Connect with us

Match Previews

Match Preview: Arsenal v Olympique de Marseille; Champion’s League Match Day 1

Arsenal begin their 2013/2014 Champion’s League sojourn with a trip to Marseille. For Arsenal it represents their ninth trip to France where they have been on impresssive form not losing yet. Arsenal are going to need to continue that run if they look to progress outside of their “group of death.”

Arsenal begin their 2013/2014 Champion’s League sojourn with a trip to Marseille. For Arsenal it represents their ninth trip to France where they have been on impresssive form not losing yet. Arsenal are going to need to continue that run if they look to progress outside of their “group of death.”

Many people are looking at Marseille as the weak link in a group that also features, last year’s Champion’s League runner-up Borussia Dortmund and a revitalized potential Scudetto challenger, SSC Napoli. However, under the steady hand of manager Élie Baup, Marseille have been an impressive side. They finished second last year behind megabucks PSG and tore off 3 straight wins before their first loss and a subsequent draw.

But there is enough talent in the Marseille side that anyone just looking past them should really think twice. Their man of the moment, is also growing in stature with the French National Team – Mathieu Valbuena. He is their ace supporting a very decent Marseille attack. His skill is such that Barcelona are said to be keeping an eye on him and his ability has French nationali team supporters liking him to hero and current UEFA chairman, Michel Platini.

What he gives Marseille is something all Arsenal supporters should be familiar with, technically sound midfielder who has the flexibility to play out either ont he wing or in the middle. He is good with the ball and carries an overall tenaciousness in his players that you admire. Arsenal are going to have to be wary of him regardless of where he plays. If he is the “ace in the whole” then Mathieu Flamini will draw the straw of keeping his compatriot silent. If he plays on the wing, either of the FBs will have to be aware of his presence on the pitch.

But all the focus is of course on Arsenal. Having secured their 16th consecutive trip to the group stages, Arsenal had to be Turkish side Fenerbahce to get here. They have to realize the importance of getting points off of Marseille and they have to do it on the road. The good thing is that Arsenal have been impressive on the road since their win against Bayern, bagging 9 wins on the road since beating Bayern at the Allianz.

In addition to their good away form,  Arsenal got some good news heading into this match as fears lingered from the weekend that Olivier Giroud might have picked up an knee injury towards the end of the match versus Sunderland. But the French forward has come through with a clean bill of health and will be called on to continue his fine run of form. A run that has seen him bag 5 goals in 6 matches. For someone who was widely regarded as “being okay” Giroud has shown that if this form continues, Arsene Wenger may nee dto rethink the type of striker he is looking for.

All of this with the contionued presence of new boy Mesut Özil keep a layer of hope and positivity surrounding the club right now. Of course it all can come tumbling down in an instant. But there is more than enough talent in this side to hopefully delay any ill will on any one’s part at this time.

Arsene believes 10 points will advance them to the knock stages for the 14th straight year. That means 3 wins and a draw. I think it may be more like 11 but what do I know.  Certainly, if Arsenal do hope to go through, they will need to  turn in another stellar road performance and keep building on the foundation that began last season in this competition at Munich.

Players to watch:
Arsenal. Olivier Giroud. It’s not often I find myself liking anything about Jamie Carragher, but his Monday Night Football assessment of Giroud was bang on. Giroud was pigeonholed only as a “big body” kind of forward. But his goals and his passing have shown an uncanny finesse we don’t typically associate with big bulky forwards. His form has been impressive and his confidence is soaring. Let’s hope it continues.

Marseille. Mathieu Valbuena. For all the reasons we discussed earlier.

Projected Lineups:
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Mondreal;  Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere;  Özil, Walcott; Giroud

Marseille: Mandanda; Morel, Mendes, N’Koulou, Fanni; Imbula, Romao; Ayew, Valbuena, Payet; Gignac

Arsenal Injuries and Suspensions:
Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) Podolski (thigh) Cazorla (foot) Rosicky (thigh) Diaby(knee) Arteta (thigh)

Head to Head Tournament Stats:



Goals Scored



Attempts on Target



Attempts off Target









Fouls Committed



Yellow Cards



Red Cards



Match Official:
Referee: Olegário Benquerença (POR)
Assistant referees: Ricardo Santos (POR) , Rui Tavares (POR)
Additional assistant referees: Artur Soares (POR) , Carlos Xistra (POR)
Fourth official: João Santos (POR)

Broadcast Information:
US: FoxSoccer 2 Go 2:45 PM EST

UK: Sky Sports 4 1945 GMT/20.45 CET

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

Marseille: 1

Match Facts (courtesy UEFA Press Kit:)

• Arsenal have remained unbeaten in their nine visits to France: six wins and three draws. They have won the last five fixtures, including a 2-1 success at Montpellier Hérault SC on matchday one last season.

• Last season’s absence ended a run of five successive UEFA Champions League campaigns for Marseille. In 2011/12 they made it to the quarter-finals for the first time since becoming the tournament’s inaugural winners in 1993, losing 2-0 home and away to FC Bayern München.

• Marseille have lost their last three home fixtures on matchday one; two years ago they were away, at Olympiacos FC, and won 1-0.

• OM’s progress to the 2011/12 quarter-finals came despite their poor home UEFA Champions League record. They lost twice at Stade Vélodrome in the group and the loss to Bayern means they have suffered ten defeats in their last 21 home fixtures in the competition proper, with only eight victories.

• Arsenal’s success in France is out of step with their recent record on their travels which shows nine defeats in 17 away games in the competition proper and five victories.

• Arsène Wenger’s team, who finished fourth in the 2012/13 Premier League, are in the group stage for the 16th season in a row. For the sixth time in eight campaigns they had to negotiate a qualifying round, overcoming Fenerbahçe SK 5-0 on aggregate in the play-offs. Ramsey scored once in the 3-0 win in Turkey and then got both goals in the home victory.

• For the third season in a row Arsenal departed from last year’s competition in the round of 16, losing 3-1 at home to Bayern and bowing out on away goals after a 2-0 away win. It was the 13th successive time that they had made it through the group.

• The win at Montpellier extended their unbeaten run on matchday one to nine games: seven wins and two draws. Their last opening-day defeat came on 17 September 2003 when FC Internazionale Milano won 3-0 at Highbury.

Manager’s Comments:

Arsène Wenger

“It is a tough group. We will need ten points to qualify and all four teams can qualify. All the games will be important. We will need to pick up points away from home and we will try to win in Marseille. We cannot predict that we will win all our home matches but we will try and start well to get in the right position.

Marseille have great home support, good physical strength and they are strong up front. They are used to playing big games. Marseille are building a good team with young players. It is a smart policy and by playing big matches these players will develop into great talents. I think they can be in the top two teams in the group; it is difficult to predict who will go through, though.”

Élie Baup, Marseille coach

“We know we’re not favourites but this is football and we will try to be the team that defies the odds. We are approaching this game with a lot of desire and hunger. Individually Arsenal have a better team but our ambition is to try and perform well.

We are building a young side. These Champions League games are a means of progress and learning for our young and experienced players. We want to achieve something. It will have to be a collective effort.

Arsenal are as good and experienced as previously, one of the top eight teams in Europe. But we will try and cause them problems playing our own game. We will try not to leave spaces between the lines as we know Arsenal like to use spaces. We have to produce a good result for our fans in our new stadium.”

More in Match Previews