OM are counting on the Vélodrome crowd to overthrow Benfica Lisbon in the Europa League

The Marseillais will play to a sold-out crowd on Thursday evening, to try to qualify in the quarter-final second leg of the Europa League against Benfica (1-2 in the first leg).



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OM supporters in a corner of the Stade Vélodrome during the "classic" against PSG, in March 2024. (NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)

OM hopes to reverse the trend. The Phocaeans host Benfica Lisbon on Thursday evening in the quarter-final second leg of the Europa League, a week after a 2-1 first leg defeat. The Marseillais, in great difficulty in recent weeks, are counting on the support of their ardent supporters at the Vélodrome stadium to create the feat against the Portuguese, led among others by the former Parisian Angel Di Maria.

The evening promises to be very hot in any case, with a sold-out Marseille venue and nearly 2,500 Portuguese fans in the stands. Nearly 1,000 police officers will be mobilized for this highly anticipated meeting.

“Playing in Marseille is always very complicated”

Certainly, “a supporter has never scored a goal”. This formula, pronounced by the iconic Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, will still be valid Thursday evening at the Vélodrome. But for Alex, this OM fan met on the Canebière, the Marseille public can play a decisive role. “We see it in every match, the stadium is really a cauldron. Playing in Marseille is always very complicated, and even more so in European Cups. We have to push and set fire, show Benfica that we will not be defeated to walk on”he assures.

This season, the fervor is indeed impressive at the Vélodrome, with an average of 58,000 spectators in Ligue 1 according to the Transfermarkt website, and equally strong attendances in the Europa League. The players themselves admit to being transcended, like central defender Leonardo Balerdi. “It’s wonderful to see these people giving everything for this club. I give even more on the pitch”assures the Argentine player.

“Only Marseille can do that”

The supporters also assure that they will put on the pressure well before kick-off. “When you see the pre-matches, you have to live it to feel it”, swears Ouafi, another OM fan. A reference to the incessant chanting and numerous smoke bombs lit in the surroundings of the Vélodrome stadium in the hours preceding the high-stakes matches.

But conversely, can the pressure from supporters be too great for the Marseille players, who have just lost their last five matches in all competitions? Kevin, OM sweatshirt on his shoulders, is convinced of the opposite. “I think it can only be good to have an audience that gets fired up, only Marseille can do that. I would like the stadium to explode, for it to be a volcano”, he hopes. Despite the first leg defeat, the supporters believe in it more than ever.

source site-18