A shaky start to the Ligue 1 season has not dented Olympique de Marseille's confidence as they prepare to take on FC Spartak Moskva in UEFA Champions League Group F, with captain Steve Mandanda insisting: "We are not afraid."
With five points from their first five league games, the Mediterranean club are hardly displaying the form that netted them last term's French title, yet goalkeeper Mandanda feels the step up to European competition will help them settle. "The UEFA Champions League is very special," he said. "We have to be focused at the back and up front. We are not afraid. We know our weaknesses and will try to correct them; we will try not to concede goals at home."
So far Marseille's problem has been pretty simple: shipping too many goals. The 25-year-old France custodian can only hope the urgency of the situation in Europe's top club tournament will force them to remedy that. "We know how significant the first match is," he said. "It has always been the case. Our goal is to qualify from the group stage, and, if we are going to do that, winning this match is crucial.
"We will play to win every game, but we have to win our home games," he added. "We are at home against Spartak, which we must use to our advantage. Spartak like to play with the ball to feet, and we will have to pay particular attention to the forwards [Brazilians Ari and Welliton]. There are no easy games in the Champions League so we expect a difficult match."
Spartak captain Alex, meanwhile, urges his side to rise to the occasion in their first UEFA Champions League group stage tilt since 2006/07. "Our team is in good shape and working well with the coach," he said. "We are very motivated and 100% ready, and it will show. I know a few of the Marseille players and it will be difficult to play here. They have a lot of individual talent and their supporters are very intimidating. But we are up for it."
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