Tag Archives: Champions League

Au Revoir Champions League

OM BVB2

Marseille play their last European game of the season tonight as they face German side Borussia Dortmund. OM are hoping to avoid becoming the first former European Champions to end their group campaign on 0 points, whereas Dortmund need a win to secure their progression into the next round. In group F, the only certainty is that Marseille will finish bottom. Arsenal are likely to qualify as they already sit on 12 points, however, a big Napoli win and Dortmund win, could see them miss out and have to make do with 3rd place and the Europa League place it brings.

Marseille, of course have a new man in charge, former Sporting Director, Jose Anigo, who has managed the club before between 2001-2005. Elie Baup was given his marching orders after Friday’s defeat to Nantes. The defeat in itself, was not the sole reason as Nantes have been a formidable side at the start of this season, however, 5 other ligue defeats, 13 points adrift from 1st place, an abysmal display in the Champions League and generally poor performances all round left the club with little choice in sacking Baup, something many fans had been calling for since October. Anigo has European management experience, as he took OM to the Europa final in 2004, only to be beaten by Valencia, but it remains to be seen if he can inspire this squad to take on the might of Jurgen Klopp.

Anigo will need an immediate response from his threadbare squad if they are to avoid the indignity of finishing with 0 points as he has a host of senior players missing. Andre Ayew, Valbuena and Abergel are injured, while Nkoulou and Romao are suspended. As a result Baptiste Aloe and Momar Bangoura take their place in the match day squad, although they are unlikely to feature at any point. Anigo’s full squad is made up of: Mandanda, Samba, Abdallah, Diawara, Fanni, Mendes, Mendy, Morel, Aloe, Cheyrou, Imbula, Thauvin, Lemina, Bangoura, Jordan Ayew, Gignac, Khalifa and Payet.

Now, nearly match fit, Rod Fanni may start at right back with Mendes taking the place of Nkoulou. In the past Anigo has made no secret of his dislike of Morel, so it could be expected that Mendy starts at left back. For consistency, the midfield and forward players are likely to be set up in banks of 3 with Cheyrou, Imbula and Lemina playing behind, Payet, Gignac and Thauvin. It will be interesting to see if Anigo plays this way as OM struggled in this set up against Arsenal last time out and Dortmund are more than capable of playing possession and passing football too.

Likely line-up and formation:

Mandanda

Fanni Diawara Mendes Mendy

Lemina Cheyrou Imbula

Payet Gignac Thauvin

 

The Champions League is likely to bring a welcome break for Klopp and his team as in the Bundesliga, they have lost 3 of their last 4 games (1-2 Wolfsburg, 0-3 Bayern, 0-1 Leverkusen) and are now a disappointing 10 points off 1st place. In the Champions League they have won 1 away game and lost the other. Klopp is likely to be without Gundogan, Schmelzer, Hummels, Bender and Subotic through injury, while Sahin is a doubt. Abameyang may make a return to French soil, however, this is likely to be from the bench.

The one positive for OM could be that the absence of Hummels and Subotic in defence means that BVB may have to play Manuel Friedrich in defence. Despite the 34 year old making nealy 150 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen over the past 6 yearsm he has only made 3 league starts with Dortmund this year.

Likely line-up and formation:

Weidenfller

Piszczek Freidrich Sokratis Durm

Grosskreutz Kelh

Blaszczykowski Mkhitaryan Reus

Lewandowski

 

The OM fans are likely to make this a memorable occasion, as at the minute it looks like it could be a while before we see Champions League football at the Velodrome again. The 2 automatic qualification spots will most likely go to psg and Monaco, and Lille seem streets ahead in consistent ligue form right now, for the 3rd play off spot. It would be a huge shame to miss out on Champions League football, particularly when the Velodrome is complete, however, we need to get the management structure in place, a competitive squad in place and get back to fighting for the domestic title, before we can even consider pushing for Champions League ¼ finals again.

Allez l’OM
Andrew (@aswanny84 @marseilleUK)

Arsenal 2-0 Marseille – 26/11/13

Supporting a team from a different city or country is never going to be an easy thing, but with the social media and technology we have today I have found it easier and easier watch Marseille games from a distance and from the comfort of my sofa. Unfortunately watching them in person, hasn’t got that much easier for me. You can’t fly from Newcastle to Marseille, often the only flight into France is to Paris, trains to London are obscenely priced to then make a connection, oh, and I’m a teacher too so unless there’s a game during the holidays I couldn’t go anyway. But, every once in a while you feel like someone is smiling and looking over you as when the Champion’s League fixtures were announced, fate would have it that I was already booked on a training course in London on the day of the Arsenal game. What an opportunity! So I made my best plans to get hold of tickets in the away end.

