By Darren Tulett
Olympique de Marseille forward Didier Drogba is counting on home advantage to help his side overcome Newcastle United FC in Thursday's UEFA Cup semi-final.
Drogba has scored in every round of the competition so far and one more strike at the Stade Vélodrome could be enough to seal a place in the final at the Nya Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg on 19 May. The Ivory Coast striker told uefa.com: "We know what we need to do and we need the Vélodrome crowd to get behind us because there is a final place waiting as the prize."
Post denied goal
The first leg at St James' Park ended 0-0. Drogba came closest to scoring, but his second-half volley from Demetrius Ferreira Leite's cross struck the post and rebounded to safety. At the other end, Marseille goalkeeper Fabien Barthez reacted smartly to keep out a close-range shot from Shola Ameobi.
Newcastle difficult opponents
"The game at Newcastle was one of our toughest of the year but we stayed solid and came out of it pretty well," said the 26-year-old. "We had a few chances but not a lot of luck. Personally, I was disappointed because we made a big effort and I would have liked to have been rewarded. The return game will be difficult, which is why we need the atmosphere to be red-hot."
Drogba has registered nine goals in his debut season in European competition, with five coming in Marseille's UEFA Champions League campaign - including a hat-trick against the FK Partizan team that beat Newcastle in a qualifying tie - and four in the UEFA Cup.
He is confident he can add to that tally against the English club. "When I feel good, I don't care who I am playing against," he claimed. "It doesn't matter who the defenders are, I know I'm going to get chances. On average I will create four chances for myself per game - then it's up to me to be efficient."
Change of style
Drogba has been Marseille's most effective player since coach José Anigo took charge following the dismissal of Alain Perrin three months ago. He has scored in Marseille's European wins against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Liverpool FC and FC Internazionale despite playing in a new system introduced by Anigo. "Since Anigo came in, I've been left to fend for myself up front," Drogba explained. "I have played better and it's obviously no coincidence."
Relishing his new-found freedom on the pitch, Drogba added: "I need space. I like attacking a defence. I love to get the ball 40 yards from goal and build from there. I hope I can do that at the Vélodrome."
Meanwhile, Anigo was pleased with the draw in the first leg and positive about his side's chances of setting up a final against either Villarreal CF or Valencia CF. "I would have taken a 0-0 before the game," he said. "We have to be optimistic, seeing that we're playing at home and the final is 90 minutes down the road."
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