Monthly Archives: August 2012

Europa League Draw

Having made it past Eskisehirspor and FC Sheriff in the Europa League qualifying round Marseille were drawn with Fenerbahçe, Mönchengladbach and AEL Limassol.

Marseille’s first game in the group stage will be on 20th September in Istanbul against Fenerbahçe. Amid controversy over match fixing and fan violence last season, Fenerbahçe still managed to finish 2nd behind Istanbul rivals Galatasaray. Notable players in their current squad are Moussa Sow, Alex and Dirk Kuyt.

The second game in the group stage will be at home against Cypriot side AEL Limassol. AEL finished 2 points clear in the Cypriot first division. APOEL finished second, and had managed to reach the Champions League ¼ finals last year, so AEL will be no pushovers.

On 25th October Marseille will visit Borussia Mönchengladbach. ‘Gladback finished 4th in the Bundesliga last season. Recognisable players for ‘Gladbach include Filip Daems and Luuk de Jong and they won their first game of the season 2-1 against Hoffenheim.

There is no doubt that Marseille’s Group C draw is one of the more difficult groups, however, Elie Baup will hope that his teams Champions League experience will put them in a good position to qualify. It will also be good to get the toughest fixture, Fenerbahçe away, out of the way first.

Marseille Europa League fixtures:

20th September – Fenerbahçe v Marseille

4th October – Marseille v AEL

25th October – Mönchengladbach v Marseille

8th November – Marseille v Mönchengladbach

22nd November – Marseille v Fenerbahçe

6th December – AEL v Marseille


Europa League Groups:

Group A
Liverpool (England)
Udinese (Italy)
Young Boys Berne (Switzerland)
Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia)

Group B
Atletico Madrid (Spain)
Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Israel)
Viktoria Plzen (Czech Rep)
Académica de Coimbra (Portugal)

Group C
Fenerbahçe (Turkey)
Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)
AEL Limassol (Cyprus)

Group D
Club Brugge (Belgium)
Newcastle United (England)
Marítimo (Portugal)

Group E
Stuttgart (Germany)
Copenhagen (Denmark)
Steaua Bucuresti (Romania)
Molde (Norway)

Group F
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)
Napoli (Italy)
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)
AIK Solna (Sweden)

Group G
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
Basel (Switzerland)
Genk (Belgium)
Videoton (Hungary)

Group H
Inter Milan (Italy)
Rubin Kazan (Russia)
Partizan (Serbia)
Neftçi PFK (Azerbaijan)

Group I
Athletic Bllbao (Spain)
Sparta Praha (Czech Rep)
Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC (Israel)

Group J
Tottenham Hotspur (England)
Panathinaikos (Greece)
Lazio (Italy)
Maribor (Slovenia)

Group K
Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine)
Rosenborg (Norway)
Rapid Wien (Austria)

Group L
FC Twente (Netherlands)
Hannover 96 (Germany)
Levante (Spain)
Helsingborgs (Sweden)

Barton to Marseille?

With the French transfer window not due to close until midnight on 4th September, there will be plenty of rumours circulating in the next week, but none may be as unexpected as the announcement that Joey Barton, looking for a fresh start, is expected to join Marseille.

Having been ‘on’, with Barton himself announcing through his twitter account that his ‘heart was at the Velodrome’, the deal was then ‘off’ as he was forced back into training with the reserves at QPR, part of his on-going punishment for misdemeanours at the end of last season. Then early yesterday Barton tweeted a photo of himself travelling to Marseille to visit the club and the deal was back ‘on’. He is expected to complete the second part of his medical and formalise the contract negotiations today.

The suggestion of Barton joining Marseille appears to have split the opinion of les phoceéns as well as fans of French football, with a number of blog posts and articles already being published on the matter. Well here is my own take.

As many of you might know, I support Marseille, however, my first team is actually Newcastle United. I live in Newcastle and am a long time season ticket holder too. So I have actually had the pleasure, and pain, of supporting a team that Joey Barton has played for. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the damn right fantastic side to Barton.

