Marseille vs. Arsenal
Champions League Group Stage, Matchday 1
Wednesday, September 18, 2013; 2:45 PM EDT
Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
TV: Fox Soccer Plus; foxsoccer2go
And so it begins. Arsenal start their 582892340 straight season in the Champions League by traveling to Marseille as they attempt, thanks to Luis Figo's fat fingers (Billy McNeill ftw, natch), to secure passage into the Knockout Stage by successfully navigating this season's Group of Death. Earning points away on the road is one of the easiest ways to achieve advancement, so it's no doubt crucial that Arsenal walk away with something to their name tomorrow night.
After sneaking out of Sunderland with a win and most of our players relatively intact, Arsene Wenger will probably field a squad that has Per Mertesacker in the lineup after the BFG recovered from the runs or whatever mysterious illness forced him to stay behind in London last weekend. In fact, here he is with Mesut Ozil on the plane to Marseille looking like a man who's very happy not be sitting or squatting next to a toilet.
On our way to Marseille. pic.twitter.com/RDnlfjrhK5— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) September 17, 2013
With him back and feeling good, this allows Bacary Sagna to move back to right back. This should hopefully provide Laurent Koscielny the means and tools necessary to find the form we all know he's capable of achieving. Additionally, Olivier Giroud makes the trip after successfully recovering from a knee/ankle knock from last Saturday.
Marseille are a relatively known European opponent to Arsenal, having been drawn into their Champions League group in 2011 (that same group in 2011 also contained Borussia Dortmund, a member of this year's group). Arsenal's visit to Marseille that year saw them winning 1-0 thanks to an Aaron Ramsey injury-time winner that ended up killing Colonel Gaddafi mere hours later.
Presently, Marseille's fourth in their early Ligue 1 campaign after their 1-1 draw over last weekend at Toulouse and their squad appears to have little in the way of significant injuries; defender Souleymane Diawara looks to be their only key absence tomorrow night.
I really don't see Arsenal struggling, but European nights away seem to be unpredictable affairs and getting out with a point in hand isn't a worst-case scenario for the North Londoners.
Sagna - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs
Ramsey - Flamini
Walcott - Ozil - Wilshere
Prediction: Marseille 2-2 Arsenal