14th of March 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
Athletic Bilbao need to pull off a great fightback if they want to reach the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals as they host French side Marseille at San Mames Stadium on Thursday in the second leg of their last-sixteen tie. Marseille won the first leg 3-1 last week, Lucas Ocampos scored twice for the French side and former West Ham star Dimitri Payet also found the back of the net, while Aritz Aduriz reduced the arrears for Bilbao. The two teams have met in the Europa League first knockoud round in 2016 and back then Bilbao prevailed with a 1-0 victory in Marseille followed by a 1-1 draw at home.
Athletic Bilbao recovered from the first-leg defeat with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Leganes in LaLiga last weekend, but they are in 12th place in the league table and can't have any hopes of finishing in the top six. The best that Bilbao can do in LaLiga now is finish inside the top half, but that's not something the fans would remember. Raul Garcia and Mikel San Jose are suspended for Thursday's match after having picked up yellow cards in the first leg, while Iker Muniain is expected to miss out due to an injury.
The first-leg victory ended a four-game winless streak for Marseille and now they seem to have regained their enthusiasm as last weekend they secured a 2-1 Ligue 1 victory at Toulouse. That result keeps them in third place in the league table, five points clear of fourth-placed Lyon, so they have a good chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League. Kostas Mitroglou and Gregory Sertic are the only injury concerns for the away side, head coach Rudi Garcia is expected to field the same eleven that defeated Bilbao last week.
Bilbao: Herrerin - Marcos, Alvarez, Etxeita, Balenziaga - Iturraspe, Etxebarria - Williams, Vesga, Susaeta - Aduriz
Marseille: Mandanda - Sakai, Rami, Rolando, Amavi - Lopez, Gustavo - Thauvin, Payet, Ocampos - Germain
My prediction: Athletic Bilbao to win 2-1.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Bilbao win - 2.29
Draw - 3.60
Marseille win - 3.20
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I think over the course of both stages Marseille left no doubts who's the better side between those two.
The French team should be considered as a very dangerous and despite Atletico Madrid and Arsenal are the clear favourites I guess no one would want to face them before the final.I think the are a team who's capable to defeat any team in this tournament in their day.
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