Marseille vs. NapoliBy: Neil | October 22nd, 2013
The Champions League really is cutthroat. Only Matchday 3, and it’s almost a must-win contest for both Marseille and Napoli. Well, it’s certainly must win for Marseille. If they lose their third straight Champions League match, with two of the losses coming at home, you just can’t see a way out for Elie Baup’s team. Napoli’s prospects of recovering from a draw or loss are much better, but there’s plenty of evidence that both Dortmund and Arsenal will complete the double over Marseille and the pressure is on Napoli to do the same. Early reports indicate that Benitez will put the best Napoli side out with the available players. Possible lineup: Reina – Maggio, Albiol, Fernandez, Armero – Behrami, Inler – Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne – Higuain.
Of course, much depends on players’ fitness levels. Higuain is still not 100% and putting him out there from the opening whistle could be a risk. Also, Dries Mertens is in top shape and could replace either Insigne or Callejon.
Marseille aren’t exactly lighting it up this season in Ligue 1, but they’ve already played both PSG and Monaco, losing both at the Stade Velodrome by identical 2-1 scorelines. OM currently sit tied for 5th, but by the end of the season they should be competing for the top spots again. Known as a strong defensive team, Marseille are led by captain and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda who is the perennial backup on the France team, first to Gregory Coupet and now to Hugo Lloris. Marseille have conceded 8 goals in 10 Ligue 1 games so far, but if you take away the 4 goals conceded to nouveau-riches PSG and Monaco they’ve only let in 4 goals in 6 matches versus the rest of the league.
Up front Marseille have some talent in Andre Ayew, Andre-Pierre Gignac, and Mathieu Valbuena. France U-20 player Florient Thauvin is also catching the eye of some of Europe’s bigger clubs. But for all their attacking talent Marseille don’t dominate offensively. In fact, Baup has been criticized for being too defensive, with Marseille often having to grind out a goal or two to get a result. The few times I’ve seen Marseille play over the last year has confirmed this; they can be very difficult to break down, and while they can score goals it doesn’t always come easily for the French side.
It will be interesting to see how Napoli responds to their setback in Rome. The Partenopei didn’t play all that badly, but at the end they were down a couple goals, a man, and had lost some morale. If Marseille get the first goal it could be a struggle as Marseille knows how to sit back and close up shop. But I have a feeling this one will stay 0-0 for a while, and the second half could turn into a chess match with both managers looking to make a decisive move to give their team a winning edge.