Marseille have the edge going into their semi-final trip to Austria, and Kevin Hatchard thinks they can book a place in the Europa League final...
"Marseille played better than the scoreline suggested when they went to Leipzig, and they are capable of soaking up pressure and hitting Salzburg on the break."
Salzburg v Marseille
Thursday 03 April, 20:05
Live on BT Sport
Marseille on the road to restoration, with two hurdles left
Money isn't everything, but the arrival of American businessman Frank McCourt at Olympique Marseille has given one of France's football institutions a sense of direction, and a sense of restored pride. Coach Rudi Garcia has been able to bring structure and belief to a club that lacked both after a number of bitter disappointments, amidst the painful rise of PSG.
Not only do Marseille have the backbone, with the likes of Luiz Gustavo, Adil Rami and Morgan Sanson, but they have a generous sprinkling of stardust too. Dimitri Payet has delivered 18 assists across Ligue 1 and the Europa League, and he set up both goals in Marseille's 2-0 first-leg win over Slazburg last week. The outstanding Florian Thauvin has scored in all five of his games since returning from injury, he has been involved in 30 Ligue 1 goals this term, and he has scored or assisted five times in ten Europa League matches.
Marseille lost 1-0 at RB Leipzig in the away leg of their quarter-final, and they have lost four of their last six away games in the UEL, including a 1-0 defeat at Salzburg in the group stage. However, they actually played really well in Leipzig, and this time they have a healthy lead to defend.
Hiroki Sakai is still struggling with injury, but he wasn't missed last week, as full-backs Jordan Amavi and Bouna Sarr both gave outstanding performance. Kostas Mitroglou is likely to get the nod to lead the line again ahead of Clinton Njie and Valere Germain.
Salzburg may have reached the end of the road
After their extraordinary comeback against Lazio in the quarter-finals, an effort which included three goals in just four minutes, dismissing Salzburg's chances is a perilous exercise. However, their failure to score an away goal at the Stade Velodrome could prove costly.
A lack of decent service to strikers Munas Dabbur and Hee-Chan Hwang was an issue throughout the first leg, and when a big chance finally arrived, Fredrik Gulbrandsen smacked a post with his volley when it seemed easier to score. The talented Valon Berisha was largely kept at arm's length, and it says a lot that the Austrians' biggest threat in the south of France was their attacking full-back Stefan Lainer.
Salzburg now have to score at least twice without reply to force an extra half-hour, and while they have rattled in 17 goals in their last six home games and won every single one, this is arguably their toughest test of the season.
Salzburg have no fresh injury concerns, and are likely to pick a similar side to the one that started the first leg. Talented and creative midfielder Xaver Schlager could be given the chance to start, although 19-year-old Hannes Wolf played well in his position at the Velodrome.
Salzburg are priced at [2.14] to win the second leg, and despite their impressive home record, I think that's too short. They will have to push for goals, and I believe Marseille can punish them on the counter-attack. The French side looked really strong defensively last week and in Leipzig, with the decision by Rudi Garcia to deploy midfielder Luiz Gustavo in defence proving inspired. With Thauvin and Payet on stunning form, I'll back Draw and Away in the Double Chance market at [1.86].
Salzburg have shown they can apply pressure, as they did against Lazio, and it'll be up to Marseille to withstand that pressure and find solutions on the break. It seems likely that Salzburg will score at some stage, but I also believe that Marseille will score, and if they do so early that will open the game right up.
Over 2.5 Goals is trading at [1.74], and that's probably the way to go.
Thauvin has netted in his last five games, and we successfully backed him to score in the first leg. It helps that he takes penalties, and he continually gets into dangerous positions.
If you believe that Marseille will score, then Thauvin has to be considered at a hefty [2.8].
Kevin Hatchard 2017-18 Europa League P/L