On Thursday night, OM will be in Portugal to validate its entry into the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League. Even with a sizeable lead in the first leg, there are several reasons that OM must take the away leg seriously
By winning the first leg 3-0, the Olympians took a big step towards qualification to the round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League. However, despite an advantage of three goals come kick-off this Thursday at 9 pm at the Municipal Stadium in Braga, Rudi Garcia and his men will have to beware of the Portuguese side.
Relatively mute at the Orange Velodrome, they should display a totally different face in front of their home fans. Not only because they have a 3-goal deficit to make up inside 90 minutes, but it is in front of their home crowd that they have impressed this season. In all competitions, Abel Ferreira's players lost only three times in 2017-2018 at "The Quarry", the nickname of their stadium dug on the hillside. Those three defeats were against Porto and Benfica in the league and Ludogorets in Europa League.
OM should thus tread carefully in Portugal. Especially since we have already once conceded three goals in Braga, during the European campaign of 2015-16. A game lost 3-2 by the Olympians who were trailing 2-0 ten minutes from the end before returning to 2-2 in three minutes to finally concede a third and last goal in the final moments of the game.
Valère Germain was not yet at OM at that time but he was one of the first, just after the first leg, to speak cautiously: "In the history of the European cups, we saw that comebacks are possible, we will not go there in comfort." The Marseille striker obviously has in mind the incredible "remontada" achievement of FC Barcelona against PSG last season.
With the lead of the first leg, the two trips to Paris and the series of games to come until mid-March, Rudi Garcia could be tempted to rotate his squad to give playing time to members of his group who are on the sidelines. The Olympian coach can afford to do this in most areas of his squad as most changes made during the season have rarely reduced the overall level of the team.
And it will be necessary that OM is in its best form to continue the European adventure into the next month and beyond.