Marseille enter Thursday night’s second legged tie at home to NK Domzale with a niggling sense of uneasiness following a week of underwhelming results. Having started the season with high scoring victories against KV Oostende and Dijon, Les Olympiens ‘ mesmerising attacking play seem to have suddenly come to a halt. With only the one goal in each of their last three games, Dimitri Payet’s absence through injury is getting more evident by the week.
Last Thursday’s first leg encounter was rockier than Marseille fans would have hoped. The Slovenians were placed as heavy underdogs before the tie, a reputation which was almost immediately quashed as the home side took an early 12th minute lead in Ljubljana. In truth, Domzale could have easily stretched their lead and left Marseille a highly difficult return leg task, but were left ruing missed opportunities. Marseille saw some resurgence in the second half, with Morgan Sanson’s 63rd minute equaliser enough to take a draw to Stade Velodrome.
Having played 6 games so far this season, Domzale are currently 4th in the Slovenian National League. They are a side very much focused on their Europa League campaign, with financial incentives an efficient motivator for qualification to the group stages. Domzale will be treating the second leg as a cup final, meaning Marseille must be prepared from the first minute.
The first leg result was a fairly disappointing result for the French side, who were expected to win both legs. Sunday’s return to domestic action saw another 1-1 draw, with Marseille again favourites but frustratingly held at home to Angers, ending their 100% record so far this season. Should another 1-1 draw be on the horizon in Thursday’s return leg, a painful 30 minutes of extra time will be required and possibly spot kicks to decide Marseille’s Europa League fate. The minimum expectations are simple: Win.
Five members from last Thursday’s 1-1 draw out in Slovenia were either on the bench or rested for Sunday’s league fixture with Angers. Patrice Evra, Gregory Sertic, Hiroki Sakai, Maxime Lopez and Valerie Germain have been ever-present in the club’s three Europa League games so far this season, and will all likely start bar perhaps Sertic for the return leg.
Despite being foolishly sent off in the final seconds of Sunday’s league game, Lucas Ocampos will not be suspended for European encounters. He will therefore likely start on the wing with Florian Thauvin on the opposite left flank. Valerie Germain’s presence in Marseille’s starting XI won’t be criticised by many, but there will be some sympathy for Clinton N’Jie.
N’Jie has had to deal with a fairly limited amount of game time so far this season, but already has three Ligue 1 goals to his name, two of which coming from the bench against Dijon. Contrastingly, Germain has yet to notch in the league, but a debut hat-trick at home to KV Oostende left him temporarily being impossible to remove from teamsheets. Germain’s demonstrated wonderful awareness of his team-mates in the early stages of the season, and his gifted creativeness perhaps edges his selection credentials.
Another key decision for manager Rudi Garcia will be in the central midfield department. Luis Gustavo and Morgan Sanson’s partnership will likely continue, leaving one more spot should Marseille start with their favoured 4-3-3 formation. Considering Marseille are at home at the Velodrome and are favourites, Maxime Lopez’s attacking capabilities should seal his spot alongside Gustavo & Sanson in the three man midfield.
The alternative is 21 year old Cameroonian Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who has significantly elevated himself into Rudi Garcia’s plans during pre-season. Elsewhere, Dimitri Payet will not be available, but will return in the Group Stages should his side manage to evade Domzale’s threat.
Marseille – Morgan Sanson:
Last week’s goalscorer Morgan Sanson is this week danger man for Les Olympiens. Sanson’s generally consistent performances from last season have continued into the current campaign, and the statistics agree. Having been last week’s saviour with a neat finish into the bottom left corner of Ljubljana’s Stozice Stadium, Sanson was at hand again to assist Clinton Njie’s opener against Angers on the weekend.
The addition of Luis Gustavo during the summer break has seemingly complimented Sanson, giving him further freedom to demonstrate his abilities as a complete midfielder. His €9m January arrival at Stade Velodrome is becoming more of a bargain following each performance, and Sanson could secure a large amount of money for the club with a commanding midfield performance again on Thursday night.
NK Domzale – Amedej Ventrih:
The Domzale no.4 was a standout player in their impressive first leg home performance. Ventrih is a defensive minded midfielder, who’s previous clubs include fellow Slovenian side Gorica, and former Italian giants Parma. Ventrih didn’t manage to make an appearance for Parma, and was released following their tragic bankruptcy back in 2015.
Having had some spells out with injury, Ventrih returned to Slovenia to sign for current club NK Domzale, and has become an important member of their first team squad. His superb headed goal gave Domzale their lead in last week’s 1-1 draw, an Marseille should be wary of his undoubted threat from set piece situations.
Prediction: Marseille 3-1 NK Domzale