Arsene Wenger says that a draw against Marseille should be enough to see Arsenal through to the final 16 of the Champion’s League but a loss could put their hopes of progression into serious doubt.
The Gunners travel to Stade Veldrome before welcoming L’OM back to the Emirates in a fortnight, and Wenger says the results are crucial.
“This is a game with pressure because these two games against Marseille will basically decide our Champion’s League future”, he said ahead of the clash.
“For us to get at least four points from these two games will put us in an extremely strong position to qualify because you could see until now there are three contenders – Marseille, Dortmund and Arsenal.”
The London side’s trip to Dortmund looked to be going perfectly to plan as they lead through Robin Van Persie going into the final moments only an 88 minute equaliser to deny them the full points.
Wenger though is aware that any point won in Dortmund is a point earned.
“I am convinced we will not find a better atmosphere than Dortmund,” he said, “it’s one of the hottest places in Europe with 80,000 people in a positive atmosphere.”
After his stint managing Monaco in the late 80s and early 90s Wenger knows all too well that the supporters inside Stade Veledrome are no shrinking violets either.
What will most concern Arsenal though is the French side’s European form under Didier Deschamps, they have a prefect record from their opening two games and their 3-0 demolition of Dortmund at Stade Veledrome last month caught Wenger’s eye.
“It was a complete surprise to me they beat Dortmund like that”, he said, “I was impressed by them.”
L’OM’s club motto is Droit au But (Straight to the goal) but under Deschamps they excelled as a patient defensive side with a solid midfield.
“They have a good midfield and have players like Lucho Gonzalez, Benoit Cheyru and Stephen Mbia”, Wenger noted before warning of the sides attacking threat.
One player who could cause real damage against the unconvincing Arsenal back line is André Ayeu, the lightening fast forward has developed a strong relationship with French international Loic Remy which was evident in their dismantling of the Dortmund defence.
Despite a turgid start to their Ligue 1 campaign in which they have not won a single of their opening 10 fixtures, the side have been in fine form in the Champions League having yet to concede a goal.
Deschamps is keen to use Europe as an outlet for the pressure in France.
“Our bad start to the championship means we have our backs to the wall in every match at home”, he said.
“But in the Champions League it’s different. We have six points already, so there isn’t the same pressure and the players can go for it a bit more and play without the same nervousness.”
Deschamps was quick to praise the attacking qualities of Arsenal, in particular Robin van Persie but he was also sure to note that, “they let in a lot of goals too.”
The 1998 World Cup winner though suggested though that his side would be under no pressure to take the initiative in the tie.
“We have an advantage over them and it is simple: the two more points we have gleaned.”
Wenger though is aware of Marseille’s great strength: “they can be dangerous because they play on the counter-attack. I think at home they will try to play like that against us.”
Diminutive playmaker Mathieu Valbuena returns from injury in time for Arsenal’s visit and the techincal player will be a welcome boost to L’OM’s front lines.
Arsenal’s squad is bolstered by the news that Aaron Ramsey will travel with the team but Kieron Gibbs’ injury against Sunderland means he will stay at home alongside long term injured Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshire and Abou Diaby.