Blog by: GB Vish
Kick-off: Wednesday, 18 September, 2045 CET, 1945 GMT, Thursday, 19 September, 0015 IST
Referee: Olegario Benquerenca (POR),
Assistant referees: Ricardo Santos (POR), Rui Tavares (POR)
Fourth official: João Santos (POR)
Additional assistant referees: Artur Soares (POR), Carlos Xistra (POR)
Location: Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France
The UEFA Champions League begins this week and with Europe’s premier club competition kicking off on Tuesday and Wednesday night, Arsenal travel to Marseille in one of two groups that have been labelled the Group of Death.
Last five fixtures: DLWWW
14/09/2013: 1-1 vs. Toulouse FC (A), Ligue 1 Professionnel
01/09/2013: 1-2 vs. AS Monaco (H), Ligue 1 Professionnel
24/08/2013: 1-0 vs. Valenciennes AFC (A), Ligue 1 Professionnel
17/08/2013: 2-0 vs. Evian Thonon-Gaillard (H), Ligue 1 Professionnel
11/08/2013: 3-1 vs. En Avant Guingamp (A), Ligue 1 Professionnel
Marseille began their Ligue 1 campaign excellently, with three wins on the trot, but have tailed off rather badly in their last two fixtures and manager Elie Baup will be hoping his team can use this game to bring the club back on track.
The cauldron-like atmosphere present in the south of France means that home backing will definitely be on the side of Les Phoceens, who did exceedingly well to finish in one of France’s two automatic Champions League qualification berths and Baup will be hoping that form will return for this game.
The last time Arsene Wenger’s team came to the south of France was as recent as two years ago. On that day, despite being even for most of the game, it was the visitors who came away with three valuable points as Aaron Ramsey’s late goal in stoppage time following a Hail Mary pass by Johan Djourou was enough to settle that game.
Last five fixtures: WWWWW
14/09/2013: 3-1 vs. Sunderland (A), Barclays Premier League
01/09/2013: 1-0 vs. Tottenham Hotspur (H), Barclays Premier League
27/08/2013: 2-0 vs. Fenerbahce SK (H), UEFA Champions League
24/08/2013: 3-1 vs. Fulham (A), Barclays Premier League
21/08/2013: 3-0 vs. Fenerbahce SK (A), UEFA Champions League
The Gunners have clearly taken their opening day defeat to Aston Villa seriously, having not lost a game since then. Despite possessing a squad stretched by injuries, Arsenal have won all of their five fixtures following that 3-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium and should be hoping to add win number six tomorrow night.
But Arsene Wenger is not liked in this part of France. As manager of AS Monaco, he was one of a handful of men who suspected something was going on behind the scenes at Marseille when they won their league title and the Champions League in 1993 and spoke openly against what was happening once all had been revealed and for this reason, Wenger is strongly disliked on the French Riviera. Marseille were subsequently stripped of that league title and relegated, but were allowed to keep their Champions League title, France’s only conquest of Europe’s best club competition.
Wenger’s team however made light work of the bile surrounding their manager when they managed a 1-0 win the last time they came to the Velodrome.
Team News: Marseille
Six international players were called up for Marseille and coach Baup will be wary of concerns over their fitness.
Steve Mandanda, Mathieu Valbuena, Dmitri Payet, André-Pierre Gignac (France), André Ayew (Ghana) and Nicolas N’Koulou (Cameroon) were all called up for their countries.
Ayew however is nursing an injury, as is defender Souleymane Diawara.
Squad (from): Gennaro Bracigliano, Kassim Abdallah, Nicolas N’Koulou, Lucas Mendes, Benoît Cheyrou, André-Pierre Gignac, André Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Mario Lemina, Florian Thauvin, Jérémy Morel, Brice Samba, Dimitri Payet, Laurent Abergel, Alaixys Romao, Souleymane Diawara, Benjamin Mendy. Rod Fanni, Gianelli Imbula, Mathieu Valbuena, Saber Khalifa, Steve Mandanda (captain)
Probable Starting XI: Mandanda, Fanni, N’Koulou, Mendes, Mendy, Cheyrou, Romao, Imbula Valbuena, Payet, Gignac
Team News: Arsenal
Despite concerns that Olivier Giroud would miss tomorrow’s game against Marseille, he seems to have only taken a knock and will face a late fitness test along with new signing Mesut Ozil.
There is however, good news on the injury front. Club captain Thomas Vermaelen announced his return from injury when he came off the bench against Sunderland and Per Mertesacker looks to have recovered from illness.
Lukas Podolski and Mikel Arteta are expected back by the 1st of October
Squad (from): Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen (captain), Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Emiliano Viviano, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini, Lukasz Fabianski, Nicklas Bendtner, Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong, Kieran Gibbs, Ryo Miyaichi, Gideon Zelalem
Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud
Arsenal have form on their side, but Marseille have home support. This promises to be an intriguing game.
Marseille 1-2 Arsenal