A return to UCL action
After a season spent in the Europa League, Arsenal's visit to the Stade Vélodrome marks OM's return to the Champions League... And the excitement is building!533 days… That's how long the OM supporters have had to wait to for another taste of the Champions League. The last time was on 3 April 2012 when OM went down 2-0 against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. The defeat meant elimination from the quarter-finals of the competition. The following season, OM were in the Europe's second division: the Europa League. After a year, OM now return to Europe's premier club competition. First up is one of the continent's most famous clubs in Arsenal FC and they will baptise a new season with the UCL theme: "We are can't wait to get out there," admitted Steve Mandanda. "Last season we were in the Europa League, and it was a little bit frustrating to have missed out on the Champions League. We missed it, because the two competitions are worlds apart. We are lucky enough to be back this year. These are the moments we play football to enjoy. I really can't wait."
Emotions will be running high, but there's still the small matter of a match to be played out there. Arsenal are top seeds in the group, and while it's always nice to avoid the likes of Barça, Manchester United and Bayern, the club from North London provide a massive challenge, even if they haven't won any silverware since 2005. "They are a great club who play in Europe's best league. They have a bigger budget than OM, but we aren't jealous, and we aren't scared. We have the quality to beat them," added the Marseille skipper.
And speaking of quality... Arsenal aren't short on it either after snapping up one of the best playmakers in the world in Mesut Özil. The German international has already impressed, laying on an assist for Olivier Giroud just ten minutes into his EPL debut. "There are a lot of great players in that team. We have to show plenty of determination, desire and enthusiasm. We won't to give it everything. We have been labelled the fourth team in this group but we will surprise a few teams by really going for it," explained Elie Baup. "That's what we have to translate onto the pitch, we have to push beyond our limits to cause an upset or two."
For OM, coach Elie Baup has a full-strength squad to choose from with André Ayew returning from suspension. But the current form of the two sides isn't all that similar. Arsenal haven't lost since the opening day of the Premier League season. The Gunners have won their last three matches and are just one point behind leaders Liverpool. In contrast, OM made a great start to the Ligue 1 campaign, but have taken just one point from their last two matches.
But in the Champions League, everything is bigger. The passion, the motivation, the atmosphere… And OM has already proven, more than once that these European evenings bring out the best in them!