All too aware that defeat could spell the end of Olympique de Marseille's UEFA Europa League campaign, coach Élie Baup is calling on his players to stand tall when Fenerbahçe SK visit the Stade Vélodrome on Thursday.
While Group C leaders Fenerbahçe will qualify for the last 32 should they pick up a point in southern France on matchday five, Marseille will be out if they lose and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach beat AEL Limassol FC in Germany. The hosts – third in the group – may have won both previous home encounters with Turkish opposition, but Baup has plenty of cause for concern; his team went down to FC Girondins de Bordeaux at the weekend and Mathieu Valbuena is out with a back problem.
"We have three attacking players injured," said Baup, who is also shorn of Loïc Rémy (muscle strain), André-Pierre Gignac (foot) and Nicolas N'Koulou (groin). "This is the reality of sport. We have to deal with the adversity collectively. We need to be united, move forward together and maintain our consistency. We need to keep the ball more, use the width of the pitch and preserve our offensive energy. A change of system is possible – we will see. We still think we can qualify."
Marseille captain Steve Mandanda echoed his coach's sentiments, urging his team-mates to continue with "this mentality, this unity, this faith and this common goal that makes us go forward". Similar attributes helped Fenerbahçe recover from their own difficult start to the season – they won just three of their opening 12 games, including a 2-2 draw at home to OM in September's reverse fixture.
"Marseille were in a better condition when they came to Istanbul than they are now. I think we have a small advantage and we plan to use it," said the Turkish side's coach Aykut Kocaman. "Marseille are at home, in front of their own fans, and it will be difficult. Fenerbahçe have a great team this year and we want to go far."
Kocaman accepts that they are not there yet, however; Saturday's 1-1 Super League draw at Eskişehirspor is a sign that further improvements can be made. "If we can fix the small issues we have in the team, then I think we can be very dangerous. Tomorrow we will play as a team." So, Baup insists, will Marseille.
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