Marseille vs. Arsenal
Marseille, ancient Roman metropolis of the Riviera, France, Earth
UEFA Group F Round 3
Kickoff: Wednesday, October 19, 2:45 PM EDT
TV Coverage: Fox Soccer Channel, foxsoccer.tv after 5 PM for subscribers
Arsenal travel to the rocking Stade Vélodrome on the south coast of France for a Champions League group stage match tomorrow against Marseille, who currently sit atop Group F after two wins from two, including a 3-0 win against Borussia Dortmund. Much like Arsenal, though, Marseille's UCL standing doesn't line up nicely with their domestic form, where a record of one win, six draws, and three losses sees them in 15th place in Ligue Un. Nonetheless, this is a dangerous team, as Dortmund found out, particularly when there are 60,000 screaming stevedores on the terraces (yes, they're all stevedores. It's a bustling port city; what blue-collar job should I choose, prithee?)
Arsenal have announced the 18 gentlemen making the voyage for the squad. They are the usual suspects, although Kieran Gibbs is not coming along due to the injury he picked up on Sunday. This means that Arsenal's fullbacks are likely to be Carl Jenkinson and Andre Santos, the latter of who looked very good in his time against Sunderland, even defensively. Aaron Ramsey is back in the squad, and one wouldn't be surprised to see him start in the middle, although Tomas Rosicky played really well. It will be interesting to see, though, if Wenger opts to use Yossi Benayoun or Frances Coquelin tomorrow, so he can rest some key players ahead of the Stoke match this coming Sunday. Emmanuel Frimpong is not making the journey, but Coquelin could fill in for Song or possibly even Jenkinson on the right.
The other possibility is subbing someone in for Robin van Persie, although it seems unlikely. Park Ju Young isn't making the trip, but Marouane Chamakh is. Wenger, though, tends to play his strongest team until knockout stage football is in hand, so van Persie will probably start. Not even bringing Park on the trip is puzzling, though; he is in sparkling international form, but Wenger brings Chamakh instead, perhaps because he offers something different tactically, whereas Park's game is perhaps more similar to van Persie's.
For Marseille, the main threats are the two goalscorers against Dortmund, André Ayew and Loïc Rémy. The team as a whole, though, is very talented; midfielders Alou Diarra and Lucho Gonzalez both feature often for France and Argentina, Andre's brother Jordan is
an upcoming star [EDIT: NEVERMIND; HE IS BANNED FROM A RED CARD AGAINST DORTMUND; I AM AN IDIOT] [HE IS STILL GOOD THOUGH], and there's Djimi Traoré, for grins. Although Dortmund ran the match more or less, Marseille were able to escape a few times and find goals on the counter, so nothing will come easily against last year's French runner-ups. Look for Ayew and Mathieu Valbuena to support Rémy up front, with Lucho, Diarra, and Charles Kaboré in behind.
If Arsenal can manage to win away, they will move to top of Group F, with Marseille visiting the Emirates for the next game in the group stage. A draw, however, would not be disastrous, as it would keep Arsenal within two points with home matches still to come against Dortmund and Les Phocéens.
Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos; Song, Arteta, Ramsey/Rosicky; Arshavin (Gervinho), van Persie, Walcott.
Predicted result: Everybody does the popcorn. 1-1 draw somehow breaks out during the funk.