02/08/12 – 19:45 (UK)
Atatürk Stadyumu, Eskisehir, Turkey
Referee – Pawel Gil (POL)
Marseille kick-off their 2012-2013 competitive campaign in the Europa League 3rd Qualifying round against Turkish side Eskisehirspor. After a disappointing domestic campaign saw them spectacularly miss out on Champions League football, Marseille begin their new season earlier than they would have liked on the back of their Coupe de la Ligue victory over Lyon in April. Eskisehirspor are in the 3rd qualifying round having overcome Scotish Premier League team St. Johnstone in the 2nd Qualifying round, having finished 5th in the Turkish Super League last season.
Marseille come into this game on the back of a mixed pre-season. Disappointing draws against FC Sion (1-1), Olympique Nimes (2-2), FC Thun (3-3) and a defeat against Benfica (0-2) were only helped by lasts weeks 2-1 victory over Ligue 1 team Evian. Other positives of the pre-season have come in the form that OM have so far managed to keep hold of prized assets such as Loic Remy, Andre Ayew and Cesar Azpilicueta. Although the loss of Didier Deschamps was met with great sorrow by most of the OM fans the quick turnaround in appointing a new man was seen as a positive, even if Elie Baup was a slightly ‘left-field’ decision.
Eskisehirspor, having been promoted back to Turkish football’s top flight for the 2008/09 season have improved season on season finishing first 11th, 7th and then 5th last season to achieve a Europa League placing. Before beating St. Johnstone 3-1 over 2 legs, Eskisehirspor had drawn a friendly against Dutch team AZ Alkmaar.
It is unlikely that Elie Baup will provide too many surprises with his starting line-up for this match. With Remy and Diawara not fit, Azpilicueta and N’Doumbou both on Olympic duties with Spain and Gabon respectively, Baup will most likely stick with the squad and formation he has used throughout the pre-season friendlies. The squad, as shown below, offers a great deal of attacking strength. The end of season form that Amalfitano and Valbuena demonstrated, along with Ayew’s natural ability and the commitment and desire that Gignac has shown pre-season will be a huge threat to Eskisehirspor, even without Loic Remy.
Against St. Johnstone, Eskisehirspor, showed some defensive frailties with high balls played into the box. Although this is not Gignac’s natural strength as a lone striker, crosses from Amalfitano from the right could allow Andre Ayew to demonstrate some of his aerial prowess. Valbuena should use his ground strength to continue to develop a solid partnership with APG, as Gignac should be more than able to hold his own against a tough Eskisehirspor defence.
Who are they?
In the first game against St. Johnstone, solid defending ensures that Eskisehirspor were limited to shots from distance which generally amounted to very little. A deep lying Karbore, combined with an improved defensive understanding between Mbia and Nkoulou could ensure that this trend is replicated. In fact Eskisehirspor’s only goals in the first leg came from deflected shots, something that it is hard to defend against, really, sometimes they just happen.
One name that Premier League fans may be familiar with is Diomansy Kamara. The former Portsmouth, West Brom and Fulham forward joined Eskisehirspor almost a year ago and has managed 15 goals in 34 appearances for them. Kamara was the clubs top-scorer last season, with Karendiz 2nd with 8. Behind those two a number of players picked up a handful of goals each, giving you an indication that they are not blessed in front of goal and that if you restrict Kamara and Karendiz, you restrict Eskisehirspor.
With such a varied pre-season, and knowing (admittedly) very little of the opposition the outcome of this game is difficult to predict. However, a mix of Eskisehirspor’s lack of experience, combined with the Champions League experience of most of the OM squad, should provide a great advantage for the Marseille team over two legs. I would expect a tentative, nervy encounter with both teams trying to retain possession early on rather than playing adventurous football. Eskisehirspor will be fully aware of the OM defensive frailties, and will look to exploit a high-lying defensive line attacking through the centre. Marseille’s best chance may be to drop the defensive line slightly deeper, and allow Amalfitano and Valbuena to use individual skill to create space for Andre Ayew and Gignac.
Predicted score: Eskisehirspor 1-1 Marseille
Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)
Eskisehirspor – 4.75
Draw – 3.50
Marseille – 1.75
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)
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