Olympique Marseille and Arsenal
look to put their mediocre domestic form behind them as they
gear up for a potentially decisive Champions League clash at the
Stade Velodrome on Wednesday.
Marseille, the 1993 champions, have won only one Ligue 1
game this season although they lead Champions League Group F
with six points from two games, having crushed Borussia Dortmund
3-0 in their previous match.
Arsenal, who have yet to win the Champions League, are
second on four points in the group and lie 10th in the Premier
League standings having had trouble adjusting after Samir Nasri
and Cesc Fabregas left during the off-season.
Victory would give Marseille a perfect record midway through
the group phase. Didier Deschamps's side, however, will need to
improve dramatically from their dull Ligue 1 displays if they
are to challenge the Londoners.
Marseille, 15th in the French league, drew 0-0 at Toulouse
at the weekend and have not won a league match in almost a
"I don't want to be too pessimistic [about our situation],"
Deschamps told the club's website. "I'm aware of
the difficulties we are facing but we are working on that and we
are trying to build some confidence."
Arsenal can empathise with their rivals' predicament.
"Marseille is a good team but they are under pressure a
little bit like we are in the league because they didn't start
as strong as they would have expected," said Arsenal coach
"That puts more pressure on you. They have done well in the
Champions League, certainly, because it is a competition where
there is a bit less expectation and they are less under
Although Arsenal won 2-1 against Sunderland on Sunday their
performance was far from convincing and owed a great deal to an
outstanding performance from Dutchman Robin van Persie who
scored twice - the first time after only 29 seconds, the second
from a brilliant free-kick - to give Arsenal only their third
league win of the season.
The three points moved them up five places in the table,
which gave Wenger renewed cause for optimism.
"We have now won five games on the run at home," the
"I think the attitude and spirit of the team is great. The
motivation is there, the quality is there, so slowly we are
The Gunners' injury problems have deepened, however, with
defender Kieran Gibbs and midfielder Aaron Ramsey joining the
already lengthy list of absentees.
Ramsey missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury while
Gibbs was replaced by Andre Santos five minutes into the second
half after suffering a stomach injury.
Arsenal are already without defenders Thomas Vermaelen and
Bacary Sagna while Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou have only
just returned from injury.
Wenger, back in the dugout after his two-match Champions
League suspension against Borussia Dortmund and Olympiakos, told
reporters: "Gibbs has an inflammation of his stomach muscles and
only has a small chance of playing on Wednesday.
"Ramsey has a small chance of being in the squad. He had
fatigue of his hamstring. I wanted to give him a breather - it
would have been a gamble to play him."
Marseille are still waiting for striker Andre-Pierre Gignac
to find his rhythm after a below-par start to the season because
of poor preparation.
"He's been training normally for a week but he has been out
for quite some time and he needs time to get back to his best,"
said assistant coach Guy Stephan.
Olympique Marseille: 30-Steve Mandanda; 2-Cesar Azpilicueta,
21-Souleymane Diawara, 3-Nicolas N'koulou, 12-Charles Kabore;
4-Alou Diarra, 8-Lucho Gonzalez, 7-Benoit Cheyrou, 28-Mathieu
Valbuena, 20-Andre Ayew; 11-Loic Remy.
Arsenal (possible): 13-Wojciech Szczesny; 25-Carl Jenkinson,
4-Per Mertesacker, 6-Laurent Koscielny, 11-Andre Santos; 8-Mikel
Arteta, 17-Alex Song, 7-Tomas Rosicky, 14-Theo Walcott; 10-Robin
van Persie, 22-Gervinho.
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