0.

In Portugal the leaders Porto were held 0-0 by Sporting CF.

'All guilty': Marseille fans spell out their anger at players, coach and club

Marseille’s recent travails continued at the Vélodrome on Sunday during and after their disappointing 1-1 draw with Monaco. The game not only underscored issues in terms of their squad building, but also their fans’ heightened level of dissatisfaction. Marseille’s failure to invest in the summer has left the club lacking depth, at least in the opinion of their manager Rudi Garcia.

Not for the first time this season, Garcia picked Luiz Gustavo in central defence. This had been a matter of necessity in the past, as Rolando had been unavailable, but on Sunday Adil Rami sat on the bench while Luiz Gustavo partnered Rolando. Quite apart from what that says about Garcia’s confidence in his defenders, it also robbed the hosts of having their best midfielder playing in his preferred position.

With Cesc Fàbregas proving influential in central midfield for Monaco on his debut, the decision to install Gustavo as a makeshift centre-back was either a marked riposte to Frank McCourt’s tight purse-strings (and the failure of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta to bring in players of any quality with the money that was spent) or the ultimate in quixotic foolhardiness on the manager’s part.

Things were the same in Marseille’s attack, where Lucas Ocampos, who has played most often as a left-sided wingback this season, was selected to lead the line while three recognised strikers (Kostas Mitroglou, Valére Germain and Clinton N’Jie) were all left on the bench. N’Jie and Germain did come on, but Garcia’s principled stance seemed increasingly imprudent as it forced other players into unfamiliar roles. Morgan Sanson, the club’s exciting box-to-box midfielder and perhaps the only sensible purchase made in the McCourt era, cut a forlorn figure wide on the left of a 4-2-3-1, while Maxime Lopez, who scored the hosts’ opener, is never a defensive midfielder, especially when forced to work alongside the static Kevin Strootman.

Whatever the message Garcia may have been trying to send, it was poorly received by the club’s fans. They were apoplectic that their team failed to beat a struggling Monaco side who were missing an entire XI through injury. Even the return of Rony Lopes was tempered by the late withdrawal of Radamel Falcao through illness. Failing to beat a rival is frustrating, but to do so at home while that rival is at their weakest is unforgivable for the Vélodrome crowd.

That crowd, such as it was (the stadium was roughly 10,000 short of capacity), became the main story after the match. The result taken in isolation was far from disastrous – especially with Monaco looking reinvigorated by the arrivals of Fàbregas and new centre-back Naldo – but Marseille are without a win in eight matches so their fans can hardly be blamed.

Frustration over a Florian Thauvin goal being ruled out by VAR fanned the flames of their discontent, but a pointed banner in the stands that read “Humiliated in Europe, the Coupe de France and the Coupe de La Ligue – directors, players, manager, you are the shame of Marseille,” made clear that fans were infuriated by more than the evening’s display. Marseille are well known for their vociferous support; the Vélodrome is frequently marked as one of France’s most intimidating atmospheres, but that same passion that runs so deep in supporting the club was clearly being brought to bear on the fans’ frustrations as well.

Players, coach, managers: all guilty.”

After the match, fans remonstrated with the players, who, to their credit, went over to the base of the stands to hear their grievances. Steve Mandanda and Gustavo were front and centre for these exchanges, but more telling was the distance kept by Garcia, who seemed reluctant to be even outside of the tunnel at full-time as calls for his dismissal had been chanted at various points during the match. Jacques-Henri Eyraud, the club’s president, who made headlines with a display of frustration in the dressing room following last weekend’s elimination from the Coupe de France at the hands of amateur side Andrézieux remained safely ensconced in his box, even as rumours swirled about him potentially being replaced given the club’s form.

Eyraud’s fiery dissatisfaction last Sunday was meant to be a call to arms but it increasingly reeks of desperation. It is difficult to see how the situation can be resolved, at least without a changing of the guard. Whether that means an exit for Eyraud, Garcia or players remains to be seen, but Marseille’s paralysing stasis must have an end, and soon, if the “Champions Project” is to survive.

Ligue 1 talking points

After Olivier Dall’Oglio’s sacking over Christmas, Antoine Kombouaré’s reign at Dijon began with a creditable draw with Montpellier. Having clung to the freewheeling style that produced Ligue 1’s fifth best home record last term, Dall’Oglio’s Dijon slumped to a sole victory in 15 league games after three opening wins. With relegation lurking, the club acted. Dall’Oglio’s seven years in charge should still be seen as a success though. He guided the small Burgundy club to Ligue 1 for just the second time, playing attractive football in the process. Hopefully his stock will have risen sufficiently for a Ligue 1 return. Kombouaré, who was himself sacked by Guingamp last month, could very well save Dijon, but it will not be nearly as much fun to watch.

With investment to come, Bordeaux’s future seems bright, but their present remains in doubt. An early European exit, Gustavo Poyet’s bizarre sacking and fluctuating league form have left Les Girondins adrift and fans frustrated. Compounding their malaise, key forward François Kamano, 22, has attracted significant interest from Monaco this week and his head has undoubtedly been turned. A little too desperate to impress, his wayward display played into the hands of Le Havre, who knocked Bordeaux out of the Coupe de France last weekend. When the sides met again in the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals on Wednesday night, manager Éric Bedouet decided to leave him out as he had “a lot on his mind”. With Bordeaux demanding a €30m fee, a deal remains distant. Kamano, who started their 1-0 defeat to Nice on the bench, has put Les Girondins in a difficult position. They are inconsistent when Komano is at his unfocused worst yet they are unable to replace the Guinean at his sparkling best.

After last weekend’s Coupe de France shocks, the midweek league Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals proved equally unpredictable. A complacent PSG lost their first domestic cup game since 2014, exiting to Ligue 1 bottom club Guingamp. Although Thomas Tuchel complained that Guingamp only entered the PSG box three times, the visitors won three penalties, scoring two for a shock 2-1 win that will affect Ligue 1’s European race. Due to PSG winning the last nine domestic cups, fifth and sixth have become concrete Europa League spots but, with none of the last four clubs in the league cup expected to finish that high, Ligue 1’s continental race just got tighter.

Quick guide

Ligue 1 results

Ligue 1 results

Caen 1-3 Lille
Lyon 1-1 Reims
Amiens 0-3 PSG
Guingamp 0-1 St Étienne
Nice 1-0 Bordeaux
Nantes 0-1 Rennes
Dijon 1-1 Montpellier
Toulouse 1-2 Strasbourg
Marseille 1-1 Monaco
Nîmes P-P Angers

Ligue 1 table

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 PSG 18 43 50
2 Lille 20 12 37
3 Lyon 19 9 33
4 St Etienne 19 7 33
5 Montpellier 19 10 31
6 Strasbourg 20 8 29
7 Rennes 19 3 29
8 Nice 19 -3 29
9 Marseille 18 4 28
10 Reims 20 -3 27
11 Nantes 19 0 23
12 Nimes 18 -2 23
13 Bordeaux 18 -1 22
14 Toulouse 19 -11 21
15 Angers 18 -2 20
16 Caen 20 -8 18
17 Amiens 20 -17 18
18 Dijon 19 -15 17
19 Monaco 19 -13 14
20 Guingamp 19 -21 11
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