Tottenham Hotspur’s return to the promised land of the Champions League commences with Wednesday’s Group D fixture against Ligue 1 giants Marseille.
Eintracht Frankfurt and Sporting Lisbon are also lying in wait for Antonio Conte’s side, who can take nothing for granted in such a challenging European group.
The jubilation of pipping Arsenal to the fourth and final Champions League spot will count for nought if Tottenham are unable to make waves in Europe, but their early Premier League form suggests that the Lilywhites can do just that.
Picking up where they left off at the end of the 2021-22 season, Tottenham remain unbeaten in the Premier League after six matches and claimed their fourth win of the season 2-1 against Fulham on Saturday, where the record-equalling Harry Kane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg struck before Aleksandar Mitrovic’s stunning consolation to see Tottenham cement their third-placed standing in the table.
As well as equalling Thierry Henry’s record of 43 Premier League London derby goals, Kane’s finish saw him become the outright third top-scorer in the history of the competition, and the 29-year-old will aim to spearhead another memorable European campaign for the Lilywhites.
Runners-up to Liverpool in 2019, Tottenham experienced life in the doldrums of the Europa Conference League last year before their COVID-19 cluster led to their withdrawal from the tournament, which may now have been a blessing in disguise given their league achievements.
Furthermore, victory over Fulham represented Tottenham’s sixth competitive home win on the bounce, and they have progressed from each of their last three group-stage appearances in the Champions League, most recently being eliminated by RB Leipzig in the 2019-20 last-16.
Nuno Tavares, Matteo Guendouzi and Alexis Sanchez never played alongside each other at Arsenal, but the trio’s Gunners’ links should act as all the motivation a free-scoring Marseille need to upset the apple cart, and the latter two warmed up for this game in perfect fashion.
Travelling to a newly-promoted Auxerre side in Ligue 1 at the weekend, Les Olympiens went ahead thanks to Gerson’s fine finish before Guendouzi set up Sanchez for the Chilean attacker to tap home his third French top-flight goal of the season.
Igor Tudor’s side made it four Ligue 1 wins on the bounce at Auxerre and are currently keeping pace with perennial champions Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the standings, although Les Parisiens’ mammoth +20 goal difference is forcing Marseille to settle for second at present.
The visitors have recent when it comes to a continental run, as they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League last year after finishing third in their Europa League group, but their hopes of glory were dashed by eventual runners-up Feyenoord.
Most recently occupying a spot in the Champions League two seasons ago, Marseille have failed to make it out of the group in their last two appearances in the premier competition, and the visitors have also suffered 12 defeats in the tournament versus English opposition before they meet Tottenham competitively for the very first time.
Tottenham vs Marseille: Team News
Tottenham were boosted by the returns of Rodrigo Bentancur and Cristian Romero to the first XI for the win over Fulham, which leaves Bryan Gil and Lucas Moura as Conte’s only two injury concerns for Wednesday’s game.
Neither man would be likely to force their way into the first XI anyway, but Conte has a big call to make over Richarlison, who demoted Dejan Kulusevski to the bench and provided the assist for Hojbjerg’s opener before seeing a late strike ruled out.
Richarlison does not deserve to be dropped for this game – where Son Heung-min may feel that his place is at risk after a slow start to the new season – while Barcelona loanee Clement Lenglet was praised for his performance at the weekend and could keep his place in the first XI given his Champions League experience.
Meanwhile, Marseille attacking duo Cedric Bakambu and Bamba Dieng have been left out of their club’s Champions League squad following collapsed deadline day transfers, while Dimitri Payet is expected to miss out with a calf issue.
The former West Ham United attacker has struggled to force his way into Tudor’s plans when fit either way, and the visitors are also set to be without Samuel Gigot, which could therefore see another former Gunners in Sead Kolasinac start in defence.
Sanchez’s impact since arriving and goal off the bench against Auxerre could tempt Tudor into dropping Cengiz Under from the starting lineup in North London, while Tavares and Guendouzi will expect to come back into the first XI after being spared from the off at the weekend.