Olympique de Marseille captain Lorik Cana insists the club's international standing will be in jeopardy should they fail to earn a place in the UEFA Cup by getting the result they need against Atlético de Madrid.
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They may need a reliable goalscorer far more than a gifted communicator right now, but Olympique de Marseille could well draw precious inspiration from the words of captain Lorik Cana when they host Club Atlético de Madrid in their final UEFA Champions League group match on Tuesday. As far as the Albanian midfielder is concerned, the club's international reputation itself will be in jeopardy should they fail to secure their transfer to the UEFA Cup.
Finishing third in Group D is the target and OM will achieve that if they can match PSV Eindhoven's result against Liverpool FC in the Netherlands. The fact that Atlético are already through to the first knockout round ought to play in their favour, yet the visitors will be keen to maintain their grip on the section summit and will need to be handled with care. "We want to continue in Europe and for us that means the UEFA Cup," said Cana. "I think we gave a good image of the club in the Champions League but it's the duty of the big clubs to play in Europe. That means it's Marseille's duty to stay involved, especially because we'd be one of the teams most likely to go all the way."
UEFA Cup finalists in 1999 and 2004, the Stade Vélodrome side will nonetheless be deprived of one of their most essential components with striker Mamadou Niang ruled out due to a broken foot. "It's very difficult to lose him," added Cana. "He's our first-choice forward and one of our main attacking strengths, so if you remove him the team is not as strong. But we also have other players who will give their all for the club in the games to come. Maybe they can't replace him, but we need the level of our performances to stay high."
Niang found the back of the net when the teams first locked horns in Spain on Matchday 2, a game in which Los Rojiblancos caused Marseille no end of problems at the back on their way to a 2-1 success. Cana hopes it will be a different story in southern France, but he outlined his respect for the Liga outfit. "They made life tough for us at important moments of the match," explained the 25-year-old. "Collectively, they're strong and they have lots of experience too. That means we can't just worry about one or two players. The simple fact they'll be continuing in this competition proves their worth."