Andre Ayew strikes in stoppage time to giev French narrow league ahead of second leg
Paul will be here from 7.30pm.
In the meantime, read Gregg Roughley's preview …
Didier Deschamps, the Marseille manager, probably cursed his luck when the draw was made for the last 16 in December. Inter were fifth in Serie A and enjoying a run of three wins that would stretch to seven. Claudio Ranieri, who had struggled to find his feet in an up-and-down start since taking over as manager on 22 September, seemed to be finally getting his ideas across. Fiorentina, Genoa and Cesena had been efficiently swept aside without Inter conceding a goal. Some even whispered that Inter were finding the rhythm and consistency that was a mark of José Mourinho's treble-winning side.
Skip forward two and a half months and they still are consistent. Consistently bad. The 3-0 home defeat to 16th-placed Bologna at the weekend was preceded by a 1-0 home defeat to 19th-placed minnows Novara. And before that Roma handed them their backsides in a 4-0 thrashing at Stadio Olimpico. Their winless streak stretches back five matches. They are now seventh in Serie A, 14 points adrift of the leaders, Milan.
It is fair to say Deschamps is probably feeling a lot more optimistic about the tie now. The bookies have Marseille as favourites, but the Frenchman is having none of it. "We're not in the same category as them but we still have a chance to qualify," he said. "Inter are one of the seven or eight big European clubs whose objective is to be European champions. Our aim was to get to the last 16 in the winter, and then, if we got further, we'd have exceeded our ambitions." Deschamps's caution is understandable. Marseille had their own disastrous run of games at the start of the season. After six matches they were rock bottom. Since then they have steadily improved, climbing to fourth in Ligue 1 – their best position all season – yet they have drawn their past three matches. If they have an achilles heel it is their inability to see out games. In five of their nine draws they have thrown away the lead. And three were goalless.
Goals may be a problem again on Wednesday night after a thigh injury ruled out their much sought-after forward Loïc Rémy. The Brazilian striker Brandão, who has recently recovered from injury, is likely to start at the tip of a front three with André Ayew on the left and Morgan Amalfitano on the right. Mathieu Valbuena has been moved into a deeper creative role in recent weeks and it is his success in this position that may determine whether Marseille assume control. After disappointing in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United at this stage of the competition last season, Marseille have promised to play with much more energy against Inter. The home fans at a raucous Stade Vélodrome will expect nothing less.
If Inter are to have a hope of reversing their fortunes, Ranieri needs to find a way to get the best out of Wesley Sneijder. Since the Holland international's return from injury he has been used as a winger and a striker but not in his preferred position – as a lone trequartista behind two strikers, where he has thrived in the past. But Ranieri believes this is not an option. "With Sneijder playing behind two strikers, we lose a man in midfield," he said. "Losing the battle in midfield often means losing a match." With Marseille playing only three in midfield Ranieri could afford to let Sneijder pull the strings and get their toothless attack firing again. In a pre-match training session Ranieri paired Diego Forlán and Giampaolo Pazzini in attack. This would be an odd choice. Forlán has not scored since September, while Pazzini is without a goal in over a month. The only Inter player to score in recent weeks is Diego Milito. With his job perhaps riding on success in Europe, the Tinkerman needs to live up to his name and find the right formula fast.
OM: Mandanda; Azpilicueta, Diawara, N'Koulou, Morel; Diarra, Cheyrou; Amalfitano, Valbuena, Ayew; Brandao
Subs: Bracigliano, Gignac, Kaboré, Traoré, J Ayew, Fanni, Sabo
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu; Zarate, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Zanetti; Sneijder; Forlan.
Subs: Castellazzi, Pazzini, Poli, Obi, Milito, Ranocchia, Nagatomo.
Ref: C Cakir (Turkey)
7:40pm: Only three sides of the Vélodrome are open tonight due to revamping work but the local berserkers have still managed to create an atmosphere that makes it one of the most intimidaing places to play in Europe (I'd say. I haven't actually played there myself, you understand. Never got beyond Tolka Park really.).
1 min: Marseille produced a dismal damp squib at in the home leg against Manchester United in this stage last year but have started this match as if determined to atone for that. They've launched straight into the attack, though Andre Ayew was was a bit too eager and ultimately fouled Maicon in the Inter box.