Barton’s time at Newcastle, like his time at other clubs, was mixed. After a solid first season he missed most of Newcastle’s infamous relegation season, returning at the end only to get sent-off at Anfield. This led to an apparent bust up with then manager Alan Shearer and it looked like Barton would be on his way out of toon. However, as the club appeared to be spectacularly imploding, Barton stayed. After a 6-1 defeat in a friendly at the hands of Leyton Orient, the NUFC players held a crisis-meeting. Barton and Kevin Nolan were apparently the main orchestrators in this, whereby the players discussed who wanted to stay and who wanted to go, who had ‘the balls’ to stick around with a club in the Championship and fight to get a team with no manager and seemingly no long-term stability back into the Premiership. Barton stayed, and along with the others who did, they managed to drag Newcastle back up.

Barton enjoyed his most successful season with Newcastle in the 2010-2011 season, when NUFC were back in the Premiership. On the pitch he struck up a wonderful partnership with Andy Carroll, providing 9 assists and 5 goals for the team. Barton was also seen as one of the key players in the emphatic 4-4 draw with Arsenal. Barton drew in the Arsenal players with a robust challenge, Diaby got sent off in the melee, Barton scored 2 penalties and also took the free-kick that led to Cheik Tiote’s incredible equaliser. The 2nd 45 minutes in this game were perhaps Barton’s finest in a Newcastle shirt.

In those 45 minutes he didn’t cry off and hide, like other players had before Newcastle’s Championship season. Barton came out ready for a fight and ready to give it his all. Barton showed his intelligence, as just when the Newcastle players needed a lift, Barton put in a heavy tackle on Diaby, this resulted in the crowd going wild and everyone got behind their player and team and the atmosphere was ignited, forgetting that their team was 4-0 down. This type of thing is often seen in ice-hockey, where a player will deliberately put in a heavy challenge, perhaps starting a fight, as a means of giving the players and fans a lift. During the fracas though, Barton didn’t start swinging punches or go head-to-head with players, he calmly watched as those around him lost their heads, and were duly punished. After this Barton coolly dispatched 2 penalties, before providing an excellent set-piece free-kick that led to Tiote’s equaliser.

These 45 minutes live long in my memory, not just because I was there, not just because one of my best mates left at half-time and missed one of the greatest come backs ever. But because the game had everything: skill, flair, passion, drama, guts and is a prominent reminder of why I love football. Joey Barton is entirely and perhaps solely accountable for this. I have no doubt that if Barton was not on the pitch that day, that result would never have happened. The Newcastle team lacked anyone else that could step-up and fight in quite the same way that Joey Barton can and did. Those 45 minutes were not the only good 45 minutes that Barton had for NUFC, far from it, but they encapsulate perfectly what he can offer to Marseille.

If Joey Barton can bring this mentality, skill, quality and passion to the south of France, he will succeed and the fans will love him for it. If Barton can maintain the psychology he held throughout the 2010-2011 season he has the potential to be a hero for OM. The Marseille midfield needs someone with this obvious fight and spirit. Marseille’s set-pieces have been nothing short of bland and uninspiring, and are regularly poorly delivered, Barton can change that. He would also be able to allow the defensive unit to practice against set-pieces in training, something they never appear to have done with the amount of chances they give away each game!

My hopes are that the move will happen. As I’ve said, I’ve had the privilege to see the positives that a (mentally and physically) fit Joey Barton can bring to a whole club, not just a squad. In France Barton might enjoy fairer treatment on and off the pitch too. Through my potentially biased eyes, Barton was subject to giving away so many fouls and cards, simply because he was Joey Barton. Other players would put in worse tackles and not be reprimanded, other teams would also target Barton, putting in poor challenges and fouls in an inexplicably obvious attempt to make Barton ‘lose it’ and this would go unpunished. In France, my hope is he can escape this, and escape the media circus of the British press who are all too keen to drag up every misdemeanour at every opportunity.

A fresh start in the north of England helped Barton turn his career around temporarily. Perhaps a fresh start in the south of France could help him do it permanently.

I do hope so. Joey, welcome to Marseille.

Allez l’OM


(@MarseilleUK & Andrew_Js3)

Europa League 2nd Leg Preview: Marseille (2v1) FC Sheriff

Europa League 4th Qualifying Round 2nd Leg

30/08/12 – (19:30 UK)

Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Ref: Kristinn Jakobsson (ISL)

Background –

Marseille will look to secure their place in the group stages of the Eurpoa league by avoiding a defeat at home against Moldovan side FC Sheriff Tiraspol. Marseille hold the advantage having won the away first leg 2-1, both goals coming from Jordan Ayew. As had been the case in the Eskisehirspor games, OM showed they had too much in the way of skill and experience for their opposition in the first leg, and Elie Baup will look for his team to demonstrate real professionalism and make sure of a comfortable win.

