For the third occasion this season, Shane Burns looks ahead to Marseille’s Europa League match as the Ligue 1 outfit travel to Portugal to take on Sporting Braga on Thursday night.
Following the results of the opening two fixtures, Marseille find themselves in second place in Group F ahead of their trip to Portugal. The south-coast side’s mixed form in Europe continued as an away day victory over Eredivisie side FC Groningen succeeded by a shock 0-1 home defeat to relatively unknown Czech side, Slovan Liberec, and leaves Michel’s team chasing group leaders Braga ahead of their clash in northern Portugal.
Thursday’s clash will be the first competitive game featuring both teams . History is not in the corner of the French side, as they have only been victorious once in eight meetings with Portuguese side’s in European competitions.
The Portuguese side have started their Europa League campaign in perfect fashion having been victorious in both games and their defensive strength’s have seen them fail to concede a goal in either game. Braga’s only previous encounter with French opponents was a 2008/09 UEFA Cup round of 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain. Braga currently sit forth in their domestic league having suffered two defeats in the opening seven games, leaving them in contention once again for the European places.
Team News and Tactics:
Going into the clash, Marseille head-coach Michel has minimal injury concerns before the 1,500km journey to Portugal. 20 year-old midfielder is the biggest caualty for les blues et blanc. Former Arsenal and France international midfielder Abou Diaby is still out and due to return to first team practice from mid-November.
A 1-1 home draw with Lorient successfully ended a run of three-successive defeats in all competitions adding to Marseille’s turbulent start to their season. The massively disappointing start to the season has seen last season’s forth placed side languish in 16th position, only four points off the relegation zone, despite the change of management after the first game. A victory on Thursday will give the Marseille fans their first victory in all competitions since beating Dutch side FC Groningen in the opening week of the Europa League.
Braga host Marseille desperate to keep top spot in Group F, but also keen to put Sunday’s 0-0 draw at home to Arouca behind them. Having only scored 15 goals in 16 games in European competitions, Braga will be keen to avoid adding to their goal-scoring worries.
Despite their poor record in Europe, Braga go into the game having won four succcesive games prior to the draw last weekend. Paulo Fonseca injury concerns are a cause for worry as Andre Pinto and Rodrigo Pinho remain on the sidelines after suffering long term injuries lately.
Michy Batshuayi (Olympique De Marseille) – The twenty-two year old Belgian forward is currently Marseille’s top goalscorer this season. In his nine games played so far in Ligue 1 this season, the young Belgian forward has contributed to eight goals domestically, scoring six. Despite his prolific form in France, the young forward is still yet to find the net in the Europa League this season.
Alan (Sporting Braga) – The veteran winger famously scored the only goal as Manchester United fell victim to Braga’s solid defensive display. Now in his eighth season with Braga, he has played a crucial part to Braga’s successful start to the season having notched two goals in six games whilst also performing at a higher level than any stage of his career, despite being thirty-six years old.
Marseille’s difficult start to the season will continue as Marseille’s in-ability to score goals at crucial times could cause them an issue as they attempt to break down a resolute Braga defense. The lack of confidence in the Marseille side, Braga’s impressive defensive strategies coinciding with the Portuguese side hosting the game, I struggle to see anything other than another defeat for Michel’s men.
Prediction: Sporting Braga 2 Marseille 0