3 min: Inter are struggling to contain Marseille's attacking vim at the moment, though Lucio did stretch just enough a moment ago to deflect a Cheyrou shot out for a corner. But from that corner Zarate brings down Azpilicueta to concede a freekick five yards outside the area.
4 min: Cheyrou produces a pathetic freekick, dabbing it pointlessly into the wall.
6 min: OM are looking good, fizzing the ball around nicely. Inter's only venture forward came a moment ago when Zarate embarked on a speedy run ... straight into Diawara, who dispossessed him easily.
8 min: Inter striker Forlan has had two touches of the ball so far, both deep in his own half. Meanwhile, do you know Michael Angus? Me neither, but he is determined to tell you how to spend your money. Here's his reasoning: "I'd be putting the old house on Marseille tonight. I've based that on what has to be considered a seriously bad Inter side; the front two have scored one goal between them all season, the highest scoring Inter player on the pitch is Cambiasso with a mighty four goals all season, and nine of the starting eleven are over thirty."
11 min: Forlan's third touch is almost a goal! Inter moved well down the left before Cambiasso delivered a devislishly inviting cross. Forlan took it first time but failed to direct his shot away from Mandanda, who should not have been given the chance to tip the ball over the bar.
14 min: OM are flitting purposefully around the field but they peter out too often when they get near the box.
16 min: Zarate, who still looks like a member of Spandau Ballet, hurtles down the right to retrieve his own pass, taking Morel by surprise. OM have to scramble to clear the ensuing cross.
18 min: Lucio errs. Brandao attempts to profit but errs too. And Inter are able to clear. But OM eventually regain it and Azpilicueta decides to have a pop from distance, his effort droping just over the bar.
22 min: Inter, playing on the break, look menacing. And they'd look even ore menacing if Forlan could find a finish to match his shrewd runs. He has just faffed wide from t he edge of the area after being put through by Sneijder.
24 min: They may have declared their determination to perform better than in the United game this time last year but OM are currently not looking good enough to fulfill their ambitions. Inter are keeping them at bay without much ado and, as I just said, looking dangerous(ish) on the counter. But it's not much of a spectacle, in truth. Which makes the following email all the more annoying: "In case anyone is wondering, Basel have already been denied by both post and bar," toots Alex Bennett in reference to the other game in this competition tonight (Basel v Bayern). "They look amazing, wide open game."
26 min: Diawara clomps down Zarate to concede a freekick some six yards outside the OM area, a little to the left. Sneijder waste it, blasting straight into the wall.
29 min: Valbuena curls in a freekick from the right, the officials ignore the fact that about four OM players are offside and Brandao and Diawara conspire to bundle it wide from five yards.
32 min: Valbeuna attempts an overhead cross from the by-line, possibly just to bring some levity to a humdrum game. "I see we're on a youth kick today< warbles Paul taylor. "'Nine of the starting eleven are over thirty'. 'He looks like your weird uncle'. I hope you know your demographic and that it doesn't include anyone old enough to actually BE that weird uncle. Anyhow, aren't all uncles weird, at least in the eyes of their young observers? Mine sure were, we still gripe about the one who … well, I can't really say that online. Plus, the word 'uncle' itself is weird, isn't it? I think it's a type of 'carbuncle', which is gross and to be avoided at all costs." I didn't write either of those things, but you're right about 'uncle' being an odd word. It sounds like something you might suffer if you fell into a dark pit.
37 min: Sneijder threads a dainty ball through to CAmbiasso, who pulls it back from the by-line to Zarate, who attempts to place his shot from 12 yards past the keeper but lacks accuracy, allowing Mandanda to save.
40 min: Inter are defending well and in numbers and Marseille lack the invention to prise them open. Valbuena looks their most likely source of inspiration but the players in front of him are not giving him many options.
41 min: That was less assured by Inter: Sneijder's pass was intercepted in midfield and Valbuena played the ball through to Brandao, who was taken down by Samuel on the edge of the area, giving OM a threatening freekick.
42 min: Cheyrou produces his second absymal freekick of the night, again prodding it meekly into the wall. Zut alors!
44 min: Inter break. Forlan again peels off the centrebacks and then controls the ball superbly before nipping it out to the overlapping Cambiasso, whose shot is deflected into the arms of Mandanda.
Half-time: Inter will be plenty satisfied so far. They've mainly kept OM at arm's length while occassionally threatening on the counter-attack, with Forlan and Cambiasso looking especially threatening.
