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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 06:46 GMT
Marseille tipped to sink Liverpool
By John Sinnott

Boudewijn Zenden (L) and Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez
Zenden played for Liverpool for two seasons between 2005 and 2007
Champions League, Group A
Date: Tuesday, 11 December
Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Venue: Stade Velodrome
Listen: BBC Radio 5 Live
Updates: BBC Sport website and mobile

Boudewijn Zenden believes Marseille are favourites to reach the last 16 of the Champions League at the expense of Tuesday's opponents Liverpool.

Zenden, 31, who played for Liverpool in last season's Champions League final defeat by AC Milan, moved to Marseille in July after two years at Anfield.

"In a way we're favourites as we're at home and we have our fans behind us," the midfielder told BBC Sport.

"We'll approach this game as one we must win. A draw might not be enough."

Depending on the result of the other Group A game between Besiktas and Porto, a draw could send either Liverpool or Marseille through, although whoever wins at the Stade Velodrome will be guaranteed a place in the knockout stages.

While Liverpool stumbled to their first Premier League defeat of the season at Reading on Saturday, Marseille recorded a morale boosting 2-0 win over local rivals Monaco.

"We approached the game against Monaco as our priority rather than the Liverpool match because we need our points in the league as we've had a terrible start to the season," said Zenden.

"The win against Monaco should also improve our confidence and get our fans behind us."

Benitez knows how to deal with opponents' strengths and weaknesses, especially eliminating the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses

Boudewijn Zenden
Marseille's poor start to the season has already led to the French club switching coaches, with Eric Gerets replacing Albert Emon.

Gerets had a memorable start as Marseille coach as his side beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield in his first game in charge back in October, a match Zenden played in.

"We played too individually at the start of the season," added Zenden. "We didn't play as a group, as a solid unit, and that cost us a lot of points.

"Eric Gerets is very much about organisation and discipline and slowly we've started to get the results we wanted.

"That's the biggest thing he has done since arriving - get us playing as a team.

"If you go out and do your own thing you'll end up in trouble, so Gerets has been focusing on team performance and collective play to make it more difficult for the opposition to score."

Zenden was signed by Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez on a free transfer from Middlesbrough in 2005 and the former Dutch international was impressed by the Spaniard during his two years at Anfield.

Boudewijn Zenden
Zenden played for Liverpool for two seasons between 2005 and 2007

Like all Liverpool players, Zenden had to get used to Benitez's rotation system, in which the manager bases his selection policy on computer analysis of players' fitness.

"I always enjoyed working with him. The rotation system was something I hadn't experienced before and it was a new thing for me," revealed Zenden.

"As a player you want to play week in, week out but Benitez has his views, he has his way of working and every player has to deal with it.

"He has four or five players that play 90% of the games but the other six players change round. That's hard for those six players.

"But he has got results. Two Champions League finals, including one win, an FA Cup as well as a European Super Cup victory."

Not long after Zenden left Liverpool in the summer he was followed out of Anfield by Benitez's long-time assistant Pako Ayesteran.


A relationship that had begun at Tenerife and blossomed at Valencia and Liverpool is alleged to have ended bitterly when the two men reportedly fell out earlier this season.

"Pako had all the physical details of every single player," said Zenden. "He's the one who had all the answers and it showed when players were fatigued or at peak level.

"It's something completely new the way we worked at Liverpool, although obviously you can't measure the state of mind of a player with a computer.

"I always enjoyed working with Paco. He was someone who really knew his territory.

"Paco was one of the main figures behind Rafa and probably a big part of the success Benitez has had.

"I didn't expect him to leave and I didn't see it coming. He had a big influence and was very important to us and they had worked together for such a long time.

"Paco was the one who did all the physical work, the one who measured all the strength work, all the stamina work, had all the computer details, and he was on the pitch every day.

"I valued him a lot. I worked with him for two years and I worked with him likely nobody else on that level."

Boudewijn Zenden
Zenden was part of the Marseille team that won at Anfield

Zenden might be confident Marseille can progress to the last 16 of the Champions League but he is well aware of Benitez's tactical ability in winning one-off games.

"Benitez is very strong tactically," he said. "He knows how to deal with opponents' strengths and weaknesses, especially eliminating the strengths and exploiting the weaknesses.

"The great example of that was Daniel Agger's goal in the Champions League semi-final last season.

"That was the detail that gave us the opportunity to win the tie on penalites and reach the final. We had worked on that free-kick extensively in training."

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