Marseille spurred on by memories of European glory

by Andy SCOTT
Dimitri Payet celebrating after Marseille beat Salzburg in the semi-finals

Marseille star Dimitri Payet is determined to go down in history by beating Atletico Madrid in Wednesday's Europa League final as the club celebrates a quarter of a century since their greatest moment.

They became the first, and to date only, French club to win the Champions League by beating AC Milan in the 1993 final, and now they are hoping to become the first team from the country to lift the Europa League trophy.

"We are lucky to have the chance to continue the love affair that this club has with European competitions," Payet told reporters in Lyon, where Wednesday's final will be played.

Marseille are hoping the fact the game is being played on French soil will work in their favour, even if Diego Simeone's Atletico are formidable opponents.

"We can go down in history and leave an even bigger mark on this club," Payet added, as excitement builds around France.

Marseille's glory days may be in the past, while their great rivals Paris Saint-Germain have become the country's dominant force. But OM remain France's best supported side.

"I think the expectation in Marseille and across the country is quite extraordinary and our motivation comes from that," said Payet, who is set to play as he recovers from a minor muscle injury that kept him out of his team's 3-3 Ligue 1 draw at Guingamp last Friday.

Coach Rudi Garcia surpassed expectations just by leading Marseille into European competition this season, yet now they have reached the final after a run that started in the third qualifying round last July.

Garcia said: "This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the only time a French team has won the Champions League. So we have a great example to go on and become the first ones to win the Europa League."

It is Marseille's fifth European final overall -- they lost the 1991 European Cup final on penalties to Red Star Belgrade, before disappointing defeats in the UEFA Cup final to Parma in 1999 and Rafael Benitez's Valencia in 2004.

The only other European trophy won by a French club remains PSG's victory in the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup in 1996.

"We are lucky to be at Marseille, a club with a love affair with European competitions that goes back to the 1990s, and we are all eager to follow in the footsteps of our illustrious predecessors," Garcia said.

"We know that Atletico stand in our way and that it will be a very difficult mission, but that would make it an even greater achievement if we managed to win the trophy."

Dimitri Payet celebrating after Marseille beat Salzburg in the semi-finals