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Europa League PREVIEW | Oostende (2) vs Marseille (4)

Marseille travel to neighbouring Belgium holding a 4-2 lead following last Thursday’s win at Stade Vélodrome. OM can be praised for almost avoiding the banana skin that often presents itself when facing pressured European fixtures while pre-season is yet to finish after a 4-2 victory last time out, but should still be wary going into this second leg. With the influx of undisputed creativity added to OM’s ranks during the past 18 months, goals should not be a problem whatsoever, and Rudi Garcia’s main certainly delivered on that front in the first leg.

Exciting football was back at the Vélodrome thanks primarily to mesmerising play in between the midfield and attacking lines, complimented by Valère Germain’s wonderful finishing. Marseille will need to rely on their experience to guide them through this tricky tie, where bowing out at such an early stage would be inexcusable.

Opponents KV Oostende will undoubtedly continue to be as menacing offensively as they were during their first leg performance. Considering that the first leg tie was the Belgians first ever taste of European football, they were highly impressive at one of the most notorious grounds on the continent.

This tie will be far more suited to the hosts, contested at a tight knit Versluys Arena, with a tiny capacity of 8,432. The pressure will now firmly be on Marseille’s shoulders following KV Oostende’s respectful 4-2 defeat last week. A lack of fear and insistence to go out playing with confidence may be all that’s required for Oostende to trigger their devastating counter-attacking football, therefore the second leg could yet prove to be a miserable night for Marseille’s history books if they are not defensively sound.

Team News

Marseille will more than likely field a fairly unchanged side. The Frenchmen’s defence clearly lack pace, one of KV Oostende’s weapons, therefore a tactical change to a 5 man defence to protect the lead would not be too surprising. Marseille’s midfield pairing of Morgan Sanson and Luiz Gustavo will likely start the game with their decision-making and positioning potentially significant in resisting KV Oostende’s threatening turn of speed. Similarly, Marseille’s attack is almost irreplaceable following their 4 goals in the first leg, with the tie too closely knit to be able to afford resting stars.

The first leg saw dangerous wide players Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin used as playmakers throughout, both responsible for assists of high technical quality. Payet’s ability to make his cross look more of a pass in the build-up to Morgan Sanson’s goal was simply sublime. Most teams would surely head into this fixture in a more cautious, defensive manner in order to protect the lead at all costs. Yet Marseille are one of a limited number of teams who would perhaps be better suited by playing an attacking style from the very beginning. An interesting tactical battle awaits.

KV Oostende will also remain fairly unchanged, but could revert to a more attack based starting line-up in order to blitz the Marseille side early on. Pace merchant and new signing Ricardo Zivkovic surprisingly didn’t start the first leg, but only took five minutes to flick on an aimless long ball in to Knowledge Musona’s path for Oostende’s second at Stade Velodrome, and may have earned himself a start.

If KV Oostende score early, the momentum of the tie could well and truly shift, with Marseille’s experienced players’ reputations on the line at the very beginning of their careers at Les Olympiens. KV Oostende’s second goal of the tie showcased their lethal counter-attacking capability, with a chipped effort which came from almost nowhere. With intense, fast-flowing football complimented by a hostile home crowd backing, Marseille will feel that they must claim vital away goals at some stage on Thursday night.

Star Man:

Valère Germain, Marseille

How on earth could it not be this man following his hat-trick on his competitive debut for Les Olympiens. Germain’s right foot had predatory instinct by tucking away three goals in various manners during the first leg. This is a man who is simply desperate to rid any potential reputation of being the nearly man when it comes to team selection.

He bravely joined Marseille this summer in an attempt to forge himself as the main man at the city of his birth. Oostende’s defence weren’t on the same wavelength as Germain during the first leg, who’s sharp movement was notable in creating his goalscoring opportunities. Rumours are still circulating of new Marseille arrivals, with Loïc Rémy, Olivier Giroud and Carlos Bacca being mentioned, but Germain has simply done everything he could so far to cement his spot as Marseille’s starting striker. Germain is now instantly a man playing with sky high confidence, and will be eager to dominate the scoresheet once again.

Knowledge Musona, KV Oostende

The Zimbabwean winger, similarly to Zivkovic, could turn Marseille’s defence inside out during the second leg. Possessing a strikingly small stature, Musona’s low centre of gravity and acceleration means that he could pose a problem for Marseille’s aging defence. Musona’s classy chip was integral in clawing back an opportunity for Oostende in the first leg, and should Zivkovic start the second tie, the two could build on their partnership which lead to that glorious goal. His international record is highly impressive, boasting 20 goals in 30 international caps for Zimbabwe, most recently scoring a hat-trick against Liberia on the 11th of June. Musona knows where the goal is, and could be Oostende’s hero on home turf.

Prediction: KV Oostende 1-3 Marseille

I.S.

 

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