Having watched Olympique de Marseille compromise their European hopes away to his old employers PSV Eindhoven on Matchday 3, Erik Gerets has urged his players to grasp their first points in Tuesday's Group D return.
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Erik Gerets has a multitude of good memories tied up with PSV Eindhoven, but watching his Olympique de Marseille side severely compromise their European chances away to his old club on Matchday 3 is not one of them. With the Dutch outfit due at the Stade Vélodrome on Tuesday, the Belgian trainer has urged his players to grasp their first points in UEFA Champions League Group D.
'Like a friendly'
"Our game over there was a catastrophe," lamented Gerets, who lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup as a PSV defender and masterminded two Dutch title wins during a later spell as coach. "It remains a bad memory for me. It was like we were playing a friendly." A Danny Koevermans double consigned Marseille to their third straight defeat in this year's competition – their sixth stretching back to last season – and that sorry record leaves their European prospects hanging by a thread. Draw and they will be eliminated; lose and they cannot even aspire to third spot and the UEFA Cup.
Those hoping OM can still grace the knockout phase ought to draw inspiration from Newcastle United FC, who kicked off with three losses before progressing in 2002/03, yet Gerets does not seriously expect a repeat. With seven points apiece, Liverpool FC and Club Atlético de Madrid look the overwhelming favourites, focusing Marseille minds on wresting third place from PSV – and, above all, on doing themselves justice. "I think it's unfair that we have zero points," explained Gerets. "Apart from the PSV match, we've played at a good level and shown that we're good enough for this competition. We just lost concentration. I want us to show ourselves in a better light and demonstrate that we're better than the opposition."
The 54-year-old feels they can do just that if they match their performance from the weekend, when French international Hatem Ben Arfa led them to a 3-1 home win against AS Saint-Etienne. That took the Mediterranean outfit up to second in Ligue 1, four points behind Olympique Lyonnais, but first-choice striker Mamadou Niang remains doubtful with a groin injury and Karim Ziani is troubled by a muscle problem. Ben Arfa, Vitorino Hilton, Bakari Koné and Lorik Cana all appear to have recovered from slight knocks.
PSV are deprived of French defender Jérémie Bréchet, meanwhile, with Mike Zonneveld (back) and Nordin Amrabat (groin) uncertain to feature. On the plus side, key man Ibrahim Afellay has shaken off a minor complaint and both Stijn Wuytens and Jan Kromkamp are available again after returning to action in Saturday's 2-0 home triumph over Willem II, a result that lifted the Boeren to fourth in the Eredivisie, a point shy of the pacesetters.
The task for coach Huub Stevens will be to channel the confidence raised by that outcome into a second victory over Marseille, and hope that is enough to close the four-point gap on the section leaders. "Given the draw between Atlético and Liverpool in their last game, it will be difficult for us to go through, but we still have to believe," said Stevens. "We need to keep trying and, of course, we're here to win."