With everything still to play for on a tantalising final matchday in Group D, Marseille and Tottenham Hotspur do battle at the Orange Velodrome on Tuesday still vying for spots in the Champions League knockout rounds.
The Lilywhites are one point clear at the top of the section, while Les Olympiens sit in fourth place but are still capable of upsetting the apple cart and qualifying for the last 16.
A total loss of discipline from Sporting Lisbon two matchdays in a row could have handed Marseille a golden ticket to the knockout stages, with Igor Tudor’s side taking advantage of three red cards across two games for the Portuguese outfit to get their European campaign up and running.
However, amid a sticky patch in Ligue 1, Marseille did not have the formula to beat an 11-man team in Eintracht Frankfurt on the penultimate matchday, as goals from Daichi Kamada and Randal Kolo Muani either side of Matteo Guendouzi’s leveller condemned them to a 2-1 defeat.
Having now dropped back to fourth place in the group with six points to their name, Marseille will be in the pot for the last-16 draw – potentially as group winners – if they overcome Tottenham on Tuesday, but anything less than victory and their hopes of a knockout berth in the Champions League will come to an end.
Tudor was left enraged at the weekend after seeing his side squander a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Strasbourg, with Kevin Gameiro netting an injury-time equaliser, meaning that Les Olympiens head into Tuesday’s pivotal battle having lost three and drawn one of their last four matches.
Winning just one of their last five games at home and conceding in each of their last six in front of their own fans is not music to the ears of the Marseille faithful either, and Les Olympiens must now endeavour to achieve a feat that they have not done since 2010 – beat an English team in the Champions League.
From Marcus Edwards returning to North London to haunt his former club to Antonio Conte storming out of his post-game press conference after being denied a late winner by VAR, Tottenham’s matchday five clash with Sporting was truly a Champions League tie for the ages.
Harry Kane thought he had sent Tottenham through with a last-gasp winner, but after a three-minute VAR delay, the goal was ruled out for offside, and the emotion of the occasion was too much to take for Conte, who was soon sent to the stands by Danny Makkelie.
The Tottenham boss – who will now serve a touchline ban for this pivotal game – was under no illusions that his side did not deserve much out of the game based on their first-half performance, but the North London club remain top of Group D and only need a point to progress to the knockout stages.
Lightning struck twice for Tottenham on the South coast regarding their slow start to matches, as Bournemouth found themselves 2-0 up before Rodrigo Bentancur completed a remarkable turnaround in stoppage time as Spurs won 3-2, ending their three-game winless run in all tournaments.
Such a dramatic victory ought to spur Spurs on amid their recent struggles, but while Marseille’s record against English clubs leaves a lot to be desired, Tottenham have never beaten a French team away from home in any European competition.
Richarlison was at the double for Tottenham when they bested Marseille 2-0 in North London back in September, but with the Brazilian absent for this match, the time is nigh for other players in Conte’s ranks to become European heroes of the hour.
Marseille Champions League form:
Marseille form (all competitions):
Tottenham Hotspur Champions League form:
Tottenham Hotspur form (all competitions):
We say: Marseille 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Facing a Tottenham side who have failed to win or score away from home in the Champions League this term spells optimism for Marseille, who simply need to go gung-ho if they are to stand any chance of keeping their Champions League dream alive.
Such an approach should yield success against a shaky Tottenham backline, but the hosts’ confidence has also been shot by a poor string of results in recent weeks, and we are struggling to back either side to take all three points – instead opting for the draw that would confirm Spurs’ place in the last 16.