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:
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:
Piszczek Freidrich Sokratis Durm
Blaszczykowski Mkhitaryan Reus
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.
Andrew (@aswanny84 @marseilleUK)