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All you need to know: Marseille v Salzburg

Quarter-final comebacks are not the only thing that unite the UEFA Europa League semi-final opponents.

Stefan Lainer vying with Hiroki Sakai during the sides' December draw
Stefan Lainer vying with Hiroki Sakai during the sides' December draw ©AFP/Getty Images

Story so far

Marseille OM have effectively had two campaigns since starting in the third qualifying round. Their travels have brought a solitary win and four defeats by one-goal margins in eight outings. Then there's their irresistible form at home, where they are unbeaten with seven victories and a lone 0-0 draw – against Salzburg on matchday six!

Salzburg celebrate their quarter-final win
Salzburg celebrate their quarter-final win©AFP/Getty Images

Salzburg The Austrian champions' European campaign began on 11 July in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round. Unbeaten in the UEFA Europa League group stage, scooping four points against Marseille along the way, they have ousted Real Sociedad, Dortmund and Lazio in the knockouts, all by one goal.

Possible starting XIs

Marseille Pelé (FRA); Amavi (FRA), Luiz Gustavo (BRA), Rami (FRA), Sakai (JPN); Sanson (FRA), Zambo Anguissa (CMR); Payet (FRA), Thauvin (FRA); Sarr (FRA), Mitroglou (GRE)

Salzburg Walke (GER); Ulmer (AUT), Ćaleta-Car (CRO), Ramalho (BRA), Lainer (AUT); Berisha (KOS), Schlager (AUT), Samassékou (MLI), Haidara (MLI); Dabbur (ISR), Gulbrandsen (ISL)

Star men

Payet builds his perfect No10

Dimitri Payet, Marseille: The France playmaker, 31, showcased his talent in the remarkable quarter-final comeback against Leipzig, claiming an assist before scoring the decisive goal in typically flamboyant fashion. He has hit form at just the right time, topping the competition player rankings.

Valon Berisha, Salzburg An all-action midfielder, the 25-year-old combines battling industry with vision and invention. The Swedish-born Kosovan also has an eye for goal, with seven strikes in Europe this term. He is reportedly being tracked by several of football's biggest names.

Ones to watch

Marseille: Florian Thauvin (forward, 25), Morgan Sanson (midfielder, 23)

Salzburg: Diadié Samassékou (midfielder, 22), Amadou Haidara (midfielder, 20)

The coaches

Rudi Garcia, Marseille Nearing the end of his second season at the helm, former midfielder Garcia has impressive pedigree. The 54-year-old masterminded Lille's surprise double in 2010/11 and led Roma to back-to-back runners-up spots in Serie A.

Marco Rose, Salzburg German Rose has been on Salzburg's coaching staff since 2013. The 41-year-old guided the club to victory in the 2016/17 UEFA Youth League and then seamlessly transferred to the senior side after Óscar García left last June.

Why might they win it?

How OM booked their last-four spot

Marseille The policy of limiting their losses on the road and making the most of home advantage has worked so far, and OM's attacking verve can certainly cause Salzburg a few problems. Then there is the final, just a three-hour drive north of Marseille in Lyon – a home from home?

Salzburg Any team that can come from behind three times, recover a three-goal deficit and score three goals in 244 seconds demands to be taken seriously. Just ask Lazio. Or try Marseille, Dortmund and Real Sociedad, also scalped by Salzburg this term.

Room for improvement?

Marseille Defence has been OM's Achilles heel of late, especially from set pieces and long-range shots, with keeper Steve Mandanda's potentially season-ending thigh injury another blow. Marseille have mustered just one clean sheet in their last 14 outings.

Salzburg's stunning comeback against Lazio

Salzburg As impressive as their Lazio comeback was, there's no ignoring the defensive issues that left Salzburg facing a 5-2 aggregate deficit. Lazio had successfully pulled them out of shape and Rose's charges never really solved the problem: instead they fought fire with fire.

Tell me something I don't know

Marseille The club's motto, Droit au But (Straight to the Goal), is perfect for a football team but actually dates back to the days when the club's main sport was rugby union.

Salzburg Salzburg had never won a major honour before 1993/94, when they edged out Austria Wien in the title race. Not bad, but doubly impressive since that same season they reached the UEFA Cup final, losing 2-0 on aggregate to Internazionale Milano.