Europa League Play-Off Second Leg: Olympique Marseille v NK Domzale
As can happen in the Europa league, you write a preview saying a match should be fairly straightforward and then, well, things don’t quite pan out like that. The first leg ended 1-1 in Ljubljana, as Domzale midfielder Amedej Vetrih flicked one in from a Senijad Ibričić freekick in an opening spell that saw the home side slightly put the frighteners on their visitors, before Morgan Sanson levelled things up just after the hour mark.
Marseille coach Rudi Garcia declared himself satisfied with the point, and an away goal puts OM in a good position going into the second leg, but he wasn’t massively convincing in his remarks, perhaps conscious of his decision to replace the injured Rolando with Gregory Sertic, rather than Doria or Thomas Hubocan who were on the bench. He admitted that in the first half he considered bringing Doria on to move Sertic back to his usual post in midfield, and his summing up of the improvement in OM’s performance after the break – « comme par miracle, ç’a été mieux » – didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of either his team or his own approach.
It was a similarly frustrating 1-1 draw against Angers at the weekend, when Clinton N’Jie’s early opener was cancelled out by Karl Toko Ekambi, and Steve Mandanda was called on to do his usual thing. In a further blow, N’Jie was removed injured in the first half, and is not in the group for this match. While Dimitri Payet is apparently recovered after his strain against Dijon, it will be surprising if he starts – so Lucas Ocampos will probably get the left-wing berth against NKD, particularly as he will be unavailable against Monaco on Sunday due to being sent off in injury time against Angers.
Domzale’s captain and goalkeeper Dejan Milic was bullishly confident in his pre-match press-conference, describing the first leg as ‘a superb match’ by his team, and looking forward to the atmosphere at the Velodrome. Domzale’s fans will need to be creative to appreciate that, as it seems the match will not be broadcast on Slovenian TV. Their last league game was also a frustrating draw, giving up a 2-0 lead at home against Aluminij, with Simon Rožman starting several key players on the bench, but also missing several through injury. They go into this knowing that they have to score, so Rožman may stick with the 4-3-3 of the first leg rather than the more conservative 4-5-1 of their other qualifying games.
One interesting side-note is that 20-year-old Domzale midfielder Jan Repas* will be joining Caen on a four-year deal, his arrival being delayed so he can take part in this match, before joining his new club on Friday – which does rather make it sound like they are just going to put him on a train north after the final whistle. After 13 years with the club, he says that going out with a win would be a ‘dream come true’.
A goalless draw would do for the French team’s qualification, of course, but wouldn’t really do, as OM need to get their mojo back before a tricky trip to Monaco at the weekend. Failure to qualify would of course be an embarrassment, and one that critics can jump on with glee (see the recent Twitter exchange between the official feeds of Bordeaux and OL…) – but failure to qualify well would also be a set-back in mojo terms. Again, they need to concentrate, and avoid complacency.
Marseille Squad : Mandanda, Pele – Sakai, Doria, Kamara, Rolando, Hubocan, Amavi, Evra, Rami – Cabella, Sanson, Gustavo, Sertic, Lopez, Zambo Anguissa – Ocampos, Payet, Sarr, Thauvin, Germain, Sari
* Jez was already developing a list of ‘making a meal of it’ puns for the first leg, so will no doubt be delighted with this news.