Marseille v Inter – Champions League Round of 16 Match Preview
Time: 20:45 (19:45 UK)
Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Last meeting – 14/04/04 Inter 0-1 Marseille (Meriem ’74)
Marseille home Champions League form: P3, W1, D0, L2, F3, A2
Inter away Champions League form: P3 W2, D1, L0, F5, A3
Since the turn of the year Marseille have remained unbeaten in 3 competitions, the Coupe de la Ligue, the Coupe de France and Ligue 1, amassing 7 wins, 2 draws, and 23 goals and are now ready to do battle on a fourth front as they return to Champions League action this Wednesday evening to take on the 2010 winners, Inter Milan.
Marseille will aim to make the best possible start against an Inter team whose season has not been too dissimilar to their own. As both teams languished in the lower echelons of their respective league tables in September, Internazionale decided a change of manager was necessary and parted company with Gasperini, whereas OM committedly supported Deschamps. Both decisions appeared to work for both clubs as they both improved performances and results to claw their way back up their league standings, and progress in the Champions League.
Each team will be aiming to progress and improve on their successes in last year’s competition. In 2010-2011 Marseille failed to make it past the ‘round of 16’ after two tepid displays against Manchester United, whilst Inter will be keen to ensure they make up for last season’s 7-3 aggregate thrashing by Schalke 04.
Marseille Team selection –
After getting his team selection and tactics spectacularly wrong in the last two games, Didier Dechamps will be keen to ensure that no more criticism can be heaped upon him. Having started with a full strength squad against 3rd tier, CFA team Bourg-Peronnas in the Coupe de France, and then seeing star striker Loic Remy suffer a hamstring injury, ruling him out for 3 weeks, Deschamps made a number of changes for their next game. For the Ligue 1 game against mid-table Valenciennes, Deschamps dropped both right and left backs, Azpilicueta and Morel, and also left the previous games’ captain Cheyrou and in-form striker Brandao on the bench. Marseille struggled to a 1-1 draw in this game and it remains to be seen if the physical benefits of a 45-90 minute rest will outweigh the mental detriment of such a disappointing result.
Marseille need to exploit Inter’s weaknesses which coincidentally are some of the most potent strengths Marseille possess; playing down the wings and playing through balls, attacking a relatively weak defence who have shipped 33 goals in the league. The inclusion of Amalfitano, Valbuena, Cheyrou combined with the support of Azpilicueta and Morel will ensure that playing down the wings will always be an option available. With his current form, Deschamps should strongly consider starting the enigmatic Brandao, whose strength and aerial prowess also allows him to be used a target man should other attacking methods not be working. Again, should the usual game-plan not be working, the introduction of Andre Ayew, could allow Deschamps to shuffle the tactics board and revert to a standard 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 type formation. The likely starting line-up below is based on a rough 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to that which was used against Valenciennes.
Here are the thoughts of Serie A expert Rob Handworker, with a more accurate account of the threat that Inter possess, and how they will approach the game.
Inter Milan journey to the Stade Velodrome for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Marseille in terrible form. They are currently sitting 6th in the league, struggling to qualify for next year’s Champions League and out of the Italian cup as well. The 2009-10 Champions League winners have lost their last 3 league matches against Roma, Novara and Bologna after their home 4-4 draw against Palermo. They have now not won in their last 6 games in all competitions. The Novara and Bologna defeats were particularly shocking as both clubs are struggling near the foot of the Serie A table and the performance in the games was with a distinct lack of confidence or fluidity. This is also the first time since the 1946-47 season that they have lost 10 league games in a season and puts their manager, Claudio Ranieri’s, job seriously on the line. It might already be too late for him, no matter what happens for the rest of the season, as Massimo Moratti is not one to take failure lightly as Rafa Benitez and Leonardo have found out in recent times!
It is easy to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie this season. Defensively they are shocking with conceding 33 goals in their 24 league games. They have looked lost in recent games and gave the impression they have never played together even though they have some quality internationals in their midst like Lucio, Chivu and Maicon. Some of the goals they have conceded have been basic defensive errors and I’m sure Marseille can exploit this disorganisation. Going forward they have talent in abundance and until recently haven’t had trouble scoring. With the likes of Diego Milito, who is their top scorer, Giampoalo Pazzini, Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate they have the fire power to trouble any team. Add to that their extremely talented star player and playmaker Wesley Sneijder, who is now back from injury, the aging but still performing Dejan Stankovic and Javier Zanetti and on paper you would think they are a dangerous side and could compete against anyone. In reality, this season against the better teams they fall short. I still expect them to give Marseille a decent game and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get past them over the 2 legs but I doubt they will get past the quarter final stage of the competition.
Predicted team is as follows:
Julio Ceasr; Maicon, Lucio, Chivu, Nagatomo; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Alvarez, Stankovic; Sneijder; Milito
(Rob is a Spurs and Serie A fan and can be followed on Twitter @essexlad13 )
This game certainly has the potential to be one of the ties of the round, and it should be interesting to see how the teams line up tactically and mentally. Inter have the slight advantage knowing that no matter the outcome of this game, they have the home leg at the San Siro to fall back on, which is never an easy ground to travel to. I would expect that, like most teams playing away in the first leg and, given their current form that Inter would settle for a draw from this game and will try to keep a tight defence and midfield to restrict OM’s passing and possession game. Hopefully Marseille have rid themselves of a poor performance and will enter this game focussed and will take the game to Inter, in much the same way that they did against PSG, Lille and the beginning of the Lyon game. If they can do this I expect a tight but comfortable victory for Marseille: predicted result Marseille 2-0 Inter.
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)