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Consistency counts for Anigo

José Anigo hopes a settled side will see Olympique de Marseille through to the UEFA Cup final.

By Ben Lyttleton

As they prepare to meet Newcastle United FC, Olympique de Marseille coach José Anigo has urged his side to summon up the same spirit that saw them beat FC Internazionale and Liverpool FC in the previous rounds of the UEFA Cup.

Stirring memories
Marseille start the tie on foreign soil as they travel to St James' Park, but the memories of those previous victories will help give them courage. "You don't beat teams like that with good luck," Anigo told uefa.com. "We rose to the occasion when it mattered before and we will be looking to do the same again."

Full of confidence
Marseille are full of confidence after last week's 1-0 win against Inter at the San Siro thanks to Camel Meriem's breakaway goal and a 2-1 weekend success against Lille OSC in Ligue 1 has only raised spirits further. For Anigo, the run of results is testament to the hard work he has put in since his appointment.

'Solid base'
Taking over after the dismissal of Alain Perrin just three months ago, Anigo was last week rewarded for his success with a one-year extension to his contract, which now runs until June 2005. "It took us a bit of time to find the right system but now we have a solid base upon which to build," he explained.

Settled team
One of the keys to that system is playing the same first team as often as possible. "I don't have a rotation policy," Anigo said. "I prefer to have a set team but all my players know that if they are not giving 100 per cent, then they will be out of the team. That's how we have built a team spirit here."

Mido injured
Sadly for the coach, a knee injury to Egyptian forward Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' has denied him the opportunity to play his favoured first XI in the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final. However, the return of top scorer Didier Drogba, who missed the Inter game through suspension, is a major bonus.

Lone furrow
In Mido's absence, Drogba looks set to plough a lone furrow up front in England. "We have asked a lot of Didier and he has always responded," said Anigo. "We now play him alone up front with two people on the flanks looking to feed him. The system suits Didier because he loves having the space to work in."

Ambitious outsiders
Though Marseille have already got past English opposition on their way to the semi-finals, Anigo is adamant that Newcastle are favourites to progress to the Nya Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg on 19 May for a final against either Villarreal CF or Valencia CF.

'An honour'
"We have just as much right to dream of the final as the other semi-finalists, but we're still the outsiders," he said. "Newcastle have got a great team with Laurent Robert and Alan Shearer in particular. It will be a physical challenge for us. For me, it will be an honour once again to come up against players of their quality and a manager of Sir Bobby Robson's renown. It means something special to me to rub shoulders with the top coaches."

Smiling side
What pleases Anigo the most is that his team are enjoying their football again. "Everyone at Marseille today has got a smile back upon their faces," he said. "You can see the players, like the fans, are enjoying themselves and that's the most important thing." He will be hoping that lasts.