Ranieri awaits new signings as Nantes face OM
By A. Scott
Claudio Ranieri is desperate to see some new faces arrive to strengthen his FC Nantes squad as Les Canaris prepare to host Olympique de Marseille at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Saturday afternoon.
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The Italian's appointment at Nantes in the summer was seen as a sign of the club's ambition to build on last season's impressive seventh-place finish under Sérgio Conceição, which was their best performance in 13 years.
But while former AS Monaco coach Ranieri, the architect of Leicester City's stunning English Premier League title triumph in 2016, is one of the biggest names in the business, he currently lacks the kind of names on the field that would help Nantes to kick on.
The 29-year-old centre-back Nicolas Pallois, signed from Girondins de Bordeaux for a fee believed to be around €2 million, was the only debutant as Nantes were well beaten on the opening weekend, losing 3-0 away to Marcelo Bielsa's LOSC. The Romania goalkeeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu has arrived from Fiorentina and could make his bow against OM, but Ranieri is getting impatient especially after seeing skipper Guillaume Gillet leave for Olympiacos this week.
"As soon as I arrived, he told me he wanted to leave and have a new experience. I told him he could stay but that if he was not happy here it was better that he left. In the end he chose to leave," Ranieri, 65, said of Gillet before sending a message to president Waldemar Kita. "I hope the president will do something for us before the transfer window closes. Since my arrival I have been waiting for players. But I know the market is very difficult so I leave the president to do his job."
Watch: Nantes are outclassed by Lille in opener
The club have also seen talented young midfielder Amine Harit move to Schalke 04 and the coach added: "It is not easy. I am giving myself the first four matches in August to have a look, and then the four matches after that to integrate new players."
Nantes have a trip to promoted ESTAC Troyes and a home meeting with Olympique Lyonnais to come before the end of the month but first they entertain OM looking for a repeat of their thrilling 3-2 win in last season's corresponding fixture. They lost just one of their last seven home matches last season.
"This is our first match at home. Motivation is high. It can happen that we play badly. We are not machines but the motivation always needs to be there," insisted the coach. "We need to play better in attack. At Lille we spent too much time waiting. I hope we will play our game. Marseille are a good side who attack well so this should be a very open game and it should allow us to see what we can do this year."
Payet out as Amavi signs for OM
The mood in the Marseille camp is rather different as they travel to the banks of the Loire fresh from a 3-0 victory at home to Dijon FCO in Week 1, when Clinton Njie netted twice either side of a Florian Thauvin strike. OM have also progressed to the Europa League play-offs - they visit Domžale of Slovenia on Thursday - and optimism abounds as they look to build on last season's run to fifth.
Garcia, like Ranieri a former AS Roma coach, did try to temper expectations this week in an interview with sports daily L'Equipe, though. He said: "Finishing fifth was a real achievement given where we had been. But fifth is not OM's place. I didn't come here to finish fifth. I came to take the club into the Champions League. I don't know if we'll do that this year, it is not the objective we have set. But that is the ambition. I want to get OM into the Champions League and win titles. The last time OM won titles (the 2012 Coupe de la Ligue) it was with Didier Deschamps, no? We want to do as well as possible, but step by step."
Watch: Marseille come good against Dijon
Skipper Dimitri Payet will miss the meeting with his former side after having to come off with a hamstring injury last weekend, so Njie could start in his place after impressing from the bench against Dijon. Meanwhile, Jordan Amavi is the latest new arrival at the Vélodrome, the former OGC Nice left-back joining on an initial loan deal from Aston Villa to provide competition to Patrice Evra in that position.
"I play in the same position as him, and I am going to learn a lot from him. He has had a great career and it can only be beneficial for me. He is not just any old player, he is a great left-back and a great man," Amavi, 23, said of the 81-times capped Evra. His arrival follows the signings of Steve Mandanda, Adil Rami, Luiz Gustavo and Valère Germain, all of whom started against Dijon.
Nantes: (To follow)
Marseille: (To follow)