Marseille, who currently sit third in the French Ligue 1, host Sporting Braga this Thursday, as the Round of 32 in the Europa League kicks off the start of the knockout rounds.
Braga, who sit in fourth in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, finished top of Group C in the group stages of the tournament, winning three, drawing one and losing two. Marseille were runners-up in Group I behind Red Bull Salzburg with a record of two wins, two draws and two losses.
Marseille start off as clear favourites at 8/15 and have had one of their more successful domestic seasons to date. They sit in third, four points off Lyon in fourth and look to be in a good position to make the Champions League for the first time since the 2013/14 season. They have lost just three times in the league and have just one defeat in their last 24 matches across all competitions. Only once have they been beaten at home in the league and they went through their group stage in the Europa League without being beaten at home.
Sporting Braga start as outsiders for this game at 13/2 and are also underdogs to qualify past this round. At 11/5 to qualify from this stage, they will need to take something from this away tie; whether that be a goal or a draw, in order to progress to the round of 16. Their form in Group C was good to start with, three wins from their opening three games but tailed off towards the end, losing two of their last four. They won the group however, but were slightly unfortunate in drawing one of the better runners-up in the tournament in Marseille.
Losing just one match at home all season, it is hard to see Braga winning this game. Braga have lost six games so far in the Portuguese league, four of those coming on the road and have drawn just four games across all competitions this season. Marseille’s home form should be enough here to see them pick up a win.
Marseille have scored 21 goals in their last five competitive matches, including a 9-0 win in the French Cup. They have scored 14 in their last five at home and are at 11/20 to score 2+ goals on Thursday night. As for Braga, they have also been involved in high goal scoring games of late. BTTS – Yes has resulted in 4 of their last 5, whilst over 2.5 goals has also occurred in 4 of their last five also. BTTS at 9/10 looks good value, whilst over 2.5 goals at 39/50 also represents the way the bookies think this game will go.
The first leg of knockout games can often be tight affairs but given the impressive form of Marseille of late, the French side to win by a 1 goal margin at 5/2 could be a good way to go.
Predicted Score: Olympique de Marseille 2 - 1 Braga
Look out for:
Over 2.5 goals and Marseille to win at 6/5 looks like a good bet given that both sides have been involved in high scoring games and how well Marseille are at home
Marseille to score 2+ goals at 11/20. They are scoring goals for fun at the moment and have lost just once at home. Their experience in Europe should be enough to see them to a win here.
It’s a long shot, but:
Marseille 2-1 correct score at 7/1. It’s the first game in this stage of the tournament and is likely to be close. Marseille have scored plenty of goals at home recently but Braga are also a good attacking team so could get a crucial away goal.
Written by Marcello Cossali-Francis
Marcello Cossali-Francis considers sport, particularly football and rugby, to be an essential part of life. A half-Italian half-Welsh Liverpool and Juventus fan, Marcello enjoys every high and every low that sport brings.