Marseille –

Since the first leg Marseille have lost the services of Cesar Azpilicueta to Chelsea, but signed Brazilian youngster Lucas Mendes, although he wasn’t registered in time to play. It also looks as though Stephane Mbia and Joey Barton may be switching teams within the next few days, as well as a host of other mooted transfers.

The squad for the game consists of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Mango, Nkoulou, Morel, Mbow, Cheyrou, Kabore, A. Ayew, Amalfitano, Abdullah, Ndoumbou, Valbuena, J. Ayew, Gignac, Raspentino and Omrani.

The lack of Fanni through injury and Mbia through transfer leaves Baup with a dilemma of defensive players with only 4 recognised defenders in the match day squad, two of whom, Mango and Mbow have barely featured in senior squad. With this in mind, Baup may opt to draft Kabore into the centre of defence with Nkoulou andwith Mbow playing at right back. In the attack it could be expected that Jordan Ayew will be paired with the in-form Andre-Pierre Gignac as in the first leg. I would expect if the result is going OM’s way that Raspentino will gain some valuable playing time at some point. Andre Ayew may also be given some pitch time, possibly starting ahead of Valbuena.

Possible starting line-up: (4-4-2) Mandanda – Mbow, Nkoulou, Kabore, Morel – Amalfitano, Cheyrou, Abdullah, A. Ayew – J. Ayew, Gignac.


FC Sheriff –

As was the case quite often in the first leg, FC Sheriff may be content with allowing Marseille to retain possession of the ball, especially as they have the home advantage this time. This may mean that Sheriff set up with 5 in midfield to nullify any OM attacks, and make it difficult to get the ball to J. Ayew and Gignac. If this is their game plan they will be likely to play in the counter attack, and utilise set-pieces, again something that they did well in the first leg. Marseille will have to rely on the experience of Mandanda and Nkoulou to ensure the rest of the defensive group stay alert and don’t switch-off, perhaps gifting Sheriff an easy chance of a vital away goal.

Summary –

As they showed in the 3rd Qualifying round against Eskisehirspor, Marseille should have the strength to overcome, no disrespect intended, a slightly inferior opposition. The current run of form is something Baup and the playing squad will want to continue, no matter who the opposition is. An early goal for Marseille would help settle the nerves and allow OM to play a more free flowing game and experiment with some different players and tactics, something that depending on the outcome of this transfer window, could be needed.

Predicted score:  Marseille 3-1 FC Sheriff (4-2 agg.)

Odds (Bet365 correct at time of publication

Marseille – 1.20

Draw – 6.00

FC Sheriff – 15.00

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & Andrew_Js3)


Other Games

Dynamo Moscow 1-1 Stuttgart (1-3)


Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-2 Slovan Liberec

Dila Gori 0-1 Maritimo


Heerenveen 0-2 Molde

Hapoel Tel Aviv 3-1 F91 Dudelange

HJK 0-6 Athletic Bilbao

Rosenborg 1-1 Legia Warsaw

CSKA Moscow 1-0 AIK

APOEL 1-1 Neftci

PSV 5-0 Zeta


Steaua Bucharest 2-0 Ekranas

Sparta Prague 2-2 Feyenoord

Young Boys 3-0 Midtjylland


Metalist 2-0 Dinamo Bucharest

Genk 1-2 Luzern


Viktoria Plzen 1-2 Lokeren


Vodeoton 0-0 Trabzonspor

Club Brugge 3-0 Debrecen

Bordeaux 0-0 Crvena Zvezda


Hannover 96 5-3 Slask Wroclaw

Levante 2-0 Motherwell

Inter Milan 2-0 Vaslui

Partizan 2-3 Tromso

Rapid Vienna 1-2 PAOK


AZ Alkmaar 0-1 Anzhi Makhachkala

FC Twente 1-3 Bursaspor

Newcastle United 1-1 Atromitos

Lazio 2-0 Mura 05

Liverpool 1-0 Hearts

Sporting Lisbon 1-1 Horsens