Nothing will divert Olympique de Marseille from securing another tilt at a European trophy according to coach Erik Gerets, with his side desperate to sew up third spot in Group D at home against Club Atlético de Madrid.
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Nothing will sway Olympique de Marseille from securing another tilt at a European trophy according to coach Erik Gerets, with his side desperate to sew up third spot in UEFA Champions League Group D at home to Club Atlético de Madrid on Tuesday.
Security incidents coloured the teams' first meeting in October, but Gerets underlined that nothing matters more than Marseille's pursuit of a UEFA Cup berth. "What's important is the football," he stressed. "For 90 minutes that's all that counts. We're trying to stay in Europe." Eliminated from the continent's primary club competition after losing 1-0 at Liverpool FC on Matchday 5, OM are determined to claim the consolation prize on offer by finishing above PSV Eindhoven – to do so, they need only match the Eredivisie outfit's result against Liverpool in the Netherlands.
Return to form
Atlético will also have one eye on that game as they can top the section, providing they equal Liverpool's performance and maintain their narrowest of goal-difference advantages. Their hosts will be buzzing after a timely return to form on Saturday, however, having overcome neighbours OGC Nice 2-1 at the Stade Vélodrome to go second in Ligue 1, three points behind leaders and next Sunday's opponents Olympique Lyonnais. Gerets warned Los Rojiblancos not to think his players will be distracted by their reinvigorated domestic ambitions, however. "With everything at stake, we're taking this game extremely seriously," he said. "It's the only one we're thinking about right now."
No amount of bullish talk could make light of Mamadou Niang's absence, though, after the striker broke his foot against Nice. Niang found the target when Marseille succumbed 2-1 at the Vicente Calderón on 1 October and will be particularly difficult to replace. "It's going to change our approach because we don't have another player with the same style," explained Gerets, who may employ Mathieu Valbuena in a withdrawn striking role behind Bakari Koné. "I have an idea what to do and I think it will be positive."
Atlético are in the rudest of health, meanwhile, with defensive duo Antonio López and Luis Perea available again and tipped to feature as coach Javier Aguirre fields a revamped lineup. "I will have full faith in whichever eleven I decide to put out on the pitch," said Aguirre, who held his pre-match conference in Madrid. Key men John Heitinga, Paulo Assunção and Simão were not in the party that travelled to Marseille, while French goalkeeper Grégory Coupet is expected to be given a rare start on his return to his homeland.
'Going for it'
Despite predictions of wholesale changes, Aguirre remained adamant that his charges are hungry for top spot. "Now there is a possibility of finishing first, of course we want to do that," he promised. "We'll be going for it." Expect his preferred eleven to feed off the confidence of the club's regular starters too, after Atlético extended their unbeaten Spanish Liga run to seven matches on Saturday with a 5-2 victory at Real Sporting de Gijón that spoke volumes for their attacking potential. "This will be a game between two teams who like to play football," added the Mexican.