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As one of the few survivors from Olympique de Marseille's only successful comeback from a two-goal first-leg deficit in Europe, Mamadou Niang has urged his colleagues to "let themselves go" when they attempt to reach the UEFA Cup semi-finals at FC Shakhtar Donetsk's expense on Thursday.
Marseille suffered a 2-0 loss at the RSC Olympiyskiy Stadium last week that put a major dent in their chances of lifting this year's trophy but their Senegalese striker remembers suffering a similar setback at RC Deportivo La Coruña in the opening instalment of the 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup final. Instead of bowing out meekly, the Mediterranean outfit responded with a stunning 5-1 victory at the Stade Vélodrome, Niang adding one of the goals on a memorable night.
"This game will be totally different because it's a UEFA Cup quarter-final but if I had any advice it would be to go into it without overanalysing," he said. "The players need to let themselves go and not worry about what might happen. We can't afford to concede, but we need to give everything. A shock is possible as long as we have a perfect attitude and really commit ourselves physically."
No player in Marseille's history has contested more matches in Europe for the club than Niang, who shares that distinction with current left-back Taye Taiwo, and he warned Shakhtar that OM have made it their mission to progress further in the competition. "We're super-motivated," he explained. "We know it won't be easy because Shakhtar are a very good team, as we saw in the first leg, but we have confidence in ourselves and our chances. We'll give everything in this match."
Despite the scoreline, they gave a fairly decent account of themselves in the Ukraine too, Niang driving a shot against the post when the scores were still level and the team creating a number of other chances. Because of that, Erik Gerets's men believe they have yet to have their final say in this tie. "We could have done better considering the level of our performance," said Niang. "When we really started going at them, we were able to cause them a lot of trouble. It's just a shame we weren't able to get at least one goal and we want to make up for that."
The new Ligue 1 leaders are unlikely to be distracted by their exalted domestic status either. OM leapt ahead of Olympique Lyonnais with a 4-1 home win over Grenoble Foot 38 at the weekend but, according to Niang, there is no question of them choosing one piece of silverware over another. "We want to go all the way [in the UEFA Cup]," stated the 29-year-old. "We won't be calculating. We'll do everything we can in this match and then we'll have plenty of time to recover for Lorient [on Sunday]. We want to win every game because we hate losing. We have no preference and it's the end of the season, so it's not an issue."
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