Marseille seeking more inspiration from Valbuena

PARIS - French champions Marseille will seek inspiration from a player they put on the transfer list a year ago as they face two potentially decisive Ligue 1 clashes.

Diminutive midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, nicknamed "little bike", scored with a superb volley on the turn in Marseille's 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday.

He was playing out of position at centre forward with coach Didier Deschamps forced to re-shuffle his attack in the absence of the injured Andre-Pierre Gignac.

"I had this idea a long time ago. It is his best position because he can consistently find the target," said Deschamps.

Almost a year ago, though, the Marseille coach had another opinion of Valbuena, who was put on the January transfer list following repeated clashes with Deschamps.

Valbuena, who also scored in France's 2-1 defeat of England at Wembley last week, is now a cornerstone of the Marseille team.

Valbuena's performance, which took Marseille through the Champions League group phase for the first time since 1999/2000, also eased the pressure on Deschamps.

"I will now be able to work serenely," the coach said as Marseille, fifth in Ligue 1, prepare host second-placed Montpellier on Saturday.

They then play their game in hand, also at the Stade Velodrome, against fourth-placed Stade Rennes on Wednesday.

"We gained a lot of confidence from that Champions League performance," said Deschamps.

"With the knockout phase in February, I know it will be easier to manage the team until then - those who play and those who do not play much."

Other weekend clashes include Olympique Lyon hosting Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday with both teams still in contention for the title in the closest Ligue 1 for years.

Lyon, beaten 3-0 by Schalke 04 in the Champions League on Wednesday but still through to the next stage, are eighth on 22 points, only two behind leaders Lille who travel to seventh-placed Girondins Bordeaux on Saturday.

PSG are third on 23 points and promoted Brest, who dropped from top spot to sixth last weekend, host struggling RC Lens on Saturday.