Andre Villas-Boas insists Manchester City are still favourites against Marseille

By Andy Hampson, PA
·3-min read

Marseille manager Andre Villas-Boas has dismissed suggestions his side should be favourites for this week’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.

City, who face the French side in their second outing of this season’s competition at the Stade Velodrome on Tuesday, have endured a frustrating start to their Premier League campaign.

Pep Guardiola’s side dropped points for a third time in five league games as they were held to a 1-1 draw at West Ham on Saturday and remain in the bottom half of the table.

City’s problems have been exacerbated by a lengthy injury list which currently includes main strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

City had to settle for a 1-1 draw at West Ham on Saturday
City had to settle for a 1-1 draw at West Ham on Saturday (Paul Childs/PA)

Yet Villas-Boas, the former Chelsea and Tottenham boss, still regards City as a powerful force.

The Portuguese said: “It will still be difficult because they have had a lot of investment over the years to reach the squad depth they have.

“Aguero, Jesus and (Benjamin) Mendy are on the sidelines but they still have (Phil) Foden, who came on the game against West Ham, they have Ferran Torres.

“They are a powerhouse made to win the Champions League and have a depth of options. It’s not for me to say what level they are at, I still see City as favourites (on Tuesday).”

Villas-Boas hopes, however, that his side can take advantage of City’s recent issues.

He said: “Obviously they are a fantastic team with not many flaws to exploit but, as their coach said, they have had a streak of games that is quite intense and that is maybe wearing them out now, so we hope the physical aspect can (come into) play.

“We are going to set up a strategy and maybe it will work, maybe not, but we are focused.”

Marseille, who are fourth in Ligue 1 after a 1-0 win at Lorient on Saturday, were beaten in their Group C opener at Olympiacos last week.

The club won the Champions League in 1993 but this is their first appearance in the competition since the 2013-14 season.

Villas-Boas was asked in his pre-match press conference if he could take encouragement from the performance of Lyon in beating City in last season’s quarter-finals.

Marseille lost away to Olympiacos in their Champions League opener
Marseille lost away to Olympiacos in their Champions League opener (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

He said: “You can’t really get inspiration from Lyon when you are Marseille – that is quite clear – but we have prepared, obviously, and watched a lot of Manchester City games, including the Lyon game in the final eight.”

On a personal level, Villas-Boas is relishing the chance to pit his wits against Guardiola.

He said: “There is pressure but it is also an opportunity for me to come up against one of the best coaches in the world, who coaches one of the best sides in the world. I had the opportunity to meet him at Barcelona and Bayern (Munich) where I observed training.

“Sadly the Velodrome will be empty, we were relying on the supporters to encourage us, but it will be the same conditions for everyone.”