Diaby nearing return after near 18-month lay-off


Abou Diaby could make his long-awaited return to competitive football this week after almost a year and a half out through injury.

Diaby last played in a 2-1 League Cup defeat for Arsenal against Southampton in September 2014 and has been sidelined by a calf problem ever since.

However, the midfielder - who joined Marseille in July - has been included in a 19-man squad for the Coupe de France last-16 clash with Trelissac on Thursday, and coach Michel is confident he can play a part.

"We start with a group of 19 players including Abou Diaby," he said on Wednesday. "He trained for several days with the group.

"He feels ready and available. It is a sign of confidence, it is important to him. He could even be on the team sheet."

Meanwhile, striker Steven Fletcher - on loan at Marseille from Sunderland until the end of the season - is hoping to play his way into a permanent move to France.

"I come to the end of my contract next summer," he explained. "I need to show what I am capable of and to try to impress the club.

"And if I am given a contract at the end, it would be fantastic for me, but we need to see what I can do on the pitch."