"The impossible" is how Steve Mandanda, Olympique de Marseille's goalkeeper, described what the French side are seeking to achieve in the concluding chapter of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final in Munich on Tuesday night.
No team has surrendered a two-goal advantage in a home second leg in the UEFA Champions League era yet Marseille must create a small piece of history by doing just that – specifically, undoing the damage of last week's 2-0 loss in France – when they step out at the home of FC Bayern München. Factor in Bayern's run of 12 wins in 13 European home outings and that word impossible comes to mind again but you can certainly not fault OM's players for negative thinking on their arrival in Germany
"While knowing that Bayern are very strong opponents, we still believe in ourselves, we still believe in our qualities and in our chances.
Tomorrow we will try everything to perhaps still accomplish the impossible," said Mandanda, captain of the Ligue 1 club.
Suspended for the first leg, Mandanda had to look on as Elinton Andrade, his deputy, was beaten by goals from Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben. "Last week it was not easy for me," he admitted. "I would have liked to play a lot, but I had to watch the game from outside [the pitch]. Anyhow, now it is another day and we have to believe in ourselves."
The fact Marseille had a free weekend – their match against Montpellier Hérault SC having been postponed – means that they "are in quite good shape now" according to Mandanda. And the spirit is willing too according to César Azpilicueta, who, like his skipper, stressed that Didier Deschamps' men retain some belief.
"We have the spirit and we are still confident," said the Spanish defender. "It is what you need in a game like this one – spirit.
There are 90 minutes left and we must believe in ourselves. We must try everything we can to win the game and go through to the semis."
That said, he acknowledged the tricky balancing act Marseille must manage against opponents with 17 goals in five European home outings this term. "We have to win by more than two goals. We need to play offensively and take risks while still being careful in defence. It is important to play an intelligent game and not just to attack from the off, while ignoring our defence." It sounds tricky, for sure. But impossible? We will know the answer on Tuesday.
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