23/08/12 – 18:00 (UK)
Glavnaya Arena, Tiraspol, Moldova
Referee – S. Kever
Marseille will play their 5th competitive game of the season this evening as they face Moldovan Champions FC Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League 4th Qualifying round. Having eased past Turkish team Eskisehirspor in the last round, and picked up two excellent victories in the Ligue, OM will hope to build on this early season success and put themselves in an excellent position to qualify for the Europa League group stage.
The Marseille squad that travelled east to Moldova consisted of:
Mandanda, Bracigliano, Fanni, Morel, Nkoulou, Mbow, Mango, Mbia, Kabore, Abdullah, Raspentino, Ndoumbou, Valbuena, Amalfitano, Gignac, Remy, Omrani, J. Ayew.
Obvious changes to the team that started against Sochaux will come through the absence of Azpilicueta, Cheyrou and Andre Ayew from the travelling party. Cheyrou is suspended and Ayew is still nursing an ankle knock. OM fans will hope that the absence of Azpi is not a sign of his seemingly imminent departure, something the clubs hierarchy denied yesterday.This is likely to mean that Mbia, Abdullah and Jordan Ayew are expected to start.
With a number of players still linked with imminent moves away from the Velodrome, this could provide Elie Baup with an opportunity to give some of the fringe players such as Abdullah, Raspentino and Omrani some valuable pitch time. This will also allow some of the more senior players to rest and focus on the weekend’s Ligue 1 game against Montpellier.
A scoring draw in this game would put Marseille in the driving seat for the 2nd leg, as they would look to utilise their home advantage.
Possible starting line-up: (4-4-2) Mandanda – Fanni, Nkoulou, Mbia, Morel – Amalfitano, Abdullah Kabore, Valbuena – Gignac, J. Ayew
Who are they?
Having finished as champions of the Moldovan national league last season, FC Sheriff had the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League but were beaten 5-0 on aggregate by Dinamo Zagreb.
Sheriff’s league form has been solid and consistent so far. Having won their first 5 league games they drew their last game 0-0, against mid-table Rapid Ghidighici. Sheriff made an impressive start to their season, winning 5-0 and then 4-1. From then, however they struggled to find the net as often only scoring 3 goals in their last 4 games, relying heavily on solid defensive displays.
This will most likely mean that Marseille may find it difficult to break down the Sheriff defence. With experienced players like Valbuena and Amalfitano playing alongside eager and energetic players like Gignac and J. Ayew, hard work should pay off and allow OM to take some goals into next week’s 2nd leg.
After a solid start to the season, Marseille should progress over the course of the two legs. Staying calm and frustrating the home team will allow OM to steadily increase their possession and hold on the game. Marseille’s game plan should ensure that they don’t panic if they haven’t managed a goal early on, even a single away goal would give Marseille a good advantage.
Predicted score: FC Sheriff 1-2 Marseille
Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)
FC Sheriff – 6.00
Draw – 3.60
Marseille – 1.62
Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)
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