Last 16 in Wenger's sights

2011-10-18 10:46

Marseille - Arsene Wenger has given Arsenal a target of four points from their Champions League double-header against Group F leaders Marseille, ahead of Wednesday's trip to Stade Velodrome.

Both sides have set aside recent domestic misfortune to prosper in Europe, with Marseille top of the group after back-to-back wins in their opening games and Arsenal two points behind in second place.

Arsenal already have a three-point cushion over German champions Borussia Dortmund and Wenger believes that a win and a draw against Didier Deschamps' side will be enough to send the Gunners into the last 16.

"The two games against Marseille will decide our qualification," he said.

"If we take four points then we will qualify. They have had a similar run to us - a disappointing start in the championship and they have done well in the Champions League. It is exactly the same."

After a disastrous start, Arsenal have slowly begun to grind out results in the Premier League and sit 10th in the table after a brace from captain Robin van Persie gave them a 2-1 win at home to Sunderland on Sunday.

Arsenal remain six points below the top four, and 12 points shy of leaders Manchester City, but after a 2-1 win over Olympiakos in their last continental outing, they are on course to reach the Champions League knockout phase for the 12th year in succession.

Marseille and Arsenal have never previously met but both sides have been obliged to seek solace in the Champions League this season.

A 0-0 draw at Toulouse on Saturday left Marseille in 15th place in Ligue 1, but they demonstrated ruthless efficiency in front of goal to dispatch Dortmund 3-0 at the Velodrome in their last Group F assignment.

"They have potential," warned Wenger. "They have a good midfield and have players like Lucho Gonzalez, Benoit Cheyrou, and Stephane Mbia.

"It was a complete surprise to me that they beat Dortmund like that. I was impressed by them.

"Marseille can be dangerous because they are good on the counter-attack. I think at home they will try to play like that against us."

OM have picked up just one win in their first 10 league games, prompting majority shareholder Margarita Louis-Dreyfus to hold an emergency meeting with players and staff last week.

Deschamps says his players will have no trouble motivating themselves for Arsenal's visit, but he was unable to hide the fact that improved performances in the league remain an equal priority.

"It's Arsenal - the best team, a top seed," he said.
"The ambition will be to win against Arsenal, but also against Ajaccio (next Saturday)."

Deschamps can call upon Cesar Azpilicueta, Alou Diarra and Mathieu Valbuena after they all missed the Toulouse game through suspension, while Andre-Pierre Gignac is fit after returning from injury against his former club.

France international forward Loic Remy is also expected to feature, despite being withdrawn against Toulouse with what assistant coach Guy Stephan described as "a bit of a cold".

Arsenal have doubts over Kieran Gibbs (stomach) and Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) after both missed the game against Sunderland, with Wenger saying that both players have only "a small chance" of playing in Marseille.

Marseille are yet to concede a goal in this season's competition, but in Arsenal they face a team who have never lost in seven previous visits to their manager's homeland.

However, Arsenal have not played in France since a 1-0 win at Auxerre in 2002 and, excluding the qualifying rounds, have lost six of their last eight away fixtures in the Champions League.