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Marseille’s Pele will attempt to shut out PSG’s superstar

Modern day ‘Pele’: Marseille goalkeeper Yohann Pele is braced to face PSG on Sunday © AFP / JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER

MARSEILLE, France, Feb 24His famous namesake was the “King of Football”, but Marseille backup goalkeeper Yohann Pele will take a reputation as the “Prince of the clean sheet” into his encounter with the potent Paris Saint-Germain attack.

Steve Mandanda has not recovered from his thigh injury so the “Albatross,” as Pele is known, will start at Parc des Princes on Sunday.

He has made several blunders lately but Stephane Cassard, Marseille’s goalie coach, insists he has full confidence in Pele.

“He does not even have to prove his mental qualities anymore,” Cassard told AFP. “Just look at the number of clean sheets Yohann has in his career.”

Last season, Pele held the opposition scoreless 18 times in 38 appearances for Marseille. His percentage is even better this season. In just eight games in all competitions, he has kept five clean sheets.

Pele, who is 35, was sidetracked by ill health and missed most of three years after suffering a pulmonary embolism in 2010 while with Toulouse.

Recently, Pele has been plagued by sporting rather than health worries.

After coming on as a sub in Saint Etienne he allowed a cross to loop over his head to set up a goal that cost Marseille two points.

On Thursday in the Europa League, he hit one clearance straight to an opponent. Braga could not capitalise on the chance and Marseille won comfortably, but such incidents can create doubt.

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– ‘Two great goalies’ –

“Yohann showed what he can do over a whole season,” Cassard said. “He can take it. That’s why I first chose him.”

Cassard and Franck Passi, a longtime Marseille coach who had a couple of spells as interim manager, brought Pele to the club in 2016.

Cassard says that the player did not “even want talk about number one or number two.”

“When one has experienced a serious illness, as he has, and been forced from the pitch for three years, and one succeeds in returning to the highest level, that says something. He can face anything.”

“Yohann was backup to Steve Mandanda who had proved over nine years that he was a top goalie,” said Cassard.

When Mandanda left for Crystal Palace, “few believed in Pele when he took over,” recalled Cassard.

Mandanda returned in the summer. Having been, briefly, No.1, Pele became No.1b.

“I have two great goalies,” said manager Rudi Garcia who also coached Pele for one season at Le Mans.

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“These are intelligent lads with lots of experience,” said Cassard. “Yohann knows why he is still at Marseille. We all get on well, there is no misunderstanding, the situation is clear”.

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