46 min: We have resumption. Nothing else to report so far, sadly. And no good emails either. The glory, glory nights are truly here.
46 min: Something to report! Inter have made a substitution. The injured Maicon has been replaced by Nagatomo.
49 min: Inter, hitherto solid, fail to cope with a OM corner. And Diawara fails to take advantage, slicing badly wide from 18 yards. "We have a nice expression in Scotland for someone who is particularily tight fisted; 'he could peel a tangerine in his pocket' is that what DD is doing?" wonders Neil Munro. That is indeed a nice expression. Thanks.
52 min: If Loic Rémy is not back for Marseille in the second leg it is difficult to see Marseille scoring in this tie. Mind you, given that he might be back, Inter should consider doing more to nab an away goal tonight. "As a PSG supporter, it is my duty to hate Marseille," foghorns Mister Justin. "But, as I like unfavoured teams by default, I have a moral dilemma. Have you any advice?" In what sense are Marseille unfavoured? They have some of the most passioante fans in the world. Or do you mean that they no longer benefit from the favours that Bernard Tapie used to arrange for them?
55 min: Stankovic gets a booking for bowling over Valbuena. In fairness to him, at least he gave me an incident to report. "I have just checked into a crappy hotel in Leeds," announces Karl Gibbons, in case any of you were wondering where he is. Or, indeed, who he is. "I'm catching up on the game and glad I haven't missed much. I was interested to see Deschamps this evening as I have not seen him in a couple of years - my, he has piled on the pounds! He is like a modern day Gerard Depardieu (sans peeing on a plane I hope). I can concur that the velodrome is an intimidating place to play. I say this from only being a supporter in the away stand when bolton were in Europe (halcyon days, and I am not even a bolton supporter!)."
59 min: Feint signs that Inter are starting to strain to contain Marseille, as Zarate gets a yellow for knocking over A Ayew.
62 min: Ferocious snapshot from the edge of the area by Morel. Ferocious, but nowhere near the target.
Inter change: Zarate off, Obi on.
66 min: Another Inter booking. They're commiting lots and lots of little fouls, designed, as ever, to abort any momentum that Marseille might generate. This time it's Chivu for a late barge on Amalifitano.
70 min: In case you're wondering whether I am making this game sound unnecessarily dull, let me tell you that none other than Gary Lineker has just tweeted that this is "quite possibly the most boring game I've ever covered." And this from a man who regularly covers England.
73 min: Nice dinked pass by Cambiasso to Obi, but Azpilicueta gets back well to prevent the young Nigerian from getting off a shot.
Overdue Marseille substitution: Brandao, having had no impact against Inter defenders who were too fast and savvy for him, is replaced by Jordan Ayew.
74 min: Diawara is booked for a clumsy foul. Sneijder delivers the freekick from the left and it falls nicely for Stankovic, who can't arrange his feet quickly enough to get off anything more dangerous than a soft shot straight at Mandanda from five yards. That was Inter's best chance of the game.
77 min: Cambiasso penalised for a fair challenge. He reacts by attempting to eat the ball. That sets an interesting precedent: might the next poor refreeing decision to lead to a player trying to tie himself up with his jersey or insert a corner flag into his nostril?
79 min: A chance! An actual chance for Marseille! It came from a fine cross from the right from Amalfitano but Andre Ayew couldn't steer his header on target from eight yards.
Marseille change: Kaboré on, Cheyrou off.
85 min: So Marseille appear to be settling for a draw here, having realised that they are not good enough to infiltrate this defence, at least not until Rémy comes back.
89 min: Amalifitano, who has been one of the better players on the pitch tonight, curls in another decent cross. Andre Ayew does well to meet it but his header is too soft to trouble Julio Cesar.
GOAL! Marseille 1-0 Inter (Andre Ayew 90+3) Andre Ayew steals between Chivu and Lucio to meet a corner (that he had won with a fine shot that forced a save from Julio Cesar) and head into the net from close range! Inter had defended well all night but fall to a simple set-piece at the last!
Full-time: Inter only have themselves to blame for that defeat, having missed a great chance in either half and then conceded an elementary goal in stoppage time. Marseille now had something to defned in the second leg and, with Rémy likely to return, will carry more threat on the counter than they for most of tonight.