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Champions League Preview: Can OM pull it off in Red Square?

Lucho is today's key for a Marseille victory in Moscow.

Unlike Auxerre, who already look destined to be heading to the Europa League, Marseille’s destiny is in their own hands. Today they will travel to Moscow to take on Spartak Moscow, a team that Marseille lost to in the first match of the group state at the Stade Velodrome by a 1-0 score.

Luckily for Marseille, their Ligue 1 form is starting to improve. Even with a sub par performance against Toulouse this weekend, Marseille are starting to climb their way back to the top of the table, and are only two points out of the lead.

But with that being said, there are a few problems that Marseille will be facing today. First, the absence of star striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. Since arriving in Marseille from Toulouse, Gignac has been very unimpressive wearing the OM jersey. And though he should be available for today’s match, L’Equipe said that Gignac preferred not to play because of a nagging hamstring injury.

Like at Toulouse previously, Marseille seem to be relying too much on Gignac for their goals, and have come up disappointed. Therefore, with the absence of Gignac today, this might actually open up play for Marseille, giving them more scoring opportunities than any predictable play to Gignac.

That being said, this is the perfect time for youngster Andre Ayew to show his stuff. So far this season, Ayew has scored four Ligue 1 goals. Could this be the match that will help him be noticed around Europe as well?

But even with Gignac being a big part of their offense, Marseille coach Didier Deschamps still finds a way to include his big name midfielders into the offensive mix. Both Lucho Gonzalez and Mathieu Valbuena have been a valuable part of the Marseille offense during the lack of production from Gignac. Lucho has already scored four goals this season for Marseille. Valbuena, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to find the net like in previous years. We will see if he can today.

And, of course, we have the wildcard Loic Remy. Will he start today? For the sake of Marseille, I hope he does. He is too valuable of and asset to keep off the field.

Offense aside, Marseille will also have to rely heavily on keeper Steve Mandanda. In the last few years, Mandanda seems to have been slipping in quality play. In addition to letting in some soft goals, Mandanda has also been very error-prone. Basically, he is getting more sloppy. But if he is able to show up today, then Marseille should be able to come off with a win.

Therefore, a lot of things need to click for Marseille to get the win on the road. Obviously the offense needs to perform well, and the defense and goalkeeper need to stay on their toes (yes, stating the obvious, I know).

But I feel that the key today for Marseille is the play of Lucho and Valbuena. I think the defense will be fine, which is why I didn’t really mention Diawara, Mbia or Taiwo. If Valbuena is able to push the ball strongly up the right side, possibly opening up more opportunities in the center, Marseille really have a chance. Valbuena might not get a goal, but he will be a very important part of whoever does score for Marseille.

Being the ever optimistic, I see Marseille staying alive with a win. I just think they have the best overall talent.


3 Responses

  1. sounds like your a Marseille supporter MR TROTTER!

  2. Good preview Dave. You were spot on about Valbuena and Lucho, and especially Mandanda. Luckily our keeper had a good evening in Moscow, because his recent form has been worrying.

    After the match, I hope you also have a few words detailing the good performances of Heinze and Azpilicueta. I think Heinze had the tougher job, having the very dangerous Aiden McGeady (aka “the Irish magician”) coming at him all day. Besides the goalscorers, our left and right backs were I dare say better than Souley and MBia…

    Well I feel a lot better now. OM would have progressed last year if not for Brandao’s point-blank-range miss at the San Siro. ALLEZ L’OM !!! 😉

  3. Honestly, my MoM was Azpilicueta. This is the first time I have really seen him play, and I was quite impressed.

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