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Gunners take battle to the French shores

Olympique Marseille and Arsenal look to put their mediocre domestic form behind them as they gear up for a potentially decisive Champions League clash at the Stade Velodrome on Wednesday. Wednesday's fixtures

sports Updated: Oct 19, 2011 02:02 IST
Marseille

Olympique Marseille and Arsenal look to put their mediocre domestic form behind them as they gear up for a potentially decisive Champions League clash at the Stade Velodrome on Wednesday. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/19-10-pg20a.jpg

Marseille, the 1993 champions, have won only one Ligue 1 game this season although they lead Champions League Group F with six points from two games, having crushed Borussia Dortmund 3-0 in their previous match.

Arsenal, who have yet to win the Champions League, are second on four points in the group and lie 10th in the Premier League standings having had trouble adjusting after Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas left during the off-season.

Victory would give Marseille a perfect record midway through the group phase. Didier Deschamps's side, however, will need to improve dramatically from their dull Ligue 1 displays if they are to challenge the Londoners.

Marseille, 15th in the French league, drew 0-0 at Toulouse at the weekend and have not won a league match in almost a month. "I don't want to be too pessimistic (about our situation)," Deschamps told the club's website (www.om.net). "I'm aware of the difficulties we are facing but we are working on that and we are trying to build some confidence." Arsenal can empathise with their rivals' predicament.

"Marseille is a good team but they are under pressure a little bit like we are in the league because they didn't start as strong as they would have expected," said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger. "That puts more pressure on you."

Gearing up
Several Champions League knockout stage regulars can take a step closer to the last 16 on Wednesday, with Barcelona, AC Milan and Chelsea all in strong positions coming into matchday three.

Pep Guardiola's defending European champions entertain Viktoria Plzen at the Camp Nou in a Group H clash that has all the makings of a major mismatch. After losing 2-0 to Milan at the San Siro three weeks ago, the odds against Viktoria winning in Catalonia are as high as 66-1 with some bookmakers.

Barca remain unbeaten this season, and stayed on top of La Liga following a comfortable 3-0 victory over Racing Santander on Saturday.

Now Eric Abidal says the task for an injury-hit Barca -Gerard Pique is the latest man on the treatment table -- is a simple one ahead of a double-header against the Czech outsiders.

Meanwhile, Milan will be looking for Antonio Cassano, Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to reproduce the form they showed in Saturday's 3-0 success against Palermo as they prepare to host Bate Borisov in the other Group H meeting at the San Siro.

Chelsea defend their unbeaten record in Group E when they host Belgian champions Genk at Stamford Bridge.

With all the focus on the two Manchester giants, the west London outfit have been making steady progress under Andre Villas-Boas, and have scored eight goals in winning their last two games.