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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Olympique Marseille Preview: Spurs are back in the Champions League with a clear opportunity

After a two-season absence, Tottenham returns to the biggest stage.

Tottenham Hotspur v Olympiacos FC: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

After being spoiled with four straight seasons of Champions League play between 2016 and 2020 — including some absolutely historic moments — Tottenham Hotspur has been impatiently awaiting a return to the incomparable competition. That moment is finally here, with the 20222/23 Group Stage beginning for the club on Wednesday at the stadium built with it in mind.

Spurs came out of last month’s draw feeling pretty optimistic. FiveThirtyEight gave them the sixth-highest odds to place first in their group, and their competitors are all decent but manageable; Sporting CP (22nd) ranks the highest in the site’s global rankings, with Olympique Marseille at 35th and Eintracht Frankfurt at 45th. Manchester United (25th), Newcastle (32nd), and Crystal Palace (44th) are familiar reference points, though the system is obviously imperfect.

What this means is that Tottenham is the favorite to win the group outright and should at the very least be expected to advance to the knockout rounds. The Champions League is never easy, nor should it be, but this draw has set the club up nicely to move on and create more memories. It all starts on Wednesday, as Marseille makes the trip to London in great form to begin its season.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Olympique Marseille

Date: Wednesday, September 7
Time: 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur, London, England
TV: Paramount Plus (USA), BT Sport 3

Marseille finished second in Ligue 1 last season and have started strong again, owning a 5-1-0 record that puts it level with PSG at the top. This is a good side with plenty of talent, much of which is all too familiar. Names like Alexis Sanchez (thankfully suspended this week), Matteo Guendouzi, Sead Kolasinac, Nuno Tavares, Dimitri Payet, and Eric Bailly are not remembered fondly around Tottenham, but they also demonstrate that this squad knows how to match up against English foes.

Like Spurs, the visitors have moved to a back three, but they are typically more aggressive searching for possession, willing to press more to earn the ball and quickly get up the pitch. With the match in London, though, the onus is likely on Tottenham to figure out how to break through the opposing defense without leaving itself too exposed on the counter. Perhaps this is a great opportunity for Conte to claim a win from the midfield two after some early frustrations with the system.

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These will be the first competitive meetings between Marseille and Spurs, though the latter does have plenty of experience against French opposition. Recent history has not been kind, however, with the Covid debacle against Rennes in the last season’s Conference League and the infamous Group Stage failure of 2016/17 that featured a pair of losses to top-finisher Monaco.

Tottenham heads into the competition in good form having not lost yet this season and equipped with the depth to focus both on this match and Saturday’s clash with Manchester City. There is no intimidation here and instead plenty of expectations, and with Cristian Romero and Rodrigo Bentancur healthy, Conte should be able to throw out the strongest lineup he wants to secure an important three points to open up the Group Stage.

A win is definitely the ask on Wednesday. Every result matters in the Champions League, but with no clear singular foe to fight off in this group, Spurs would do well to jump to the top of the pack and let the other three cannibalize themselves. Two tough road contests come up next in the competition, so this is setting up for an important opening win at home.