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Marseille vs Arsenal Preview 18.9.13 Champions League

A great first half display on Saturday, followed by a survival test in the second half, which we came through unscathed with all 3 points in the North East against Sunderland. We now travel to the south of France to take on former European Champions Olympique Marseille, looking to kick off our Champions League campaign with a vital 3 points.

After seeing off Fenerbahce in the qualifying stages to get to the group stages of the Champions League we face Marseille who didn’t have the hassle as they finished 2nd in Ligue 1 last season and therefore qualified automatically. After finishing some 12 points behind PSG in the league last season and the arrival of AS Monac-oil, Marseille have had to do some smart business this summer if they are to keep up their title challenge for this season.

The most notable summer acquisition is that of long term reported target Florian Thauvin from Lille. It has been said that Wenger is an admirer of the young Frenchman who is highly regarded in France, and has been attracting interest from all across Europe. Marseille forked out around £13m to bring the winger to the club. Marseille continued their raid of Lille by signing their talisman Payet, who scored 12 goals and got 11 assists in Ligue 1 last term. Thauvin - copyright skysports.com

The French international cost Marseille an estimated £7.5m. Marseille sustained their domestic based business with the capture of Guingamp defensive midfielder Gianelli Imbula for £6.6m. Imbula is another highly rated young player in France and a lot of top clubs in Europe will be monitoring his progress for Marseille this year. Marseille’s other business included 18 year old left back Benjamin Mendy from Le Havre for £3.5m, Saber Khalifa, a 26 year old striker from Evian for £2.2m, and lastly a 19 year old midfielder Mario Lemina from Lorient for £4.4m.

The Marseille squad already boasts of some great talent, with the likes of Valbuena, Gignac, the Ayew brothers, Mandanda and N’Koulou. Add the additions from this summer and Marseille are a dangerous side to come up against. Marseille started well in Ligue One with 3 victories from their first 3 games, beating Guingamp, Evian and Valenciennes, however they suffered defeat against Monaco at home and most recently drew against Toulouse away. So after their first 5 games of the season they have come away with 10 points and currently sit 4th in the League, behind title rivals PSG and Monaco.

Surprisingly Arsenal and Marseille have only met on two occasions previously, in the 11/12 Champions’ League group stage, coincidentally Dortmund were also in our group that year too, as both Arsenal and Marseille qualified for the knockout phase. A 90th minute Aaron Ramsey goal secured Arsenal 3 points in the away encounter with a 1-0 victory. You might fancy a punt on a 1-0 win with Ramsey first goal scorer which is 55/1 on Skybet. Déjà vu maybe?

The home tie was another dull affair, but Arsenal managed to keep a second clean sheet against Marseille in a drab 0-0 draw, a game in which Park Chu Young actually managed a rare start, which was the highlight of the match. Despite the draw at home, Arsenal still managed to finish top of their group, a feat that they will be trying to repeat this time around.

Fact file

  • Marseille have failed to win any of their last 3 Champions League Games.
  • Marseille haven’t beaten an English team in the Champions League since 2010 when they beat Chelsea 2-1 at home.
  • Arsenal have won their last 9 away games in all competitions, a 10th tonight would be a new club record.
  • The last time Arsenal lost to a French side in the Champions League was in 2002 at home against Auxerre 2-1.
  • Arsenal has never lost a tie in France against a French side in European Football. Arsenal has only lost 2 of 20 games against French sides in European Football.

Injuries

Giroud and Özil have both passed fitness tests, as Arsenal’s first choice XI will be stretched again by another full 90 minutes of football. Mertesacker is also back in the squad after missing the game against Sunderland with a stomach bug. Özil is due to make his Champions League debut for Arsenal.

Possible starting XI

Szczesny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sagna, Flamini, Ramsey, Özil, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud

Predicted Arsenal lineup vs Marseille away in Champions League

With Mertesacker back, Sagna will replace Jenkinson at right back, but with Cazorla, Chamberlain, Podolski and Rosicky injured, Wilshere and Özil will stick with their interchanging from the middle and the left flank. Özil will be looking to pick up from where he left off after Saturday’s remarkable first half display, whereas Flamini will make his second European debut for Arsenal. Youngsters Isaac Hayden and Chuba Akpom are also included the squad, as Arsenal rely on youth to make up numbers on the bench.

If Arsenal is going to beat Marseille, stopping Valbuena will be imperative. The tricky Frenchman will look to get in behind our midfield, in a similar fashion to what Özil will do for us, so it will be down to Ramsey and Flamini to stop that from happening. With Gignac up front, they have a Giroud esque player with strength and good hold up play, as well as pace and guile on the wings from Thauvin and Andre Ayew, which will give them what we hope to receive from Wilshere and Walcott. There are a lot of resemblances in the way both sides will set out to play, with similar types of players in terms of attack. Marseille are considerably weaker than us defensively, and have only kept one clean sheet so far this season, Arsenal will get chances, keeping their attack quiet will be the toughest  task of the night.

Lewbob’s prediction

Marseille 1-3 Arsenal

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