Coupe de France Quarter-Final : AS Monaco v Lille OSC
So after Saturday night’s limp Coupe de la Ligue final display, questions have finally been raised against high-flying Monaco. Leonardo Jardim takes his side into an immediate test on Tuesday night as they play host to a, whisper it, slowly improving Lille.
It came as something of a surprise to see Monaco so comprehensively outplayed as PSG romped to league cup glory once again on Saturday in Lyon, winning 4-1. Whilst they were missing the direct running of Radamel Falcao and the midfield excellence of Fabinho, they were the only key personnel out for Jardim. Their absences, however, seemed to resonate throughout the team as the lack of cohesion between defence and midfield, and midfield and attack, a key component to their success this season, was startling. They only really put together one attacking move of quality, which incidentally resulted in their solitary goal, a super effort from Thomas Lemar.
Both Falcao and Fabinho will be welcomed back into the squad however whilst Fabinho will almost certainly start (Falcao may be used off the bench). Lemar misses out on a place in the squad as he recovers from a stomach bug picked up at the weekend, whilst centre back Kamil Glik is rested. In previous rounds, Jardim has fielded a weakened side and with the coach announcing that the “league is the priority” it looks like this will continue. He would do wisely though to ensure no negativity lingers in the squad after that cup final loss. Speaking to the press, midfield powerhouse Tiemoue Bakayoko confirmed that whilst the players were disappointed, they were all eager to “move on and focus on something else”.
That “something else” comes immediately in the form of Lille who in recent weeks have found some steady, if not mind-blowing form. After a February which saw four losses and only one win from their five Ligue 1 games, Franck Passi has taken his side on a run of five games without defeat, which included a resolute goalless draw against Marseille and vital wins away at Nancy and most recently Bastia. Key to that run has been the rediscovery of their organised, miserly defence with only three goals conceded in those five games, compared to eight in the five games prior to that.
With maintaining Ligue 1 status Passi’s main aim in the next couple of months, it is expected the Lille coach will continue with his previous tactic of selecting a weakened side. If that is the case, it will be a team littered with youngsters and it will be a team that needed a last gasp 95th minute goal to see off 4th tier Bergerac Perigaud in the previous round.
With Monaco looking for an instant positive response, Lille could become lambs to the slaughter. Midfielder Rio Mavuba has warned his side that “big teams do not lose two in a row and Monaco will be looking to react straight away”. Passi went further, saying “Monaco on Saturday was not the real Monaco. A wounded animal is always more dangerous”. However, Mavuba went on to state that they want to prey on any ounce of worry Monaco may have: “Monaco will want to banish any doubt. However if we can give them further reason to doubt from kick off, then…..”.
Both coaches will field vastly different sides from their weekend games and with important matches for both coming up in the league this weekend, neither will particularly see this as their main priority. With players coming into the starting line-ups who get few opportunities, the hope is that both Jardim and Passi will let them play without pressure and without fear, resulting in a decent spectacle for the fans.
Monaco : Subasic, De Sanctis – Diallo, Jemerson, Jorge, Mendy, Raggi, Sidibe, Touré, Nguinda – Fabinho, Moutinho, Bakayoko, Dirar, Silva – Falcao, Germain, Mbappé, Cardona
Lille : tbc