Tottenham are back playing on Champions League nights for the first time in two years and kick off their European campaign tonight against French side Marseille in what is the first competitive meeting between the two teams.
This match also sees two good friends compete against each other as Antonio Conte’s former Juventus teammate Igor Tudor is the current manager of Marseille.
Antonio Conte’s side go into their first Champions League match currently unbeaten in the Premier League after four wins in six matches, their last victory being at home against Fulham last weekend.
That victory over Fulham was Tottenham’s sixth consecutive home victory and they will be confident of continuing this winning streak tonight.
Spurs also have strong prior form in the Champions League with the North London side having progressed out of the group-stages in each of their last three appearances in Europe’s premier competition. Most recently Spurs were eliminated by German side RB Leipzig under Jose Mourinho.
Furthermore, the Lilywhites have won four of their previous five home matches against French opposition, though they did lose their most recent home clash against a French team losing 2-1 to AS Monaco at Wembley back in 2016.
Harry Kane will naturally be Tottenham’s main threat and he has been directly involved in 23 goals in 24 Champions League appearances with 20 goals 3 assists.
Moreover, Kane comes into this match off the back of equalling Thierry Henry’s record of 43 Premier League London derby goals and becoming the third all-time top scorer in the history of the competition. He will undoubtedly be looking to get off to a scoring start tonight.
Despite a poor pre-season, Marseille have started their Ligue 1 campaign in brilliant form, they sit second in Ligue 1 only behind leaders PSG on goal difference.
The French side remain unbeaten and have won five of their opening six games. In their last match away at Auxerre they made it four wins on the bounce courtesy of a 2-0 win. Former Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez scored in that game making it three goals for the season however, the Chilean is suspended for tonight’s game having been sent off against Liverpool last year whilst playing for Inter Milan.
In fact, despite never having played Marseille competitively before, this game will likely have an air of familiarity to it for Spurs. Over the last season or two the South of France has become a home for former Arsenal players. The aforementioned Alexis Sanchez, Matteo Guendouzi, Nuno Tavares and Sead Kolasinac all play their trade at the Stade Velodrome.
This will provide all the motivation the French side need to come to North London and provide an upset at White Hart Lane.Embed from Getty Images
However, the omens do not look good for the French giants.
Despite having strong European runs in recent seasons, reaching the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League last year. They have failed to make it out of the group stages in their last two Champions League appearances. In addition, Marseille have won just once in their last thirteen matches against English opposition having drawn two and lost ten.
Les Olympiens have also lost fourteen of the last fifteen matches they have played in the Champions League, failing to score on nine occasions.
Lucas Moura will be the only absentee for Spurs tonight as Bryan Gil has returned to training and both Christian Romero and Rodrigo Bentancur returned to the first team in the match against Fulham.
Arguably the biggest decision Antonio Conte has to make is whether to bring Kulusevski back into the team for this game, and who he would drop to bring him back. Richarlison came in for his first start in place of the Swedish attacker against Fulham and was impressive, providing an assist for Pierre-Emile Hojberg’s opener and having a goal ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee.
Son Heung-Min has not started the season the way many would have expected him too after finishing the season as joint top goalscorer last year but, can you drop a player of his quality in the Champions League?
Clement Lenglet also had a solid full debut and may be in line for a start tonight.
For Marseille, as previously mentioned, Alexis Sanchez will miss this game through suspension. Moreover, attackers Cedric Bakambu and Bamba Dieng have unsurprisingly been left out of Les Olympien’s Champions League squad after deadline transfers fell through.
In more positive news for them, Dimitri Payet is back from a calf problem and centre back Samuel Gigot has recovered from a thigh injury.
This will by no means by an easy game for Spurs. Marseille are in fantastic form and have a number of players in their starting eleven who will desperate to spoil the party in North London given past allegiances.
However, Tottenham are in strong form themselves and with the extra quality they possess I am backing them to come out on top in a tight game, 2-1.