Will Lyon and Marseille’s woes affect Champions League play? European Preview.

Can Gourcuff lead Lyon to Champions League success?

Of course, we all know the story of last year. Both Bordeaux and Lyon made impressive runs in the Champions League, only to have to play one another in the quarterfinals, which saw a strong Bordeaux team lose gracefully. Still, in the next round Lyon, who were looking like the odds-on favorites to possibly win the entire tournament, were totally embarrassed by Bayern Munich. 

And while the Champions League teams impressed, the same cannot be said for the Europa League teams. Marseille, much like Lyon, looked to be on a path to European success until a 2-1 loss to Benfica squashed their hopes. 

So, with the new make up of the teams, will Ligue 1 team see the same amount of success this year in European play as they did last year? 

First we have Marseille. While all the Champions League teams have had a rough start to the Ligue 1 season, Marseille seems to be the team that is coping with their problems the best. With bad luck, injuries, suspension and an entirely new striking force up front, Marseille is going through pains that should be easily controlled in the coming weeks. 

Luckily for Marseille, they have a group in which they should advance. Even with some easy competition, they do have one big giant which will be hard to slay, Chelsea. So far this season, Chelsea has taken no prisoners. They have four wins in four matches. They have scored 17 goals, while only allowing one. Still, with the exception of West Ham, Chelsea’s opponents have been less than impressive. Still, anyone that can create that much destruction in their path, no matter the opponent, is a force to be reckoned with. 

While Chelsea is always tough, Marseille will have easier opponents in MSK Zilina and Spartak Moscow. MSK Zilina were the champions of Slovakia’s Superliga last season. In their current season, Zilina is tie with a number of teams for 1st place, but the goal differential gives them the edge. Their stadium only holds 13,000 people. Therefore, Marseille should easily dominate their weaker Slovakian opponent. Slovakian internationals, striker Tomáš Oravec and defender Mário Pečalka, play for Zilina. 

The other match up for Marseille might be a tab bit tougher. Spartak Moscow finished 2nd place in the 2009 Russian Premier League, behind Rubin Kazan by eight points. So far this season, Spartak Moscow have been less than impressive. They are currently in 6th place with 19 matches played so far this season (Russian plays along the same lines as the MLS, in the summer). Still, the potent Brazilian duo of Welliton, who has 15 goals this season, leading the league, and Alex, who have 7 assists, also leading the league, will give a questionable Marseille offense some trouble. 

As for Lyon, everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. They are not playing well. They do not look like a good team out there. And in addition, their new signing Yoann Gourcuff hasn’t done a thing so far this season. Will Gourcuff be as impressive with Lyon in the Champions League as he was with Bordeaux last season? 

Their first game is really a toss-up. On paper, Lyon should have the advantage. But, again, anything is possible. Luckily for Lyon, they will be playing this first match against Schalke 04, who finished 2nd last year in the Bundesliga, but is currently in second to last place. Like Lyon, the lack of goal scoring has been hurting Schalke. Still, with the talent this team has, nobody can count anyone out. 

This first match might be a duel of the goalkeepers. Lyon is, of course, going with French international Hugo Lloris. Schalke is going with German international Manuel Nerer. These two can arguably be considered two of the top five keepers in the World right now. And whoever can sneak a goal by these keepers will, more than likely, be the victor. 

As for the rest of their opponents, things “should” get a little easier. In their easier matchup, they will be taking on Israeli Premier League Champions Hapoel Tel Aviv. Like Schalke and Lyon, Tel Aviv has had a slow start to their season as well with a 1-1-1 record. 

Their other opponent will be a team that Marseille knows all too well, Benfica. Benfica finished 1st place last year in the Portugese Liga. And, like the other teams in their group, Benfica have been underperforming. Currently, the defending champions are in 13th place with only one win and three losses. 

Still, even with the poor performance, they still have the services of Oscar Cardozo, Javier Saviola, Pablo Aimar and Fabio Coentrao which can, again, wreak havoc on a questionable Lyon defense. If Lyon shows up, they should do well. If they don’t, they might have some  trouble. 

Lyon should easily advance out of this group and, in reality, in this group as well.

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