PARIS (AP) – With Marseille spending relatively little in the transfer market, the onus will be on coach Didier Deschamps to inspire mostly the same group of players who lost the French league title to Lille last season.
Deschamps won the title in his first season in charge, but Marseille then finished second despite several expensive recruits.
Deschamps has been thrifty this time, reinforcing the midfield. But he must hope his attack performs better with Loic Remy at center forward instead of Andre-Pierre Gignac, whose form was poor last season.
''The goal this season is to recapture the title,'' Marseille midfielder Benoit Cheyrou said ahead of Saturday's home match against Sochaux. ''Finishing second in 2011 was a bit disappointing.''
Marseille showed its hunger last week by rallying from 3-1 down to beat Lille 5-4 in the traditional French league season-opener, the Champions Trophy.
Marseille has been consistent over the past three seasons, with Eric Gerets guiding the club to second place before Deschamps took over. Deschamps also won the League Cup in consecutive seasons, and extended his contract until 2014.
The club's stability is a major reason for its success, and getting Deschamps to stay despite a very frustrating last season may prove more crucial.
''There used to be big changes in the offseason, now it's more stable,'' Marseille winger Mathieu Valbuena said. ''Since Didier Deschamps has been here, we have been champion and runner-up ... It encourages people to stay.''
Marseille, however, may struggle to attract players in the future after Brazilian defender Vitorino Hilton was attacked in his home last month and hit in the head with the butt of a gun. Andre and Jordan Ayew, Lucho Gonzalez, Stephane M'Bia and Gignac were also victims of robberies at their houses.
Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo said potential signings may be wary of joining Marseille in the future.
''All the players ask me this first: Is my security and that of my family guaranteed?'' Anigo said.
Still, Deschamps managed to strengthen his midfield by signing Morgan Amalfitano from Lorient and France international Alou Diarra from Bordeaux.
Amalfitano will help take pressure off Gonzalez, who performed poorly last season. Gonzalez scored eight goals but had only four assists compared to 11 assists when Marseille won the title.
The biggest concern for Marseille this season could be rebuilding its defense after two key players left. Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze moved to Roma and Nigeria left back Taye Taiwo went to AC Milan.
Marseille has signed fullback Jeremy Morel from Lorient and Cameroon defender Nicolas N'Koulou from Monaco.
''On paper we look solid defensively, but we'll have to show it on the pitch this season,'' Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said. ''We were very solid defensively at one point last season, but we were sloppy at the end.''
Amalfitano has the ability to create goals, setting up 13 last season, while Diarra brings leadership qualities, having captained Bordeaux and France.
''With the departure of Gaby (Heinze), we lost someone who had a big impact on the squad,'' Remy said. ''With Alou, we get someone who has charisma and who is important for a squad.''
Another challenge for Deschamps will be to play attractive football. He was criticized last season for his team's physical style of play that contrasted with Lille's elegant football.
Much will depend on how things click in attack.
Gignac cost Marseille ?16.5 million ($23.4 million) but was a massive disappointment last season, scoring only eight goals. Deschamps will likely start with Remy at center forward, after he scored 15 league goals from the wing.
Much will also be expected of Andre Ayew in attack. The 21-year-old Ghana winger returned last year from a loan at second-division side Arles-Avignon and scored 10 league goals.