Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Marseille, Champions League Matchday 4

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, November 1
3:45 p.m. EDT, 7:45 p.m. GMT
  • Match Officials from Italy
    • Referee: Paolo Tagliavento
    • Assistants: Nicola Nicoletti and Massimiliano Grilli
    • 4th Official: Antonio Danilo Giannoccaro
    • Additional Assistants: Daniele Orsato and Antonio Damato
  • Reverse Fixture: Marseille 0 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Arsenal win
  • Arsenal's European Form: L // W-W-D-W-W
  • Marseille's European Form: W-D-L // W-W-L
Here's a cat dressed in Arsenal colors making a weird face.
I had very little time for research this week, I'm sorry.
Photo: Guardian.
Quick match preview again this week (these Tuesday matches mean I have less time to write things, obviously.) So, apparently, you get a picture of a cat in there. Enjoy!

Honestly, I think that was the face I was making as I watched John Terry fall to the ground on Saturday morning, then watched Robin van Persie scoop it up, slip around Petr Cech, and give Arsenal a lead they would not relinquish at Stamford Bridge. What a day to be a Gooner. It's eight wins from their last nine now, and none of those are bigger than putting up five at the Bridge, especially coming from behind twice to do it.

Now, Arsenal's sights turn once again to Europe, to the group stage where they sit top of the table with half of the round robin played. Two of their final three group matches are at home, at the Emirates, where they have not lost in Europe since May of 2009. Arsenal can assure they won't finish last in the group with a point and an Olympiacos win, but more importantly, three points today means they will qualify for the knockout phase. It's that straightforward. Win and qualify.

Arsenal Squad News

Wojciech, is that really the best idea?
Out: Chamakh (knee), Gibbs (stomach), Sagna (broken leg), Wilshere (ankle), Diaby (ankle)

The main injury news is that Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson are both in training and fit, which makes sense, considering that they both appeared off the bench against Chelsea on Saturday. Kieran Gibbs and Abou Diaby are still short of fitness, but close to returns. Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere remain the long term injuries. From Twitter, it sounds like Jack is ill, too. #getwellsoon

The other injury news is that Marouane Chamakh is out with a knee injury, meaning Ju Young Park will slip into his spot behind Robin van Persie in the Arsenal depth chart. Part of me wonders how hurt he really is and how much of this could just be the fact that Park is passing him by. Remember when Manuel Almunia suddenly had a string of injuries when Fabianski and Szczesny passed him in the depth chart?

Aside from that, the real questions surround how much Arsene Wenger will rotate the squad after Saturday's win at Chelsea. Arsenal play one more match, against West Brom this weekend, before an international break loaded with friendlies (unless you're one of the countries in a Euro 2012 playoff.) I imagine there'll be some changes, but not wholesale. This ain't no Carling Cup tie, after all.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos, Song, Rosicky, Benayoun, Arshavin, Park, van Persie.

Marseille Squad News

Marseille were punished for playing for a draw at home.
Photo: UEFA/Getty Images.
Out: Mbia (foot)

Marseille spent much of their matchday three meeting with Arsenal playing for a 0-0 draw at home, which would have kept them atop of the group with seven points, while Arsenal would have had five. Aaron Ramsey and the Gunners punished them with the late, 92nd minute goal, showing that you should always play for the win at home in the Champions League.

Marseille have two players returning from suspension: Defender Rod Fanni returns from a two match ban for a matchday one red card and Jordan Ayew served a one match ban for being sent off via two yellow cards on matchday two. Both sat out the match against Arsenal at home. Stephane Mbia has been out injured with a broken metatarsal since August.

Current Form

Arsenal's overall home form is very good at the moment. Their last loss at the Emirates came against Liverpool during their terrible August. That's a string of seven straight victories on home soil in all competitions. In Europe, Arsenal's home form is even better. Since a 2-2 draw with Barcelona in the quarterfinals in 2010, Arsenal have won six straight Champions League matches at home, four last year and two this year. They have won eight straight group stage matches at home. They are unbeaten in 11 overall in the Champions League at home. They have won 20 of their last 24 home group stage matches, drawing the other four, dating back to a 3-0 reverse against Inter Milan in 2003.

In Europe, Marseille's away form in Europe is a bit up and down. Over this year and last, they have lost two and won three away from home. Both losses came in England, against Chelsea and Manchester United. Marseille's domestic form has improved since a dreadful start. At the time of matchday three, Marseille was 15th in the Ligue 1 table. They are now 9th. Despite a dreadful start, they are now unbeaten in six in league play, and have won three straight across all domestic competitions. Marseille won 3-2 at Dijon this past weekend.

Match Facts

Marseille's last trip to England ended in defeat.
Photo: Guardian.
Arsenal's last match at home against French competition was in the group stage in 2002, a 2-1 loss to Auxerre. All time at home against French competition, Arsenal have a record of three wins, two losses, and two draws, which you can tell is not good compared to their current form at home. Lyon picked up a draw in London in 2001, Lens picked up a win in London in 1998, and Auxerre picked up a draw in 1995. The three wins came against Lens and Nantes in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup and PSG in the 1994 Cup Winners' Cup.

Marseille has only won once in ten visits to England in European competition. Last season, they lost 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and 2-1 in the knockout round at Old Trafford. Their only win in England came 1-0 at Liverpool in the 2007 group stage. In their seven other trips to England, they've lost at Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Southampton, while they've drawn at Liverpool, Newcastle, and Bolton.

The Referee

Tagliavento sent off Bacary Sagna last December.
Photo: Eurosport.
The officiating crew is from Italy and the referee is Paolo Tagliavento. Arsenal have seen Tagliavento at the Emirates before; he worked Arsenal's 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade on matchday six last year. Arsenal needed the win to ensure qualification and Tagliavento gave Arsenal a penalty in the first half. The penalty goal, scored by Robin van Persie, was the Dutchman's first since returning from an injury he had suffered in August of 2010. He showed Bacary Sagna a red card in the final ten minutes of the match for a last man foul. Sagna was suspended for Arsenal's 2-1 win over Barcelona, as a result. Tagliavento has never worked a Marseille match.

The aforementioned Arsenal-Partizan match was Tagliavento's first in the Champions League group stage. He had worked eight Europa League matches in 2009/10, including the final between Hamburg and Fulham. The UEFA press kit also mentions that his other profession is hairdresser.

Around Europe

Chelsea gets a chance to rebound from Saturday with a trip to Belgium, as they face a Genk side they beat 5-0 at Stamford Bridge. Elsewhere today, Borussia Dortmund hosts Olympiacos in the other Group F match, Valencia welcomes Bayer Leverkusen to Spain, Zenit St. Petersburg hosts Shakhtar Donetsk in an early match in Russia, top of their table APOEL hosts Porto in Cyprus, AC Milan travels to Belarus to take on BATE Borisov, while Barcelona travels to face Plzen.

Tomorrow, Manchester City is on the road to face Villarreal, while United welcomes Otelul Gulati at Old Trafford. Bayern Munich welcomes Napoli to Germany, Inter hosts Lille at the San Siro, Trabzonspor hosts CSKA Moscow, Benfica hosts Basel in Portugal, Ajax hosts Dinamo Zagreb, and Lyon hosts Real Madrid.