Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Europa Conference League clash between Qarabag FK and Marseille, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
After a 3-1 home win last week, Marseille will look to book their place in the Europa Conference League round of 16 on Thursday, when they travel to Azerbaijan to take on Qarabag FK in the second leg of their playoff tie.
A triumph in the south of France has seen Les Olympiens arrive with an advantage, while the hosts are out to cause a major upset.
Under the management of long-serving boss Gurban Gurbanov, Qarabag impressed in their Conference League group this season, picking up three victories and suffering just a single defeat to heavily-fancied Basel to finish second.
While that was not enough to secure automatic qualification to the final 16, it did, at least, grant them a playoff game, but the Horsemen were dealt a tough hand as they were drawn against Marseille.
Their trip to France last week began in difficult fashion as they trailed 2-0 at the break, and, while a late Kady goal provided encouragement, the hosts again found the net in the dying embers to ensure they returned home with a two-goal deficit to overturn.
Gurbanov’s men will now look to defy all odds and record an eye-catching win on home turf to progress.
They welcome a dangerous Marseille side who will aim to complete the job they started last Thursday.
After dropping into the Conference League playoffs due to a third-placed finish in their Europa League group, Les Olympiens headed into the first leg with plenty of confidence, having won five of their previous eight Ligue 1 games and earned 17 points to climb to second spot in the French top flight.
Jorge Sampaoli‘s side then carried that form into the continental meeting at the Stade Velodrome, as Arkadiusz Milik netted a brace to give them a two-goal lead at the interval before Dimitri Payet restored their two-goal cushion with a 92nd-minute finish from close range.
However, Les Olympiens suffered a disappointing Ligue 1 defeat at the weekend, as newly-promoted Clermont picked up a surprise 2-0 away win, leaving Sampaoli’s men just a single point ahead of third-placed Nice.
Marseille now turn their attention back to continental action as they aim to see out a routine two-legged victory and book their place in the final 16.
Qarabag FK Europa Conference League form:
Qarabag FK form (all competitions):
Marseille Europa Conference League form:
Marseille form (all competitions):
Having caused their opponents problems throughout the game last week, Qarabag are unlikely to make wholesale changes for Thursday’s match, although Gurbanov will likely set his side up in a more attacking style.
Striker Ramil Sheydayev could be turned to, with the Azerbaijani international having been reduced to a substitute appearance in France after finding the net twice in the group stage.
Brazilian winger Kady will keep his place in the front line, having netted his fifth goal of the Conference League campaign last time out.
With their job a long way towards being complete, Marseille may opt to rest a few key players with upcoming league games in mind, although Arkadiusz Milik should again lead the line as Sampaoli looks to ensure his side progresses.
Qarabag FK possible starting lineup:
Gugeshashvili; Vesovic, Medina, Medvedev, Bayramov; Andrade, Ozobic; Kady, Zoubir; Sheydayev, Wadji
Marseille possible starting lineup:
Mandanda; Lirola, Balerdi, Gonzalez, Peres; Kamara, Gueye, Gerson; Under, Milik, Dieng
We say: Qarabag FK 1-3 Marseille (Marseille win 6-2 on aggregate)
Given the result of the first leg, the hosts will likely go in desperate search of goals to overturn the deficit, and Les Olympiens have the ability to punish them on the break.
While the Horsemen can cause their visitors problems, we ultimately see Sampaoli’s men being too strong and predict another dominant victory.