UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Reds return haunts Marseille

Olympique de Marseille coach Erik Gerets stressed there will be no repeat of last season's 4-0 home defeat by Liverpool FC as the English side come calling again in Group D, saying: "Liverpool won't surprise us like last time."

Erik Gerets says OM have learned the lessons of their 4-0 home defeat by Liverpool
Erik Gerets says OM have learned the lessons of their 4-0 home defeat by Liverpool ©Getty Images

Fearful symmetry indeed. Olympique de Marseille's last UEFA Champions League opponents will be their first this time around, leaving coach Erik Gerets desperate to avoid a repeat of the outcome last December when Liverpool FC swept Mistral-like through the Mediterranean city and blew away local hopes with a 4-0 win.

Lingering pain
Tuesday's Group D curtain-raiser reunites the two sides at the Stade Vélodrome, scene of that European masterclass which propelled Rafael Benítez's men into the knockout rounds at their hosts' expense. "Liverpool won't surprise us like last time," warned Gerets. "Their physical qualities hurt us a lot, but that won't happen this season. We won't make the same mistakes." Urged to give a more detailed idea of what his players will do differently, though, the Belgian trainer remained tight-lipped, suggesting the pain of that earlier correction still lingers.

English example
Instead, he was keen to focus on "favourites" Liverpool, speaking in admiring tones about their 2-1 victory over Manchester United FC on Saturday, their first Premier League home success against their great rivals since 2001. "I love it every time I watch English games," he said. "The Liverpool players were like Duracell bunnies. You just wind them up and they keep going. England still sets the example in terms of players giving everything. We should be jealous."

Players returning
Marseille do not have to look far for encouragement of their own, however, having plundered a memorable 1-0 victory at Anfield towards the start of last term. Some are trying to see omens in the fact the referee that night, Konrad Plautz, will also officiate on Tuesday, but the returns from injury of exciting midfielders Mathieu Valbuena, who scored the winner at Anfield in that game, and Hatem Ben Arfa provide more concrete succour. They featured as late substitutes as second-placed Marseille remained unbeaten in Ligue 1 with Saturday's 1-1 draw at FC Girondins de Bordeaux, but Gerets may not wish to risk both in his starting XI. "We'll see how they are in training," he said. Captain Lorik Cana looks more certain to come in after being rested. 

Fitness concerns
The key team selection issues for Liverpool revolve around Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Gerrard contested 22 minutes as a substitute on Saturday after recovering from a groin operation, while hamstring-victim Torres was confined to the bench. "Both are fit and both could start," explained Benítez with a smile, while also backing Javier Mascherano to be ready after suffering a calf strain at the weekend. Left-back Fábio Aurélio, also with a calf problem, did not travel. As usual, the Spaniard's lineup will be a mystery until he announces it, but winger Ryan Babel must have boosted his chances of starting following his clinching strike against United.

Early days
That goal took Liverpool second in the Premier League and sparked predictions of a title challenge, something Benítez was quick to stifle. "We have a very good team, capable of beating Marseille, and that's a good start," he said. "It's too early for talking about anything else. We know Marseille are a good team and we need to focus on that. I think they’re stronger than last season."