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Odds stacked against Marseille for Bayern match

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MARSEILLE, France — Out of form and missing key players, Marseille is in the worst possible shape for the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

Marseille recently set a dismal club record with seven straight defeats and has scored a meager five goals in eight games. It faces Bayern without its best goalkeeper and first-choice center half, and desperately needs top scorer Loic Remy to shake off a thigh injury.

In sharp contrast to Marseille's slump, Bayern has been tearing opponents apart lately, scoring 22 goals in five games thanks to its mesmerizing three-pronged attack of Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez and Franck Ribery.

"I wouldn't say it would be a miracle (to beat Bayern), but they are a candidate to win the Champions League," Marseille coach Didier Deschamps said on Tuesday. They're in great form, which wasn't really the case with Inter Milan (in the previous round). Bayern always enter a competition with the intention of winning it, which isn't really the case for us."

Deschamps will wait until Wednesday morning to decide whether Remy can play.

"I hope so but I can't be sure," Deschamps said.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said Marseille, despite its troubles in the league, has proven its pedigree in Europe this season.

"We've seen what Marseille can do, they've had some good results," Heynckes said. "They finished first in their group ahead of (Bundesliga leader Borussia) Dortmund and they beat Inter Milan. We can't take them lightly."

Marseille ended its losing streak with a 1-1 draw at Nice on Saturday, but lost defender Souleymane Diawara for the rest of the season because of a knee injury. Although Diawara was suspended for Wednesday's match, his absence will also be a blow for the return leg in Munich.

Deschamps must also cope without suspended goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

His absence couldn't come at a worse time, given Marseille's situation and Mandanda's outstanding form.

In the previous round, the France No. 2's inspirational shot-stopping against Inter at the San Siro kept Marseille in the competition. But with quarterfinal qualification assured, he gave away a penalty in the final seconds and got sent off.

Deschamps said it was difficult choosing between Gennaro Bracigliano, who spilled an easy cross in last week's French Cup quarterfinal loss to semiprofessional Quevilly, and Elinton Andrade, who hasn't played since January 2011 and has played only eight games in three years.

"It will be Andrade tomorrow, but I won't say why," Deschamps said. "One of them is very happy and the other one's very upset. But I stand by my choice."

Andrade may have nightmares about Robben, Gomez and Ribery. With the kind of service Gomez has been getting from each flank, it is little wonder he's scored 10 goals in the competition — two behind Barcelona star Lionel Messi. Gomez scored four when Bayern destroyed FC Basel 7-0 in the previous round to record the biggest winning margin in the knockout rounds.

Deschamps has pondered over the best way to deal with Gomez.

"You either mark the man, or cut off the service to him. I think it's best if he has the least service possible," Deschamps said. "The least ammunition he gets, the less danger there will be."

Ribery enjoyed two excellent seasons with Marseille before joining Bayern in 2007.

"The coach journey to the hotel brought back a few memories. Marseille really loves football," Ribery said. "It will be a hard game. Marseille will be up for it and aggressive."

The volatile Stade Velodrome crowd has been getting on the players' backs recently, but Ribery knows that can change as quickly as the Mistral wind that blows through Marseille's port, and that they can be a potent force when backing their team.

"The people live football and 60,000 fans will be against us," Ribery said.

Heynckes is wary of Marseille's passionate supporters, and how they sometimes inspire the team's more skillful players.

"They're a physical team with players who are good on the ball, like Mathieu Valbuena, Andre Ayew," Heynckes said. "They play an emotional brand of football and their fans really get involved."

Marseille is ninth in the French league, meaning it will most likely need to win the Champions League to play in it next season.

Bayern's confidence is soaring as it dreams of a treble and playing in the Champions League final in its stadium on May 19. But doubts remain over midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger's troublesome right ankle.

"We'll test him today and see if he makes it into the squad," Heynckes said.