Wenger, Cazorla wary of renegade Marseille

25 November 2013 01:31

Manager Arsene Wenger has warned Arsenal not to underestimate Marseille as the Premier League leaders look to close on a place in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

Marseille can no longer qualify for the next phase, while Arsenal will go into the match at the Emirates Stadium level on points with Napoli at the top of Group F and with a place in the knockout rounds in sight.

Marseille have lost all four of their European games to date and recently went seven games without a win in all competitions, but Wenger, whose side won 2-1 in September's reverse fixture, says they deserve respect.

"They started in a difficult position because they lost their first game at home (against Arsenal)," said the Frenchman.

"Also they went through a bad patch in the French championship, which for me had a consequence on their Champions League form.

"They are a good side who went through a difficult period and that difficult period which they had certainly had an impact.

"Now, they have played a very good game in Naples (losing 3-2) and were unlucky to lose. I am sure that they will be difficult to beat on Tuesday night."

Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla echoed his manager's words of warning, telling the club website: "There is nothing at stake for Marseille because they have zero points, but they are going to make things difficult for us.

"It may be tough and if we're not careful we might slip, and then we might not be able to get through to the next round.

"We need to understand that it's a vital match. If we get the right result, we can automatically go to the next round.

"If we obtained a bad result, then it would make things very complicated for us to go to Napoli and win there."

Arsenal's 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund in their last European outing means that they will qualify for the last 16 if they beat Marseille and the German side draw their home game with Napoli.

Wenger saw his team return to winning ways in the Premier League on Saturday with a 2-0 victory at home to Southampton, following a 1-0 loss at Manchester United in their last game before the international break.

Olivier Giroud scored twice, capitalising on a blunder by Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc and then netting a late penalty, as Arsenal stretched their lead at the top of the table to four points.

Wenger may rotate his starting XI against Marseille, with England winger Theo Walcott in contention to start after making his return from an abdominal problem as a second-half substitute against Southampton.

Marseille secured a first away win since September on Friday when they won 3-1 at Ajaccio in Ligue 1.

Victory came at a cost, however, with former Lille forward Dimitri Payet sustaining a swollen knee that has ruled him out of the trip to north London.

Mathieu Valbuena and goal-scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac picked up knocks in the game as well, while manager Elie Baup also has doubts over Rod Fanni, Nicolas N'Koulou and Saber Khelifa.

Gignac had to go off against Ajaccio after hurting one of his ribs, having scored Marseille's second goal in the 39th minute with a stunning 20-yard volley.

It was the France international's first league start since a 1-0 loss at Nice on October 18 and Baup said he was encouraged by the 27-year-old's performance.

"Gigac is a player who has always respected our work and each time he's come back (from injury), he's been capable of being very professional," said the Marseille coach.

"(Against Ajaccio) he started the match in a very professional fashion and what he showed was very interesting."

Source: AFP