Spartak 0-3 Marseille: Marseille progress

November 24, 2010

The starting line-ups

Marseille were better all over the pitch here, and recorded an ultimately comfortable victory in Moscow.

Spartak lined up with their usual 4-4-1-1, with Ari playing just off Welliton upfront, and Aleksandr Kombarov and Aiden McGeady either side. Yevgeni Makeev moved to the right, so Martin Stranzl started on the left.

Marseille played a broad 4-2-3-1 system, though with Edouard Cisse always remaining in front of the defence, and Lucho Gonzalez playing ahead of him, to either side according to where the ball was. Mathieu Valbuena played a central attacking midfield role.

Valbuena was the key player here. His is naturally an attacking player but showed good defensive awareness to track Ibson – the more creative of Spartak’s two holding players – across the pitch when Ibson moved forward.

Marseille defend well

Marseille were fairly relaxed about the threat of Ari – rather than using Cisse to stay goalside of him wherever he went, they were  happy to treat him as a second striker when he moved towards Welliton, with Cisse instead trying to cut out balls in towards him, with no specific player to track.

Valbuena goal

In addition to putting in a good defensive stint, Valbuena was the key attacking player. He poked an early shot just past the far post very early on, and throughout the game showed great ability to arrive late in the box at just the right time to collect loose balls, as he did when scoring against England at Wembley last week. He opened the scoring here with a great curling shot into the far top corner.

Despite playing as a central playmaker, Valbuena drifted to the flanks and played the majority of his passes in wide positions

Spartak were at their best when they played on the counter-attack, but once Marseille took the lead, they rarely moved forward enough to leave gaps in behind. McGeady and Kombarov were probably the two brightest players for Spartak but they were dealt with very well by the Marseille full-backs, who both had good games. Even Gabriel Heinze’s relative lack of pace wasn’t a particular problem against McGeady – in fact, it was only when Makeev got forward to provide an overlap that Spartak really produced a clear cut chance.

Marseille fluidity

Marseille were fluid upfront, which caused Spartak’s static defence problems. Brandao pulled out to the left hand side and combined with Andre Ayew, whilst on the right Loic Remy made direct runs towards goal and sometimes formed what looked like a forward two with Brandao.

That was probably the main difference between the two sides – the interplay of the front four. Marseille’s attacking players showed teamwork and cohesion in manufacturing chances, with the wide players linking up with Valbuena and Brandao. In contrast, Spartak’s players all kept to their own areas of the pitch – with two very wide wingers, they seemed a little too predictable and were easy to Marseille to deal with.

A fortunate Remy goal and a great finish from Brandao – combined with a red card for Welliton – settled the game with twenty minutes to go.


Marseille are deservedly into the knockout phase. Didier Deschamps got his tactics spot on here – he saw Ibson as the main threat and therefore tried to nullify his ability to shape the game. Valbuena was the key in this – and he also turned in an excellent attacking display, as Spartak struggled to cope with the movement of Marseille’s front four.

Chalkboard courtesy of TotalFootball iPhone app

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