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Arsenal FC vs. Olympique de Marseille UEFA Champions League preview

by Charles Preston on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Arsenal FC will be looking to improve on their recent home record against Ligue 1 visitors when they play host to Olympique de Marseille, although their matchday three victory in France has put the Gunners in a strong position in Group F.

The Stade Vélodrome fixture on 19 October was the first time the sides had met, Arsenal coming out on top thanks to Aaron Ramsey’s last-gasp winner.

A late equaliser had denied Arsenal three matchday one points at Borussia Dortmund but two weeks later Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrated his UEFA Champions League debut with the opening goal in a 2-1 defeat of Olympiacos FC.

Olympique de Marseille opened with a 1-0 win at Olympiacos before André Ayew’s double helped Didier Deschamps’ side to a 3-0 home win against Dortmund next time out. Although the home defeat by Arsenal meant they slipped down to second position in the standings, Marseille still hold a three-point cushion over third-placed Olympiacos.

Arsenal FC have had seven previous fixtures against French visitors and their record is W3 D2 L2. Their last came in 2002/03, a UEFA Champions League first group stage game against AJ Auxerre which they lost 2-1. The previous year they faced Olympique Lyonnais in the competition’s second group stage, drawing 1-1 at Highbury.

Last season Arsenal reached the round of 16 where they went down 4-3 on aggregate to eventual champions FC Barcelona, winning the London leg 2-1. It was the 11th successive season they had made it through the group and the first time since 2006/07 they had failed to reach the quarter-finals or better.

At home in the group stage Arsène Wenger’s team embarked on a goal spree, defeating SC Braga (6-0), FC Shakhtar Donetsk (5-1) and FK Partizan (3-1).

Including the victories against Olympiacos and Udinese Calcio in the play-off round, the Gunners are on a six-match winning run at home in the competition and are unbeaten in 11 games in north London. In the group stage they have won eight in succession and have gone 24 home games without defeat, 20 of which have resulted in victory. Their last reverse came on 17 September 2003 when FC Internazionale Milano won 3-0 at Highbury.

Olympique de Marseille, who are in their fifth successive participation in the competition and eighth in all, lost 2-0 away to Chelsea FC in last season’s group stage and then 2-1 at Manchester United FC in the round of 16.

They have only recorded one victory in ten visits to England – beating Liverpool FC 1-0 in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League group stage – losing six of the other nine games.

Last season they finished second in their pool, three points behind Chelsea. After losing at Stamford Bridge they won 7-0 at MŠK Žilina – a record UEFA Champions League away victory – and 3-0 at FC Spartak Moskva.

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