RB Salzburg vs Olympique Marseille: Austrian powerhouse aiming for second straight comeback
Red Bull Salzburg and Olympique Marseille play the second leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final tonight. The French team have a 2-0 aggregate lead, but the Austrian side have already proven they can turn ties around at the Red Bull Arena. With a place in the final on offer, the stakes couldn't be higher.
Marseille took control, securing a comfortable 2-0 win over Salzburg at the Stade Velodrome. A header from Florian Thauvin followed by Clinton N’Jie's composed finish ensured the home fans went home happy last Thursday night. Carried by Dimitri Payet's spectacular performance - assisting both goals - the Ligue 1 giants have one foot in the final heading into the tie's final 90 minutes.
Both Salzburg and Marseille enter the game in good spirits.
Les Olympiens sit fourth in Ligue 1 with 70 points from 35 games. As things stand, they will qualify for the Europa League group stage next season. Yet, they trail second-placed Lyon by only two points. With three matches remaining, Marseille are intent on securing a Champions League berth. Having played out a stalemate against Angers on Sunday, they carry three wins and two draws from the last five league contests.
With four games left in the Austrian Bundesliga, Salzburg hold an 11-point advantage over second-placed Sturm Graz. Things are simple: a win over Graz this Sunday would secure the Red Bull side their fifth straight league title.
Players to watch
Thauvin might be regarded as Marseille's best player, yet Payet has no doubt been the most decisive in this Europa League campaign. As well as producing two assists in the first leg, the former West Ham United attacker scored and assisted during the comeback victory over RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals.
With three goals and six assists in this season's Europa League, Payet is among the competition's most effective players.
For Salzburg, Dabour is definitely one to watch closely. The Israel international can operate all over the attacking third. He is the Austrian side's biggest threat. The 25-year-old has 19 goals in 28 league appearances this season. He's made a real impact during the Europa League run too, contributing with seven goals in 15 games.
Salzburg need Dabour at his very best to stand any chance of mounting a comeback and making the final in Lyon.
To the dismay of many Newcastle United supporters, Thauvin is thriving at Marseille. After costing the Magpies £15 million in August 2015, he made only 13 Premier League appearances and also failed to find the net. Since returning to his homeland three seasons ago, though, the 25-year-old has scored 37 times in 84 Ligue 1 games.
During that time, Thauvin has earned call-ups to France's national team. Now recognised as an elite French winger, Salzburg can't afford to let him roam freely.
RB Salzburg enter the second leg at full strength.
Marseille will be without two regular starters. Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda (thigh) and defender Hiroki Sakai (knee) are both ruled out.
Kick-off is scheduled for 20:05 BST.