Mathieu Valbuena has asked the Olympique de Marseille fans to forget the team's domestic travails and get behind the side when they host FC Bayern München in the club's first appearance in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League since 1993.
OM have not won since their 1-0 home victory over FC Internazionale Milano in the round of 16 on 22 February and last week they were knocked out of the French Cup by third-tier US Quevilly. Saturday brought some respite – a Ligue 1 draw at OGC Nice ended a run of seven successive defeats – ahead of the visit of a free-scoring Bayern team.
"It has been a long time since Marseille were in the European Cup quarter-finals," said Valbuena, whose 87th-minute strike on matchday six against another German side, Borussia Dortmund, sent Marseille through to the last 16. "We will need our fans. They have expressed their frustration but tomorrow we need them until the end. We can raise our level against Bayern and that is when we need our fans."
There is no trepidation in the home ranks, however, despite their downturn in form. "We're not afraid of Bayern," stressed midfielder Benoît Cheyrou. "We are experiencing difficult times in the league but we're capable of producing a great performance. Physically and psychologically we are ready for this game."
A sound display, certainly defensively, is required against Jupp Heynckes's men, who have scored 22 goals in their last five matches. In former Stade Vélodrome favourite Franck Ribéry and Mario Gomez, they have two players enjoying the most prolific campaign of their respective careers.
"Bayern will be favourites because of their attacking assets," added Cheyrou, who arrived at Marseille the summer Ribéry departed for Munich. "They like to have the ball and run the game. We will have to make the best of the spaces we create."
Valbuena spent a season playing alongside Ribéry, whose 11-goal tally in the Bundesliga this term is equal to his previous best haul set in 2007/08. "He is a player that can be decisive any time and we will need to watch him, but not only him," he said of his France team-mate. "Bayern have a lot of quality players."
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