Marseille vs Athletic Bilbao – Thursday, March 8, 20:05 GMT/21:05 CET – Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, France
The south of France will see an attractive Europa League round of 16 matchups between Olympique Marseille and Bilbao. The two sides have met in the past with Athletic eliminating Marseille at the round of 32 of the 2015-16 Europa League season.
Athletic’s 1-0 victory at the Stade Vélodrome was enough after Marseille was halted to a 1-1 draw in Spain. That Athletic victory was Olympique’s last defeat home defeat in the Europa League. There will, therefore, be a sense of redemption when the two sides meet again on Thursday.
Going by current form Olympique will be favourites going into this tie. France’s only ever UEFA Champions League winners are currently third in Ligue 1 and have played attractive football at times under head coach Rudi Garcia. Athletic in the meantime are somewhat struggling in La Liga and are currently just 14th in La Liga.
Based in the Basque country, Bilbao have been somewhat inconsistent this season. It is quite reasonable for the side from Spain to play a good season followed by a mediocre year. This is due, to the fact, that Athletic are constraint to signing Basque players only and, therefore, have a hard time to replace players.
Olympique in the meantime have assembled an interesting side with Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet being the most prominent players. French football, in general, is on the way up and with Olympique on form they are the likely side to advance from this tie.
Marseille vs Athletic Bilbao – Player to look out for:
Florian Thauvin #26 – Olympique Marseille
The right-winger has been in sensational form scoring 16 goals and 11 assists in 28 Ligue 1 games. As a result, he has now been linked with a move to Bayern where he is rated among the possible players that could replace the ageing Frank Ribéry and Arjen Robben. The 25-year-old, however, has struggled when he moved to Newcastle United in 2015 and moved back and forward on loan until the move back to France was made permanent last summer.
Iñaki Williams #11 – Athletic Bilbao
Iñaki Williams is Bilbao’s most prominent talent. The 23-year-old has scored five goals and four assists in 27 games. In the past targeted by the likes of Borussia Dortmund Williams has recently signed a new contract until 2025 stating that he enjoys playing for Bilbao. With star striker Aritz Aduriz struggling with form after an injury the focus will be on Williams to produce the goals.
Marseille vs Athletic Bilbao – Match Stats
- The clubs’ only previous official encounters came in the 2015-16 round of 32. Athletic won the first leg 1-0 at the Stade Vélodrome and sealed qualification with a 1-1 draw in Bilbao.
- Marseille have won only two of their six home games in UEFA competition against Spanish clubs, losing three. Their most notable victory was 2-1 against Celta Vigo in the first leg of the 1998-99 UEFA Cup quarter-finals en route to the final, which they lost 3-0 to Parma.
- That 1-0 victory at the Stade Vélodrome two years ago was the only time Athletic have avoided defeat in four trips to France. They have lost UEFA Europa League group encounters at both Paris Saint-Germain (2-4 in 2011-12) and Lyon (1-2 in 2012-13).
- Marseille have won five of their six European games at the Stade Vélodrome this season, drawing the other. They have scored 13 goals, conceding three. Their last home defeat in Europe was that 1-0 loss to Athletic.
- Athletic are unbeaten away from home in Europe this season (W3 D3), winning the last two matches – against Zorya (2-0) and Spartak (3-1).
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Marseille vs Athletic Bilbao 2-1
Marseille vs Athletic Bilbao – Possible Lineups
Mandanda – Sarr, Rami, Rolando, Amavi – Anguissa, Luiz Gustavo – Thauvin, Sanson, Payet – Germain
Manager: Rudi Garcia
Arrizabalaga – Saborit, Martínez, Álvarez, Lekue – Iturraspe, San José – Córdoba, Vesga, Susaeta – Williams
Manager: Cuco Zigande
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: [email protected]