In the Champions League, Olympique de Marseille still can’t make it

In the Champions League, Olympique de Marseille still can’t make it

In the Champions League, Olympique de Marseille still can’t make it

Marseille defender Leonardo Balerdi on the lawn of the Stade-Vélodrome, in Marseille, on 13 September 2022, after his team's 0-1 defeat against the Germans in Frankfurt.

The Champions League had never seen the new Stade-Vélodrome full due to the works – between 2011 and 2014 – and closed doors due to Covid-19, in 2020-2021… The Marseille public has been waiting for this gala evening for some time. On Tuesday 13 September 63,000 spectators – a measure set by the club that stopped ticket sales – suffered a 0-1 defeat by OM against Eintracht Frankfurt, the latest Europa League winner.

Despite its partially renewed workforce, its coach – Igor Tudor – finalist in the competition in 2003 (with Juventus Turin) and the excellent start in Ligue 1, the Marseille club remains stuck in the curse that hits it in the greatest manifestation of football European. Beaten in London by Tottenham (0-2) a week earlier, Marseille chained to Frankfurt their sixteenth defeat in seventeen Champions League games. And he’s already mortgaging his chances of reaching the knockout stage in the spring.

Read also: Marseille-Frankfurt: clumsy, the Phocians are again defeated in the Champions League

The match took place in a tense atmosphere. After a few clashes between fans the night before the game, the day in the city had been rather quiet. The massive police force – nearly 600 police forces deployed in the center and around the stadium – avoided the feared excesses. Gathered in a specific area, Place de la Joliette, a few kilometers from the Vélodrome, the 3,300 German fans were transported in about thirty buses to the stadium. Without major accidents.

It was only once in their gallery that things went wrong. The Bouches-du-Rhône police chief reported a series of Nazi greetings to the European Football Union (UEFA). And the CRS used tear gas before settling as a buffer between the Germans and Marseilles. An hour before kick-off, the two corners of Marseille were already full so as not to allow the strong colony of Frankfurt to win the thunderous match.

Payet, the shadow of its past splendor

The comparison was not just vocal. As the players warmed up, the north corner and the opposing grandstand exchanged fire from pyrotechnic devices. Fireworks as dangerous as they are unacceptable in a sports hall, restarted in the middle of the second half and then at the end of the game. A German supporter was hospitalized after being hit by a smoke bomb and three members of the security forces were injured.

We now know that Igor Tudor is a man of convictions. And until Tuesday night, he was pretty successful. Despite the absence of Chancel MBemba and Samuel Gigot, two of his most used center-backs since the start of the season, the Croatian OM coach hasn’t changed his three-back system. As promised the day before, Tudor revived the Argentine Leonardo Balerdi, already catastrophic against Lille three days earlier.

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