Defensively strong with a few familiar faces

Marseille currently sit in third place in Ligue 1 and have been strong at the back throughout the Europa League | Coach Rudi Garcia however has an injury list to work around | Ex-Bundesliga players Luiz Gustavo and Hiroki Sakai at the French club

Leipzig are set to face Olympique Marseille in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, with the match kicking off at 21:05 CEST. As the last German club in the competition, RB Leipzig will be looking to get a good result with the home crowd behind them, despite it being our first time in the competition.

With the game fast approaching, we take an in-depth look at our upcoming opponents.

Their season so far...

Ligue 1

Marseille currently sit third in the league on 62 points and so are well positioned to qualify for European football again next year. While leaders PSG are well out of reach on 83 points, second-in-the-table AS Monaco are in their sights just three points in front. The first two teams qualify automatically for Champions League football, while third has to battle it out in the qualifiers. Fourth-placed Lyon are lurking, however, just two points behind Marseille. 

In their 31 games this season in the league, Marseille have won 18, drawn eight and lost four. Last weekend they faced Dijon away from home, but brought the three points back to Marseille with them, securing a 3-1 victory. The French league is composed of 20 sides and so are still another seven games until their season reaches its conclusion. 

Europa League

Marseille progressed through the group stages finishing second, with home victories over Turkish side Konyaspor (1-0) and Portugese side Vitória Guimares (2-1), draws against FC Salzburg (0-0) and Konyaspor (1-1) and the one defeat away to Salzburg (1-0). 

In the round of 32, they faced Portugese side SC Braga, winning 3-0 at home and 1-0 away to progress through to the last 16, where they were drawn alongside Athletic Bilbao. Against the Spanish side, they won the home leg 3-1 and lost 2-1 away, progressing on aggregate.

Defensive strength but injury concerns

Marseille have only conceded 0.7 goals per game in the Europa League and are therefore one of the strongest sides defensively in the competition. However, they will be missing two key players that suffered injuries during the recent game against Dijon. Keeper Steve Mandanda (thigh) and defender Adil Rami (calf) will both miss the first leg. Two other players that are a doubt for Thursday are forward Florian Thauvin (thigh) and centre-back Rolando (Achilles).

The French team have been playing a 4-2-3-1 system of late ad have enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the compeition, with an average of 57% compared to Leipzig's 51%. However, Leipzig do have a better goal record, scoring an average of 1.5 goals per game compared to OM's 1.2.

Marseille captain Dimitri Payet scored the winning goal in the opening game of EURO 2016 against Romania.

Players in focus

  • Hiroki Sakai
    From 2012 to 2016, the now 27-year-old played for Hannover 96, making 92 appearances in the Bundesliga (2 goals, 2 assists). In Marseille, Sakai is deployed on the right-hand side of their defence. The player from Japan has featured in a total of 43 games this season and also represented his country during the recent international break.
  • Dimitri Payet
    The Marseille captain has already picked up three assists in the UEFA Europa League, the most of anyone in his team. The Frenchman had a two year spell in the Premier League with West Ham but returned to the south of France to his former club in January 2017.
  • Lucas Ocampos
    The 23-year-old has been in impressive form in the Europa League this season, scoring three times in the last round against Bilbao to fire his team into the quarters. From 2012 to 2015, he plied his trade for league rivals AS Monaco and scored for them against Bundesliga outfit Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League group phase.
Coach Rudi Garcia has been with Marseille since October 2016. Before joining the French club, he was head coach at AS Roma and has also managed elsewhere in France for Lille.

Luiz Gustavo returns to Germany

Gustavo played for 1899 Hoffenheim for ten years under coach Ralf Rangnick, then moved to Bayern Munich and finally on to VfL Wolfsburg. The Brazilian had a successful time in the Bundesliga, being part of the team that won the treble with Bayern Munich in 2013, which consisted of the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal. Then in 2015 he won the DFB-Pokal again, this time with Wolfsburg. In total, he played 245 Bundesliga games, scoring 15 goals and picking up 15 assists. 

In the summer of 2017 he moved to Marseille, where he has been a regular in their starting line-up. In fact, no other midfielder has played as many minutes for Marseille this season as the 30-year-old Brazilian.

Ralf Rangnick coached Luiz Gustavo at Hoffenheim.

Olympique Marseille club facts:

  • Founded:
    31st August 1899
  • Club colours:
    Blue and white 
  • Ligue 1 winners:
    9 times 
  • Last Ligue 1 title:
  • French Cup winners:
    10 times
  • Last French Cup win:
  • Champions League titles:
    1 (1993, 1-0 vs. AC Milan)
  • Stadium:
    Stade Vélodrome
    Constructed 1935-37 
    67,394 capacity

Famous ex-players 

  • Klaus Allofs (1987-1989)
  • Fabien Barthez (1992-1995, 2003-2006)
  • Laurent Blanc (1997-1999)
  • Eric Cantona (1988-1991)
  • Marcel Desailly (1992-1993)
  • Karlheinz Förster (1986-1990)
  • Andreas Köpke (1996-1998)
  • Franck Ribéry (2005-2007)
  • Daniel van Buyten (2001-2004)
  • Rudi Völler (1992-1994)

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