Champions League Quarterfinal Preview: Marseille v Bayern

 

March Madness – this is not it. But it’s a Champions League quarterfinal, Bayern’s yearly compulsory task in my very own opinion. From now on, anything can happen. This draw wasn’t an unlucky one for the club (obviously deserved after that group stage), some random guy called Paul Breitner made two meetings with Franck Ribery and Daniel van Buyten’s former club, Olympique Marseille, possible. What’s the situation looking like hours before the first competititve match between those two clubs?

First, the ones you know and care about: FC Bayern. The aforementioned van Buyten is stil injured (comeback in a few weeks, I think), Breno can’t, due to an I’d almost say career-threatening injury, and won’t, due to his nonexistent future in Munich, play anymore for this club, and Bastian Schweinsteiger’s body doesn’t know what to do. A few days ago, it was a sure thing that he won’t be fit enough for this match, then, all of a sudden, we got the message that he’ll at least travel to France with his teammates and now we even hear that every bit of pain disappeared three days ago, appearance possible. All other players are available, albeit the starting lineup is set in stone, anyway.

The two wins in Gladbach and against Hannover weren’t easy but important. Winning close matches without scoring an early goal, such a weird feeling and that twice within a few days. Or, to quote Robin Williams…

Let’s hope that this short break was enough for the players to be fully rested again. A good result in the first leg is worth a lot. As the wise Rudi “Fuck Fjørtoft” Völler once said, a positive result means that 50% of the work is done but that’s far from half the battle.

Since I can’t expect you to know everything about the opponent and I, frankly, don’t know much that goes beyond “key players missing” and “season going not so well” either, I asked a true OM fan to tell us a bit about the Champions League winners of 1993 (people who think the difference between the European Cup and the CHampions League is a huge deal won’t hesitate to mention that OM are the first CL winners; unrelated side fact, that final was played in Munich, make of that what you will). Before you begin reading the excellent piece, make sure to follow on Twitter, visit the blog and read the opponent’s preview (including a few words about Bayern written by yours truly and when I say a few words I mean more than I ever write here). Without further ado, grab some popcorn and learn.

A season of struggle? Success? Sorrow? A self-evaluation at this stage of the season would suggest that all of these words, and many more slightly controversial and derogatory ones too would be more than appropriate in an analysis of Olympique de Marseille’s 2011-12 campaign so far.

After the disappointment of missing out on La Championnat to Lille last season, many had Marseille picked as the team to challenge the big spending team from Paris for the Ligue 1 title. A pre-season, 5-4, victory against Lille in the Trophée des Champions should have given OM the impetus and boost needed to hit the ground running. However, as the Ligue 1 season started, Marseille did not hit the ground running. In fact they hit the ground hard, tripped over themselves, knocked themselves out and lay unconsciously twitching as the competition raced ahead, leaving l’OM bottom of the ligue without a win in their first 6 games. Somehow during this period Marseille managed to perform well in the Champions League, proudly sporting the label of a team who had picked up more points in the competition than in their domestic league.

Troubles off the field were not helping matters either as Marseille’s owner, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, publicly slated the teams’ performances along  with director Jose Anigo going public with his criticism of manager Didier Deschamps. At the time it seemed like the fans agreed with the clubs hierarchy to a certain degree, and although they stopped short of calling for Deschamps to be sacked, they held silent protests at home matches and displayed banners calling the players ‘millionaires in life, down and outs on the pitch’, amongst others.  

One of the critiques levelled at Deschamps was that his selection policy of picking players by their name rather than performances was damaging morale. Also playing a 4-2-3-1 formation that didn’t appear to work based on results did not help matters. Deschamps reverted back to a 4-4-2 playing Jordan Ayew and Remy up front, and various attack-minded players in the midfield four. The Marseille team responded positively to this change in formation and this was supported by a number of players starting to hit form such as RB Azpilicueta, LB Morel and RM Amilfatano too.

By the end of October Marseille had really began unite, their improved ligue form combined with continued positive results in the Champions League meant that management, players, fans and directors alike all had a very merry Christmas. Marseille started 2012 in 6th position, defeated Lille comfortably and progressed with ease in the two domestic cup competitions and even losing the two Ayew brothers, Diawara and Kabore to the African Cup of Nations couldn’t stop them.

All was looking rosy for les phocéens and the 2nd ‘Olympico’ of the season should have provided a clear indication of just how much progress Marseille had made, having went 12 games unbeaten in all competitions. A win against Lyon would have put Marseille 4th only 2 points behind Lille, and being 2-0 up within 30 minutes the signs were looking promising. But just before half-time Marseille imploded, gifting Lyon 2 goals and struggled to see out the remainder of the game without conceding as the defence looked like their confidence had been shot. These defensive frailties have continued since, as Marseille have failed to win in their last 7 ligue games, losing 5 in a row. Injuries and suspensions have left Deschamps clutching at straws and he has reverted back to the 4-2-3-1 formation from earlier in the season, struggling against the weakest of Ligue 1 teams, and even succumbing to 3rd tier outfit US Quevilly in the Coupe de France last week.

In almost a mirror image of the start of this season, these are desperate times for Marseille, however, just like earlier this season perhaps the Champions League could provide the perfect tonic for l’OM. 

Thanks a lot! Once again, don’t forget to follow on Twitter, encourage the (definitely far too few) English blogs about non-English clubs.

Before you curl up into a ball, here’s what you’re looking for: the probable lineups. Bayern’s XI isn’t a secret, OM will have to do without keeper Steve Mandanda (sent off against Inter), regular CB Souleymane Diawara (season-ending injury) and probably striker Loic Remy (very doubtful due to an injury). Following a horrible performance by backup Gennaro Bracigliano, coach Didier Deschamps decided to field the third-choice GK Elinton Andrade against Bayern, a man whose last appearances for OM took place in 2010. Andrade joined the club in July 2009 after spending two years at Rapid Bucuresti including three UEFA Cup appearances, interestingly enough all against German clubs (2x v Nürnberg, 1x v Wolfsburg). Diawara will be replaced by Rod Fanni, Remy’s replacement would most likely be Brandao.

Neuer

Lahm – Boateng – Badstuber – Alaba

Gustavo – Kroos

Robben – Müller – Ribery

Gomez

______________________

Brandao

A. Ayew – Valbuena – Amalfitano

Mbia – Diarra

Morel – Nkoulou – Fanni – Azpilicueta

Andrade

Famous closing words? A win would be nice.

 

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