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Marseille on a mission improbable

Thirteen months after leaving Liverpool FC with a shock victory,Olympique de Marseille must repeat the trick if they are to avoid UEFAChampions League elimination against opponents chasing three points to secure a last-16 place.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring in Marseille on Matchday 1
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring in Marseille on Matchday 1 ©Getty Images

Thirteen months after leaving Anfield with a shock 1-0 victory, Olympique de Marseille must repeat the trick if they are to avoid UEFA Champions League elimination against opponents just one step away from securing their last-16 place.

• Mathieu Valbuena's 77th-minute goal on 3 October last year earned Marseille their first win on English soil – as well as the first for any French team at Liverpool – but the backdrop to their latest visit to Merseyside is bleak for the Ligue 1 side.

• Since that memorable night, Erik Gerets' men have lost six of their subsequent seven away fixtures in UEFA club competition while Liverpool, by contrast, have built an eight-match unbeaten run at Anfield, the third qualifying round win against R. Standard de Liège included.

• Moreover, Liverpool have since beaten Marseille twice at the Stade Vélodrome and will enter this latest contest hungry for the victory that would assure them passage to the knockout stage for the fifth season running.

• Rafael Benítez's team are tied with leaders Club Atlético de Madrid on eight points at the Group D summit – five points clear of both Marseille and bottom-placed PSV Eindhoven. Given this gap, the Premier League club can also tie up their qualification with a draw provided that PSV fail to beat Atlético in the section's other Matchday 5 fixture.

• Liverpool will hope for a more comfortable evening than Atlético gave them at Anfield on 4 November when it took a Steven Gerrard penalty deep into added time to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw.

• Marseille breathed fresh life into their campaign on the same evening by collecting their first points with a 3-0 home win against PSV thanks to goals from Bakari Koné (30) and Mamadou Niang (63, 71).

• While the French side can harbour realistic hope of at least securing third place – and a UEFA Cup berth – their earlier results in Group D do not augur well for the trip to Anfield given they lost away games at Atlético (1-2) and PSV (0-2), as well as going down 2-1 at home to Liverpool on Matchday 1.

• Although Lorik Cana gave OM a 23rd-minute lead against the English club, Gerrard soon turned the score around with a quickfire double after 26 and 32 minutes.

• Gerrard also found the Marseille net – together with Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel – when Liverpool secured their place in the last 16 at Marseille's expense last season, with a 4-0 victory at the Vélodrome on 11 December last year.

• On the plus side for Marseille, though their first three trips to Premier League clubs ended in defeat they are unbeaten in their last four visits to England and, as mentioned already, recorded a first victory on the other side of the Channel at Anfield last term.

• The lineups for last season's encounter in Liverpool – which was Gerets' first game at the Marseille helm – were as follows:
Liverpool: Pepe Reina, Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypiä, Fábio Aurélio (Andriy Voronin), Yossi Benayoun, Mohamed Sissoko, Steven Gerrard, Sebastian Leto (John Arne Riise), Fernando Torres, Peter Crouch (Dirk Kuyt).
Marseille: Steve Mandanda, Laurent Bonnart, Julien Rodriguez, Gaël Givet, Taye Taiwo, Lorik Cana, Benoît Cheyrou, Mathieu Valbuena (Wilson Oruma), Karim Ziani, Boudewijn Zenden (Salim Arrache), Mamadou Niang (Djibril Cissé).

• Marseille's previous visit to Anfield brought a 1-1 draw in the fourth round of the UEFA Cup in 2003/04 as they became the first French visitors to avoid defeat there at the sixth time of asking. Didier Drogba cancelled out Milan Baroš's opening goal for Liverpool and the Ligue 1 club won the return leg 2-1 en route to reaching the final of that season's competition, where they lost to Benítez's Valencia CF.

• The lineups for that first Merseyside meeting were:
Liverpool: Chris Kirkland, Steve Finnan (Igor Bišcan), Stéphane Henchoz, Sami Hyypiä, Jamie Carragher, Danny Murphy (Emile Heskey), Dietmar Hamann, Steven Gerrard, Harry Kewell, Milan Baroš, Michael Owen.
Marseille: Fabien Barthez, Habib Beye, Brahim Hemdani, Abdoulaye Méïté, Sébastien Pérez (Demetrius Ferreira), Sylvain N'Diaye, Mathieu Flamini, Manuel Dos Santos, Laurent Batlles (Camel Meriem), Steve Marlet, Didier Drogba.

• History as well as the present standings suggest a tough assignment awaits Marseille with Liverpool having won eight of their ten previous home games against French opposition.

• The most famous of Liverpool's home wins against French visitors was arguably the first, against AS Saint-Etienne in the 1976/77 European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final. En route to their maiden success in the competition, Liverpool, trailing 1-0 after the first leg in France, fell a further goal behind in the return before fighting back to win 3-2 on aggregate.

• Marseille coach Gerets suffered a 3-2 defeat when he took former club Galatasaray AŞ to Liverpool in the 2006/07 group stage.

• Marseille midfielder Benoît Cheyrou's brother Bruno had a two-year spell at Anfield between 2002 and 2004.

• The French club's Dutch midfielder Boudewijn Zenden spent two seasons with Liverpool from 2005, making his last appearance in the 2007 UEFA Champions League final defeat by AC Milan.