Pressure on Ranieri as Inter visits Marseille

Published:

MARSEILLE, France (AP) -- Inter Milan has lost five of its past six games and pressure is mounting on coach Claudio Ranieri to get a win in Wednesday's Champions League match at Marseille.

After drifting out of contention in the Italian title race and out of the Italian Cup, Inter's thinning trophy hopes rest firmly with the Champions League. And only a positive result at Stade Velodrome will appease animosity toward Ranieri.

Inter fans protested during and after Friday's 3-0 loss to Bologna, chanting for 2010 treble-winning coach Jose Mourinho, and Marseille senses the Italian club is there for the taking.

"Inter is in trouble," Marseille assistant coach Guy Stephan said. "I get the impression there isn't too much unity in the team, that there isn't a great atmosphere. But you have to be wary, as there are some top-level players at Inter."

Inter's nosedive is in contrast to Marseille's impressive run of form. Although Marseille dropped points in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Valenciennes, its unbeaten run was extended to 15 games.

The only drawback for Marseille is that striker Loic Remy will miss the game because of a thigh injury.

Remy has been one of Marseille's best players this season, scoring 17 goals in all competitions and forming an impressive partnership with winger Mathieu Valbuena, who has set up several of his France teammate's goals.

Marseille was boosted with the news that midfielder Alou Diarra was set to resume training on Tuesday after picking up a toe injury on Saturday.

"It doesn't look too serious," Stephan said. "Hopefully he will be able to play."

Striker Diego Milito and midfielder Dejan Stankovic are back for Inter after missing the Bologna game with the flu. Meanwhile, Uruguay striker Diego Forlan is set to make his European debut for Inter after he was ineligible for the group stage.

Inter clearly needs Forlan, having struggled for goals recently.

Milito is the only Inter player to have scored in the last six games, and all those came in one match: a 4-4 draw at home to Palermo earlier this month which exposed Inter's frailty at the back.

Inter has conceded 15 goals in the last six games, a glaring weakness that gives Marseille hope of getting a couple of goals to take to the San Siro for the return leg in three weeks' time.

But Marseille coach Didier Deschamps is not falling into the trap of writing off Inter, and expects the Italian side to raise its game.

"I'm convinced that the real strength of this team and its players hasn't been shown over the last four or five league games," Deschamps said Tuesday. "Given how important the match is, Inter will have a different attitude."

Brazilian defender Maicon, who played under Deschamps when he led Monaco to the Champions League final in 2004, vows that Inter is ready to snap out of its slump.

"We are a great team," Maicon said. "It will be a hard match for them because we are ready to play a great game."

Thiago Motta, a tough-tackling midfielder who recently left Inter to join big-spending Paris Saint-Germain, says Inter's lean spell is nothing to be alarmed about and predicts his former teammates will bounce back.

"These are the kind of things that happen sometimes at Inter, they came up against teams that weren't suited to their way of playing," Motta told Marseille's website. "Nevertheless, I still hope my old team qualifies."