Arsenal v Olympique de Marseille
UEFA Champions League
Kick off: November 26, 2013 7:45 PM GMT
The Gunners have a great chance to re-assert their dominance in Group F by overcoming bottom placed Marseille, who remain pointless in what is considered the toughest group in the Champions League this campaign. The Gunners currently lie in top spot on 9 points, equal with Napoli. Although victory doesn’t necessarily ensure progression to the knock-out phase, if Dortmund were to lose to Napoli Arsenal would only have to avoid defeat to ensure progression.
In terms of team news, there were no new injuries to report following the 2-0 win over Southampton at the weekend. In that match Theo Walcott made his expected return with a cameo off the bench in the latter part of the match. It remains unclear whether the pacy Englishman will make a return to the starting line-up, however I expect him to make his entrance off the bench again as he continues to regain full match-fitness. His return should bring added width to a team that has lacked penetration and directness in recent weeks.
Wenger also mentioned the return of Podolski to full training in the usual team news update, although the German is still some way from returning to competitive play with it being reported he is still a few weeks away. Our midfield battler Mathieu Flamini returns to the squad after serving out his suspension at the weekend, which is sure to give Wenger more midfield headaches as he contemplates what line-up to field at the first whistle.
Aside from a couple of potential midfield changes, the bulk of the team is likely to remain unchanged. The changes that are likely include that of Wilshere and Arteta. The latter picked up a knock in the Southampton game meaning that the returning Flamini may come in to replace him. With Wilshere there is a possibility that Rosicky may instead get a start with Wenger continually reiterating he will use the Englishman cautiously this season.
Looking at Marseille, the French club look to be coming right after not securing a win in seven consecutive matches. In recent weeks the club has recorded back-to-back wins to climb the Ligue 1 ladder to fourth spot. Significantly they will be without dangermen Andre Ayew and Dimitri Payet, but the Gunners must still be weary of young up-and-comer Florian Thauvin who has looked the goods after netting four goals and providing two assists in his last five appearances. While the team appears to be the victim of Group F, I feel they will be a tougher task then many anticipate if we are not on top of our game.
It is relatively obvious that this match is vital for our prospects of progression as Cazorla stated last week. A loss would mean a tricky visit to Naples that we definitely want to avoid. If we are on top of our game Arsenal should be able to secure victory. Even if we are below par, we also seem to be developing the ability to grind out a win if the going gets tough. In that scenario I am still relatively confident that we could squeeze out a good result at home. COYG!
Arsenal: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Sanogo (back), Podolski (hamstring), Diaby (knee)
Marseille: Dimitri Payet (knee), Andre Ayew (knee), Rod Fanni (muscle strain)
|Arsenal 2 – Southampton 0||EPL||AC Ajaccio 1 – Marseille 3||FRA1|
|Man. United 1 – Arsenal FC 0||BPL||Marseille 2 – FC Sochaux 1||FRA1|
|B. Dortmund 0 – Arsenal FC 1||UCL||SSC Napoli 3 – Marseille 2||UCL|
|Arsenal FC 2 – Liverpool 0||BPL||Stade Rennais FC 1 – Marseille 1||FRA1|
|Arsenal FC 0 – Chelsea FC 2||CCUP||Marseille 2 – Stade de Reims 3||FRA1|
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
Arsenal 2 Marseille 0