Marseille selection woes as Bayern loom
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps today confirmed that third-choice goalkeeper Elinton Andrade will deputise for Steve Mandanda in tomorrow's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg against Bayern Munich.
Captain Mandanda misses out due to the red card he received in the dying stages of Marseille's 2-1 loss at Inter Milan in the second leg of their last-16 tie and second-choice goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano was expected to replace him.
However, Bracigliano produced an uncertain performance in Marseille's shock 3-2 loss to Quevilly in the French Cup last week, notably spilling a high ball to allow the winning goal for the third-tier side in extra time.
It prompted Deschamps to turn to Andrade, despite the fact the 32-year-old Brazilian has not made a first-team appearance since January 2011. "It's actually Andrade who will play tomorrow," Deschamps announced. "I had to make a difficult choice, on a sporting and personal level. I've made it and I stand by it. This isn't the place to explain the reasons.
"I spoke to them both. One is very happy and the other is very disappointed. It's my job to choose and I stand by it."
Mandanda will be able to play in the return leg in Munich next week. Centre-back Souleymane Diawara, meanwhile, is also suspended for the first leg, but he will not be making the trip to Germany after sustaining a season-ending knee ligament injury in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Nice.
Deschamps also has doubts over top scorer Loic Remy, who is suffering from a thigh problem, while winger Andre Ayew picked up a knock against Nice and continues to be dogged by a shoulder injury. "Ayew locked his neck in a collision and it was still painful yesterday," said Deschamps. "He's in the hands of the medical staff so that the pain disappears.
"For Remy, we'll have to see today (Tuesday) or tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. I'd prefer to tell you: 'He can play.' I didn't take him to Nice because he wasn't able to play, but today I can't be sure."
Marseille have not won for eight games in all competitions, having lost seven matches in succession prior to the draw at Nice, while Bayern have won their last five games, scoring 22 goals in the process. They also have recent experience of the Champions League's latter stages, having reached the final in 2010, whereas Marseille have not featured in the last eight since they won the tournament with Deschamps as captain in 1993.
Against the odds
Given the context, and Marseille's selection problems, Deschamps knows that his team will have to be at their very best to overcome Jupp Heynckes' side. "It won't take a miracle, but it's obvious that Bayern are the favourites," he said. "They're possible candidates to become champions of Europe. We're facing a team that's been on a very good run. Qualifying will require two big performances in the first leg and the second leg.
"Even if we'd been on a good run, the mission would be the same because there is a gap between them and us. They start the competition with the objective of winning it; our objective was to get past the last 16. Tomorrow, the aim will also be to cause them problems. Will we be able to carry out our game plan? I hope so.
"If we have a chance to get in front in the first leg, we won't avoid it, but we're up against a team from a very high level."