As we prepare for our Champions League Group Stage opener against Marseille tonight at the Stade Velodrome, I have pinpointed three of the French side’s players who could pose a threat to us (should they feature) coming out of the game with nothing:
The Marseille forward is currently the top goal scorer at the club, finding the net three times in five Ligue 1 matches. The Frenchman’s strength on the ball and ability to read play could cause us some problems if our centre-backs are not alert. In addition, his aerial ability should not be underestimated, and Marseille will look to capitalize on our Achilles heal as it were – set pieces. The stocky 27-year-old also has a tendency to cut inside from wide areas and is not afraid to shoot from range when the chance presents itself.
Despite his diminutive size, the French winger is rather tenacious on the ball. Valbuena has an extremely high-work rate and can change direction at a moments notice making him hard to mark. The 28-year-old, once (reportedly) on Arsene Wenger’s radar, is able to lose his marker(s) easily thanks to his technical ability and mazy dribbling. He also puts in his fair share of dangerous balls into the box and our lot will have to find a way of stopping this ad they could cause us some difficulties on the night. His speed on the ball will no doubt add to our worries so he will be one to watch tonight.
3. Nicolas N’Koulou
The 23-year-old centre back is ranked as one of the best defenders in France. Physically, the N’Koulou possesses great strength and pace making him hard to get by and even harder to dispossess on the move. He also has a tendency to dribble and make a pest of himself which can be attributed to his intelligence on the field and overall ability. The Cameroon international will be a threat to our chances of winning due to his defensive abilities, as well as his capability of getting forward during the attacking phase of play from their set-pieces.