Emirates Stadium, London
26th November, 2013; 19:45 BST
Arsenal FC host Marseille in their next Champions League encounter at the Emirates. The English club can secure their place in the next round with a win in this game against a side who have lost all four of their matches in Europe so far.
Both these sides faced each other in the first match of the group stages and the Gunners won the match 2-1 as Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey scored for the away side. The last time Marseille visited the Emirates, the match ended in a 0-0 draw. But the French side do have a poor record on English soil. They have won only one of their 11 Champions League fixtures in England till now and from the outset it seems difficult for them to improve on that record tomorrow.
Team news and tactics
Arsenal have made a flying start to their season and are currently leading the Premier League table with a four points advantage over Liverpool and Chelsea. They bounced back impressively from their defeat at Old Trafford with a 2-0 victory over Southampton in their last game. Olivier Giroud maintained his fine goal scoring form with another brace and the Gunners head into this fixture high on confidence at the moment.
Arsenal are also leading the points table in Group F of the Champions League on goal difference. The have placed themselves in strong position to qualify from their group with a crucial win over Borussia Dortmund in the last game. Aaron Ramsey, who has been in impressive form this season, scored the winner against the German side. The Gunners can now confirm their place in the next round with a win over Marseille, before they travel to face Napoli in their last group stage fixture.
Arsene Wenger welcomed back Theo Walcott in the match against Southampton as the England winger came on as a substitute in the second half. But the Arsenal manager still has a long injury list to contain with ahead of this fixture. Yaya Sanogo, Abou Diaby, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski are out of contention for this game. The German international is expected to return to first team action in two weeks. There are some concerns about the fitness of Mikel Arteta for this game, who apparently picked up a knock against Southampton. But Mathieu Flamini, who missed out the last game due to suspension, is likely to replace him in the midfield.
Theo Walcott is likely to start from the bench once again, as he still lacks match fitness. Flamini and Ramsey are expected to form the pivot ahead of the defence, while Jack Wilshere is likely to be rested for this match. Tomas Rosicky will start on the right-hand side of the attack with Giroud leading the line once again. The rest of team picks itself at the moment.
Expected starting line-up: Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Flamini; Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud
Marseille started their Ligue 1 campaign brightly but dropped down the table after a run of three consecutive losses last month. The turned things around this month to an extent with two consecutive wins and are now 4th in the league table – 10 points behind league leaders PSG. Elie Baup has come under a lot of pressure for his side’s performance last month when they went on a seven match winless streak. Marseille are coming into this game on the back of a 1-3 win over Ajaccio away from home as Payet, Gignac and Thauvin got on the score-sheet. Both Gignac and Thauvin have been in impressive form off-late and will once again hold the key against Arsenal at the Emirates.
Marseille are bottom of the table in Group F having lost all four of their matches so far. They are out of contention for a place in the next round, but could very well spoil the party of Arsenal or Borussia Dortmund in their remaining two matches. Elie Baup will be looking to restore some pride with a good result at the Emirates, although their recent record in England isn’t something to be proud of. Marseille lost their last group stage fixture against Napoli as Higuain scored a late winner in a thrilling encounter.
The Marseille manager has a lot of injury concern ahead of this fixture as he will be without some key players. Andre Ayew and Rod Fanni are yet to recover from their respective injuries, while Dimitri Payet, who produced a wonderful performance in the match against Ajaccio, has joined this list as well with a knee injury.
Baup is expected to make two changes to the side he fielded against Ajaccio. Gianelli Imbula will replace Benoit Cheyrou in the center of the park alongside Romao, while Jordan Ayew will replace the injured Dimitri Payet on the left wing. Mathieu Valbuena, who played a crucial role in France’s second leg win over Ukraine, will be the key in attack with Thauvin support him.
Expected starting line-up: Mandanda (GK); Abdallah, N’Koulou, Diawara, Mendy; Romao, Imbula; Thauvin, Valbuena, Ayew; Gignac
Players to watch-out for: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal); Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Marseille