Both sides took just one point from their final three fixtures before the Christmas break, with the hosts losing at Angers while Montpellier came up short against Lille last time out.
Marseille had strung together a nine-game unbeaten run before losing to Rennes on December 16, and the cracks are now starting to show for Andre Villas-Boas and co.
A 2-1 defeat at the Roazhon Park was followed up with a 1-1 draw at home to strugglers Reims, and Marseille's final fixture of 2020 ended in a 2-1 loss to mid-table side Angers, with Lois Diony and Mathias Pereira Lage netting for Les Scoistes while Valentin Rongier pulled one back for Marseille.
Even though Les Olympiens still have two games in hand on the four sides above them in the table, two losses and one draw from their final three matches of 2020 has seriously harmed their title prospects, and there are also four teams only one point adrift of Marseille as the French top flight prepares to resume.
With third-placed Paris Saint-Germain seven points clear of Marseille, Villas-Boas's men could only rise as high as fourth with a win this week, but they would need Nantes to pull off an improbable win against Rennes first and foremost.
Les Olympiens would stretch their unbeaten run on home turf in Ligue 1 to seven matches should they avoid defeat against Montpellier, who suffered similar fortunes in their farewell to 2020.
With only one win to show from their last five attempts in the French top flight, Montpellier's European aspirations have also taken a significant hit as the season approaches its midway point.
There is no shame in losing to a title-chasing Lille side, and Michel Der Zakarian's men gave the high-flyers a good run for their money on December 23, but Montpellier ultimately came out on the wrong end of the scoreline in a five-goal thriller.
Andy Delort's overhead kick - which is certainly a contender for goal of the season - looked to have salvaged a draw for La Paillade in that game, but the veteran Burak Yilmaz netted in the 86th minute to condemn Montpellier to a third home defeat in a row.
While five of La Paillade's six league defeats this season have come on their own turf, they have not lost in seven on unfamiliar territory, and eighth-placed Montpellier will leapfrog Marseille and potentially rise as high as fifth with a win if other results go their way.
However, the visitors have only prevailed once in their last six attempts against Marseille, who have not suffered defeat at home to Montpellier since the 2014-15 season.
Marseille Ligue 1 form: WWWLDL
Marseille form (all competitions): WLWLDL
Montpellier HSC Ligue 1 form: WLWLDL
Rongier scored his first goal for Marseille in the loss to Angers, but the midfielder also picked up a third booking in the space of 10 matches and will not be available here.
In contrast, Montpellier only have one injury concern in the form of Teji Savanier, who is out with a thigh problem.
Stephy Mavididi is also in contention for a recall up top if Der Zakarian reverts to his recognised 4-3-3 formation.
Marseille possible starting lineup:
Mandanda; Sakai, Gonzalez, Caleta-Car, Nagatomo; Gueye, Kamara, Cuisance; Thauvin, Benedetto, Payet
Montpellier HSC possible starting lineup:
Omlin; Sambia, Mendes, Congre, Ristic; Chotard, Ferri, Mollet; Laborde, Delort, Mavididi
We say: Marseille 1-1 Montpellier HSC
This is a difficult game to call between a Marseille side who are excellent at home, and a Montpellier team who consistently produce the goods on the road. Neither club ended 2020 how they would have wanted to and will be desperate to resume their charge for a top-four finish here, but we cannot separate the two sides and expect the spoils to be shared at the Orange Velodrome.