A match to try to keep the flame alive. The day after the arrival of the Olympic torch in the Marseille city, Olympique de Marseille (OM) travels to Bergamo, Thursday May 9, for the semi-final return of the Europa League. Ninety minutes – at least – to save a failed 2023-2024 season in the league – currently ninth in Ligue 1 (with one game less), a non-European position for next season – and marked by months of struggle : the club was coached by four different coaches (Marcelino, Jacques Abardonado, Gennaro Gattuso and Jean-Louis Gasset) and had one series of disappointments.

Facing Atalanta, fifth in Serie A, the Marseillais are not favorites. But their hopes remain intact. Despite a parity score at the final whistle (1-1), on May 2, they dominated their rivals in the first leg in a red-hot Stade-Vélodrome. OM have experience on their side: they are playing their third European semi-final in six years, the tenth in their history.

Freshness too? Unlike the Italians, on deck in the league last weekend (2-1 victory against Salernitana), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his teammates were exempt from Ligue 1 before the trip to the other side of the Alps. Better still, their coach, Jean-Louis Gasset, can count on an almost complete squad for this trip – a first since his arrival in February.

Its captain, Samuel Gigot, suspended for the first act of the duel against Atalanta, will be present. Quentin Merlin – announced injured at the Vélodrome and who finally came on for half an hour – should also start in Bergamo. We will still have to deal with the absences of Valentin Rongier and Bilal Nadir, still in the infirmary, while Jean Onana, Pape Gueye and Ulisses Garcia, not registered by OM on the list of the European Union of associations of football (UEFA), are not authorized to play this match.

Some 750 supporters in Bergamo

Olympique de Marseille will also have the support, on site, of a small contingent of supporters, which was not guaranteed. Under construction, Atleti Azzurri d’Italia has seen its capacity reduced to 14,000 seats. And, with UEFA requiring that the opponent’s parking space represents at least 5% of the number of places available, the number of Marseille fans was limited to some 750. Conditions denounced by supporters’ associations; as a reminder, there were nearly 2,800 “Dea” supporters at the Vélodrome.

The South Winners and the others will finally be there, properly warmed up the day after the arrival of the Olympic flame in Marseille, which they welcomed with a tifo of their own. While the club’s current or past glories, such as Valentin Rongier, Jean-Pierre Papin, Basile Boli and Didier Drogba took part in the relay this Thursday.

In the event of a final victory in the Europa League, the Marseillais would miraculously qualify for the next edition of the Champions League. The other half, also scheduled for this Thursday at 9 p.m., pits Bayer Leverkusen against AS Roma. In the first leg, the German champions, the only European team undefeated in all competitions this season, won 2-0 in Italy.