Olympique de Marseille captain Steve Mandanda says failure to reach the UEFA Champions League last season has fuelled his team's desire to make an impact this term – starting with Wednesday's Group F home game against Arsenal FC.
Although Marseille got to the last eight in 2011/12, their continental success was in marked contrast to their domestic travails as they ended an abject campaign tenth in Ligue 1. It meant no UEFA Champions League return and Mandanda admitted he prefers to keep busy on autumnal Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
"We were frustrated last year when we did not play Champions League football, so we are looking forward to returning," said the goalkeeper, whose side finished runners-up in France in May. "These games are magnificent to play in and we are delighted to be back in this competition. We missed it."
Arsenal, boosted by the recent arrival of Mesut Özil, will prove testing opposition at the Stade Vélodrome, but then that is what the competition is all about for Mandanda. "We want to win, but we know we will be up against a great team," the 28-year-old French international added. "We are in a difficult group; we knew it would be complicated.
"We know the significance of the first match and it will be important to have a good start, even if this game is not decisive. We used to have difficulties in our first games in Europe, but this is a new season and we need to start well and perform. We are not afraid. We have to show desire and ambition."
Arsène Wenger's visitors, of course, have a French accent with Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Flamini, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo all in the squad. Mandanda knows a few of them well from international duty, though he stresses: "We are happy to meet our friends from the national team, but on the pitch they will be opponents."