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SPORTS | 26-02-2021 13:13

Marseille await Sampaoli in hope of turning around troubled season

Sampaoli, fiery 60-year-old Argentine who coached his country at the 2018 World Cup and this week announced his departure from Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro, set to take charge of French side.

Marseille fans are awaiting the arrival of Jorge Sampaoli in the hope the fiery Argentine might revive a team that has slumped down the Ligue 1 table while the club is in crisis behind the scenes.

The former European champions lie in seventh place as they prepare to host bitter rivals Lyon on Sunday, almost a month after Andre Villas-Boas was removed as coach following a row over transfer policy.

They have won just once in nine league games, jeopardising their chances of qualifying for Europe next season.

Meanwhile, the club is still reeling from the violent January attack on their training ground by several hundred protesting supporters, one of whom this week received a three-month prison sentence while 11 others were handed suspended jail terms. Organised supporters groups are also calling for unpopular president Jacques-Henri Eyraud to resign.

Into this volatile atmosphere is expected to walk Sampaoli, the 60-year-old Argentine who coached his country at the 2018 World Cup and this week announced his departure from Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro.

Sampaoli previously won the Copa América with Chile in 2015 and spent a season in Spain with Sevilla.

His explosive character could make him either the perfect fit for a club seemingly always on the verge of a crisis, or someone who may only add to the sense of perpetual turmoil.

Marseille's previous experience with an Argentine coach, under Marcelo Bielsa in 2014/15, is still fondly remembered at the Velodrome despite results tailing away after a brilliant start.

The rivalry between Marseille and Lyon has grown over the last decade with the two clubs often competing with each other for Champions League qualification just as Paris Saint-Germain have dominated in Ligue 1.

However Lyon are now locked in a four-way battle for the title along with Lille, PSG and Monaco.

Rudi Garcia's team come into the weekend in second place, three points behind leaders Lille and a point above PSG in third.

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by Andy Scott, AFP

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