Unfortunately the tickets that a few of us were expecting, never arrived, after a hold up at Paris airport (damn Parisians!). Richard, who had ordered the tickets desperately tried everything to make arrangements, including getting in touch with the supporters group, trying to get replacements, even speaking to Arsenal explaining the situation, but unfortunately nothing happened. So with less than 24 hours to the game we sent out some emergency tweets, asking anyone for an RT in an attempt to find some spare tickets, I was even contacting Arsenal supporting friends asking about tickets in the home end out of sheer desperation! Good friends on twitter were asking around too, but it wasn’t looking good, so I sulked off to bed in an attempt to get some sleep before the big day.

The day started at 3:30, with a quick coffee, bite to eat and then de-ice of the car before setting off to Doncaster (last train back to Newcastle leaves London at 10.00, meaning I’d have to leave the game at half time to get home, whereas last train to Doncaster is 11.30 meaning I could stay for the whole game, but does involve 2 hour drive each way). An ambient musical playlist was provided by The XX, Fleetwood Mac with a little bit of Van Halen (‘Jump’) thrown in to get me into the mood for hopefully watching OM. As I sat waiting for my train to London, I couldn’t help worry that the trip would be in vain, as I still had no ticket and would be relying on someone having a spare, so began planning what tourist sites I could later visit in London as I waited for my late return train. As the train neared London, re-tweets started flashing through and a message from Liam came through asking if I was down for the game, I explained the situation, and after hearing that he’d try and sort something, my reception was lost to London’s mighty tunnels and underground system.

Photo 26-11-2013 17 42 25

When I emerged from Earl’s Court tube stop, the phone vibrated and as I looked I saw a message from Liam: ‘Sorted’. Enough said. My course was good enough, but it was a struggle to stop my mind from wandering to the thought of being in such a fantastic ground, in with the OM ultras. After finishing up, it was time to head over to Kings Cross. I met up with Ben, a huge OM fan, and we chatted about OM, life, work and everything in between like a pair of old mates who hadn’t seen each other for years. Photo 26-11-2013 18 32 35As good as the beer was, we both had one thing to sort still, tickets. Off we headed to the Emirates. Ben went to meet Franky, top honcho amongst the Virage Sud ultras, and I headed to meet Liam and his ‘contact’. Time was getting on, and I was still a bit worried that the tickets might not materialise, so when we met Karim, and he didn’t have them I was flapping a little. As Karim’s contact showed up shortly after and distributed tickets amongst his friends, it looked even worse as Karim started to count numbers on his hands and anxiously looked in our direction. Finally, Karim’s contact handed him a couple more, and we had them! Panic over, worry ended, excitement building, beer time. We headed to the nearby pub and met up with Ben, Franky and Marek, and we all headed into the back room where the OM fans were already in full voice.

Photo 26-11-2013 19 03 37As exciting as it was, to be amongst the ultras, singing away happily with their Arsenal counterparts, it was game time so we headed to the away section. After a quick bag search and pat down, we were in and headed for our ‘seats’. Security quickly told us, ‘just find anywhere mate, no one’s sitting where they should be’. He was right, no one was sitting where they should have been, and they weren’t even standing where they should’ve been, in fact when the game kicked of everyone was standing on the seat of any space they could find. I wasn’t to complain though, as I ended up only 12 rows or so from the front even closer to the flag waving, chanters, who I’d really wanted to be amongst. The Emirates as a stadium is undoubtedly impressive. Fair facilities in the away end and even padded seats. The curvature of the top of the stands reminded me a little of the Velodrome, but unfortunately, as with most modern stadiums it lacks a little character, as did the atmosphere for most of the evening.  Aside from the obvious 2 cheers from home fans, the most noise came when Arsenal made their substitutions. An occasional chant of ‘Ar-se-nal’ rang round a few times along with a semi-impressive call and response song between the Clock end and North Bank, though nowhere near the spectacle that the Virage Nord and Sud create at the Velodrome.

Photo 26-11-2013 19 42 28

So after all of the excitement what better way to start a game than to go 0-1 down within the opening minute? Typical. OM were tore apart down the left as Morel and Khalifa in particular struggled with Arsenal’s dominance and slick passing play. OM struggled to get a foothold on the game, as Arsenal passed the ball around them with ease. Even when Marseille did manage to win a tackle and retain the ball, the midfield 3 of Lemina, Romao and Imbula where too far away from the forward 3 of Jordan Ayew, Gignac and Khalifa, so hopefull through-balls and punts up the pitch where never going to help. In truth a change in formation to the usual 4-2-3-1, or even a temporarily defensive 4-5-1 would have helped to control the game a little more. It was almost inevitable that without Valbuena, Payet and Thauvin in the starting 11, OM would find it difficult against a team as good as Arsenal, particularly with the confidence that Arsenal have at the moment, but the lack lustre performance from a number of the OM players was difficult to take as a fan. The fans did manage to air their grievances a little, and made sure that Jordan Ayew understood what they thought of his typically lethargic performance as he was substituted in the 2nd half.

