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Olympique Marseille vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Spurs need a point to enter the knockout phase

A frustrating VAR decision makes Tuesday’s match utterly important.

Tottenham Hotspur v Olympique Marseille: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

A win over Sporting last Wednesday would have not only locked up a spot in the Champions League Round of 16 for Tottenham Hotspur, but clinched first place in Group D. Instead, a slow start and an infuriating VAR decision puts everything on the line in Tuesday’s trip to Olympique Marseille.

Spurs will again win the group with three points, and at worst will clinch a place in the knockout phase with a draw. However, a loss ends their Champions League campaign right here, and that is a very real — and terrifying — possibility given how the squad has looked as of late.

Furthermore, Antonio Conte will be unavailable thanks to the fallout from the VAR incident last week. Tottenham is favorited given the first meeting and Marseille’s recent form, but the Velodrome is never an easy place to play. Thankfully Spurs only need a point, but leaving things up to matchday six always feels dicey.

Olympique Marseille (4th, 6pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (1st, 8pts)

Date: Tuesday, November 1
Time: 4:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France
TV: Paramount+ (USA), BT Sport 2

Way back in September, Tottenham opened up its Champions League journey with a 2-0 win over Marseille. It was not the most dominating match and required a couple Richarlison goals in the last 20 minutes to secure the win, as the visitors’ press caused some challenges for Spurs getting forward.

Marseille has gone 2-0-2 in the competition since then, losing twice to Eintracht while taking six points from Sporting, though both wins were substantially aided by first-half red cards. Domestically, the French side has lost three of its last four and have just one win since early September, a victory over last place Angers.

Recent results:

  • Sep 2022: 2-0 win, home

Despite this match being on the road and the current style of play, Spurs need to be the aggressor on Tuesday. Slow and sloppy starts caused frustration against Newcastle and Sporting and nearly brought an embarrassing outcome against Bournemouth on Saturday. There is enough firepower to make some comebacks, but this is a dangerous way to live.

While Tottenham supporters have been less than happy with how the squad has looked this season, turmoil is even stronger in Marseille given the recent results. While the ever-pessimistic Spurs fanbase will see this as the perfect setup for a collapse, realistically this is a reasonable final fixture in a situation like this with everything to play for.

In terms of the lineup, the fifth non-defender spot remains up for grabs. Lucas Moura is not the answer, and if it is too premature to start Bryan Gil then the 3-4-3 should be out. Since Yves Bissouma has been shaky, so maybe the answer is a 3-5-2 with Oliver Skipp. Either way, Spurs need the regular four of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Rodrigo Bentancur, Harry Kane, and Heung-Min Son to wrap this up and move forward into the next round.