Laurent Bonnart would rather Olympique de Marseille were not installed as favourites ahead of their UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie against Dutch side AFC Ajax as he feels the Ligue 1 team perform "better when we are outsiders".
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Laurent Bonnart would rather Olympique de Marseille were not saddled with the favourites' tag ahead of their UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie against AFC Ajax as he feels his side are "better when we are outsiders".
Marseille were expected to ease past another Dutch club, FC Twente, in the last round though, having lost the opening leg 1-0 at the Stade Vélodrome, the tie was eventually decided on sudden-death penalties in Enschede, Erik Gerets' team scraping through 7-6. Les Minots were also tipped to defeat lowly Valenciennes FC in Ligue 1 last weekend but could only manage a scoreless draw. "We are considered favourites for the [Ajax] game. This is unfortunate because we are better when we are outsiders, forced to perform," defender Bonnart said. "If we deliver the same performance as Saturday, we have no chance."
OM's former Dutch international Boudewijn Zenden spent eleven years at Ajax's rivals PSV Eindhoven, man and boy, after joining as an eleven-year-old, and is well aware of the threat the Amsterdam giants pose. "They have young players who don't have much experience but they play one-touch football and that can hurt you," said the 32-year-old midfielder, whose side were paired with PSV in the UEFA Champions League group stage this season, winning 3-0 at home and 2-0 away. OM have players that can do damage too, including fit-again captain Lorik Cana. However, top scorer Bakari Koné (ankle) and Julien Rodriguez (thigh) are both doubtful even though they trained on Monday.
Gerets' opposite number, Marco van Basten, has problems of his own with Kennedy Bakircioglü (groin), Jan Vertonghen (hamstring), Gabri (calf) and Rob Wielaert (ineligible) all ruled out. However, Ajax are boosted by the return of Vurnon Anita (hip), Eyong Enoh (groin) and Maarten Stekelenburg (flu) after missing Sunday's 1-1 draw at ADO Den Haag. And their coach believes a similar performance to the one which saw his charges defeat ACF Fiorentina in the last round will see the Ajacieden go close to a place in the last eight. "[Marseille] are a side you have to compete against the same way we did against Fiorentina," Van Basten said. "Then victory is possible."