Keeping the game at 0-1 was mainly down to Mandanda, who had another of his incredible games, pulling of some great saves including a penalty save from Ozil in the 1st half. Nkoulou and Mendes did manage to snuff out many attacks too once the ball inevitably made its way into the centre after going past either Abdallah or Morel all too often.

Wilshere’s 2nd of the game really took the wind out of the OM sails, as with 30 minutes left and the introduction of Valbuena and Thauvin, it looked like Marseille might actually fancy getting something out of the game. Half chances were few and far between though, with an audacious lob by Gignac being cleared on the goal line the closest we managed, before two late Thauvin strikes were saved well by Szczesny.

Unfortunately the full time whistle went without even a consolation goal to cheer me up about the remaining return part of my journey. Valbuena, Romao and Mandanda noticeably came over to pay tribute to the OM fans at the end of the game, with Romao giving his shirt to one supporter at the front who had presumably lost his own as he spent the entire chilly night topless, clapping and chanting.

A mere 7 hours after the game finished I eventually climbed into bed and managed a grand 2 hours sleep before having to get up for work. It was a good sleep though, dreaming about my mini adventure, and thinking about the fantastic people I met. I hope it won’t be too long before I meet Franky, Marek, Liam and Ben again, weather that’s in London, Newcastle or hopefully even in the Velodrome, it doesn’t really matter.

My eye-balls literally feel like Ferero-Roches as I write this, and you know what, I’d do it all again tomorrow if I could.

Allez l’OM!

Andrew (@aswanny84 & @MarseilleUK)

Rennes and Napoli Reports

02/11/13 – Rennes 1-1 Marseille

The main positive that could be said about this game was, at least we stopped the rot, and avoided another defeat.

After another poor to a game, Marseille were lucky to be only 0-1 down within 10 minutes. Defensive blunders aplenty gave Rennes 3 good chances, but it was Oliver’s second chance that opened the scoring. A Morel mistake (huge surprise there) gifted Olivier the ball on the edge of the area and he let rip with a shot that left Mandanda with little chance of saving it.

This at least seemed to spur OM on, who seemed to wake up. On 14 minutes after Valbuena and Thauvin had already combined to warm Cotsil’s hands, Jordan Ayew managed to grab a goal. It came on the back of some good work from Romao who played in Abdallah whose accurate cross found jAyew who slotted home into an almost empty goal.

As much as OM dominated parts of the game, Rennes always looked incredibly dangerous on the counter with Kadir, Pitroipa and Alessandrini combining well often.

The second half brought much of the same with Thauvin and Valbuena looking the most lively of the OM players, but it looked to have been in vain when OM loan man Kadir was fouled in the box and Rennes awarded a penalty. Thankfully, Mandanda made up for some of his recent shaky performances with a fine save.

The game was possibly still there for the taking but some negative changes from Baup, would suggest that he was more than happy to hang on to a point.

 

06/11/13 Napoli 3-2 Marseille

With little more than pride to play for, along with an outside chance of finishing 3rd and a Europa League spot, Marseille started the game well. Seemingly away from the pressures of their own fans or just being out of the country, or perhaps they found a little bit of determination and desire, they passed well and found space and put the home side under pressure early on.

This start got even better when Andre Ayew opened the scoring on 10 minutes after he headed in an excellent corner from Thauvin.

Unfortunately that’s where most of the positives ended. OM defence capitulated in their usual spectacular fashion gifting first Inler and the Higuain perfect opportunities that they converted spectacularly and easily.

This was all within 25 minutes and it looked like it could be another of those nights where we were embarrassed on a global stage, out of Europe without so much of a whimper.

Somehow though we held on. Thauvin in particular had the kind of game that he is capable of, while Valbuena continued with his ever impressive consistently good form. Thauvin’s hard work and endeavour looked to have paid off for OM as he netted in the 65th minute.

Unfortunately, as good as we were in attack, we were equally, if not worse in defence. This allowed Huguain to net his second with 15 minutes left to play as he netted in acres of space.

It is desperately disappointing that after missing out on Champion’s League football last season we have 0 points from 4 games this time out. With our remaining games against Dortmund and Arsenal our best hope is to at least have some more positive performances and finish with some points! Lets enjoy those last few games as fans because who knows when we’ll be back in the Champion’s League at this rate!

Allez l’OM

(@aswanny84 & @marseilleUK)