Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Marseille, Champions League Group Matchday 5

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, November 26
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT

  • Match Officials from Spain
    • Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
    • Assistants: Pau Cebrian Devis and Javier Rodriguez
    • 4th Official: Teodoro Sobrino
    • Additional Assistants: Carlos Gomez and Javier Estrada
  • Reverse Fixture: Marseille 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 2 Arsenal wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-W-W-W-L-W
  • Marseille's European Form: L-L // L-L-L-L
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 2 C / 36 F
I don't know about you, but I had a pretty good weekend, and not just because I celebrated my birthday on Saturday night (my actual birthday is Thursday, which this year falls on an American holiday; I have to remember that this blog has an international audience.) What I mean is that the results largely went Arsenal's way this weekend: a 2-0 win for the Gunners against a tricky Southampton side, Liverpool and Everton splitting the points in their derby, Cardiff City's late equalizer against Manchester United, and as for Tottenham, well, I'm glad another North London club knows what it's like to lose by six in Manchester. The results leave Arsenal four points clear, but there's still 26 games to play. It's a marathon, not a sprint, but you have to be encouraged by the start.

Tonight's match sees Arsenal switch gears back to a Champions League group they currently lead by virtue of their head-to-head result with Napoli. A win would be massively helpful, as Arsenal currently controls their own destiny, and this is their last home game of the group stage. The scenarios play out as follows:

Group F Scenarios

Marseille are already eliminated from advancing to the knock-out stage, as they are nine points back with two games remaining; they could still run the table and finish in the Europa League spot, but even that looks like too tall of an order.

Arsenal would be through to the knock-out stage with a win only if Borussia Dortmund, currently in third, fail to win at home against Napoli. Napoli are through with a win, which would also carry Arsenal through as long as they don't lose. A draw between Napoli and Dortmund would be enough to see the Italian side through, as they would remain three points clear of Dortmund with the better head-to-head tie-breaker standing. Since Arsenal split their head-to-head with Dortmund, a draw is enough for Arsenal to advance only if Dortmund loses.

Essentially, Arsenal are through if and only if they better Dortmund's result.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)

I expect Flamini to just not have sleeves at all tonight.
There's good news for Arsenal on the injury front as Mikel Arteta, who was substituted from Saturday's match as a precaution, has passed fit to remain in the squad. In addition, Mathieu Flamini returns, having served a one league match ban for yellow card accumulation. While that would not have affected his availability for this European match anyway, it is notable as he and his sleeves have not played since November 10, which certainly feels like a million years ago at this point.

Other than that, there are no other changes to the available squad. Lukas Podolski is training with the first team again but is still a few weeks away, while the long-term injured trio of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Abou Diaby, and Yaya Sanogo are not yet close to returning.

That leaves the question of rotation as Arsenal did just play three days ago. I think the most plausible scenario is that Mikel Arteta starts from the bench for a rest, as do Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, giving starts to Flamini and Tomas Rosicky.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud.

Marseille Squad News

Out: Payet (knee,) Ayew (knee,) Fanni (muscle strain)

Marseille are without three of the players who started against Arsenal on Matchday 1: Dmitri Payet picked up a knee injury on Friday night against Ajaccio and will miss this match, Andre Ayew is out eight weeks after knee surgery, and Rod Fanni will miss out with a muscle strain.

Current Form

Marseille struggled through much of October.
Arsenal have lost at home three times this season, once in every competition (Aston Villa in the league, Borussia Dortmund in Europe, and Chelsea in the League Cup.) Their 2-0 victory over Southampton showed no ill mental effects of their 1-0 loss to Manchester United before the international break. The going will get tough for Arsenal ahead, thanks to fixture congestion. They face Cardiff at the weekend, Hull City next Wednesday, Everton at the Emirates on Sunday the 8th, then Napoli in Italy, and Manchester City at the Etihad before a nine day break. That nine day break is followed, however, by Chelsea's second visit to the Emirates of the season.

Marseille have won two straight after going seven winless across all competitions.They played on Friday night against Ajaccio, giving them an extra day's rest, and won 3-1. Before the break, they had beaten Sochaux 2-1 thanks to an 83rd minute penalty. Despite their troubles, Marseille are still in fourth in Ligue 1, though they trail league leading PSG by 10 points. Marseille have lost six straight matches in Europe, including some from last year's Europa League, and are winless in their last eight European outings.

Match Facts

Theo Walcott opened the scoring on Matchday 1.
Arsenal and Marseille have now met three times in the UEFA Champions League, all over the last three years. Arsenal have won twice in Marseille, winning earlier this year by a 2-1 scoreline that was blemished slightly by the home side's late penalty. When these clubs met at the Emirates in 2011 on Matchday 4, the Gunners were held to a 0-0 draw; it was the only start of consequence in Ju Young Park's Arsenal career. Marseille finished second in the group behind Arsenal that season.

Arsenal have a mixed record of results against French sides in London, winning four, drawing three, and losing two. Arsenal lost 2-1 to Auxerre in 2002 and 1-0 to Lens in 1998. The draws came against Marseille in 2011, as mentioned earlier, Lyon in 2001, and Auxerre in 1995. The wins came over Montpellier last year, Lens and Nantes in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup, and PSG in the 1994 Cup Winners' Cup.

On English soil, Marseille have a record of just one win, four draws, and six losses; the win came in Liverpool in 2007. They have lost on the road against in England against Manchester United twice, Chelsea twice, Liverpool, and Southampton. Their draws have come against Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, and (surprise!) Bolton Wanderers.

The Referee

The match officials are from Spain; the referee is Antonio Mateu Lahoz. This will be his third UEFA Champions League match of his career, excluding qualifiers. As such, this is his first time working a match for either Arsenal or Marseille. On Matchday 4, he took charge of Bayern Munich's 1-0 win at Viktoria Plzen; last year, he worked a 1-1 draw between Montpellier and Schalke in Arsenal's group on Matchday 6. He also worked a qualifying round game between Lyon and Grasshopper this August.

Two English sides had Mateu Lahoz last year in the Europa League, and both won by 3-0 scorelines: Newcastle against Bordeaux in the group stage and Tottenham over Inter Milan in the Round of 16. Last week, he worked an international friendly between Turkey and Belarus.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Basel v. Chelsea; St. Jakob-Park, Basel
  • Tuesday: Steaua Bucuresti v. Schalke 04; Arena Nationala, Bucharest
  • Tuesday: Borussia Dortmund v. Napoli; Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Austria Wien; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: Zenit St. Petersburg v. Atletico Madrid; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
  • Tuesday: Celtic v. AC Milan; Celtic Park, Glasgow
  • Tuesday: Ajax v. Barcelona; Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. Manchester United; BayArena, Leverkusen
  • Wednesday: Shakhtar Donetsk v. Real Sociedad; Donbass Arena, Donetsk
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Copehagen; Juventus Stadium, Turin
  • Wednesday: Real Madrid v. Galatasaray; Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Anderlecht v. Benfica; Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Anderlecht
  • Wednesday: Paris St. Germain v. Olympiacos; Parc des Princes, Paris
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Viktoria Plzen, Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. Bayern Munich; Arena Khimki, Khimki