Coupe de France 32emes : AS Yzeure v AS Monaco
In one of the more obvious David vs Goliath clashes, the glitz, glamour and wealth of Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco side travel to central France to take on 4th tier AS Yzeure.
AS Yzeure, or to give them their “commercial” name, Moulins-Yzeure Foot, a name which came about when neighbouring side AS Moulins liquidated in 2016 and a subsequent deal was put in place that meant the town of Moulins provided financial support in exchange for a share in hosting games and the town’s logo being displayed on the shirts. The game against Monaco will actually be played at the Moulins ground due it having a slightly larger capacity with further big screens showing the game in the town centre.
Being drawn against the current French champions has understandably brought a great deal of excitement around the club with President Dominique Ray proclaiming “Monaco, it’s sublime! This is a beautiful advert which will bring joy to all lovers of football”. Yzeure coach Stephane Dief joined in the delight saying that the match will be “a great party where people who love football will be able to see some great players”. Dief went on to joke that he hoped Jardim would rotate his side a little bit.
The excitement surrounding the fixture has proved something of a welcome distraction for the club, however, as their league form has been poor. They have only won three games all season so far and whilst they have also only lost four, it has been a current league high of six draws which has seen them suffer and why they now find themselves in the relegation zone. Their defence has held up relatively strongly, but it is their lack of goals which is worrying, with only rock-bottom Raon L’Etape having scored fewer. It will be tough to imagine even the most organised of Yzeure defences from keeping this free-scoring Monaco side quiet, so the pressure will on the likes of Samy Alouache and Jordan Millot to push for a goal.
Despite their poor league form, Yzeure have progressed with relative simplicity, aside from a nervy penalty shoot out win over Volvic in round four. Their run has seen them despatch lower league sides and fellow National 2 sides with ease, culminating in a seventh round victory over Ligue 2’s Clermont. They are a side Monaco can’t afford to underestimate but even the most romantic of cup fans surely couldn’t see anything other than a routine Monaco win on Saturday evening.
Monaco may see the domestic cups as their only chance of silverware this season. With a disastrous Champions League campaign fresh in the memory and the defence of their Ligue 1 title looking fruitless in the face of an unstoppable PSG, Jardim may turn to the Coupe de France as a way to continue the trophy success. Jardim sacrificed the cup last season in favour of keeping his side fresh for their successful charge to the Ligue 1 crown as an almost unrecognisable Monaco side were put to the sword by PSG in the semi finals. With no such need to keep players as fresh, he may look to take the tournament with a higher degree of seriousness.
Jardim, even though squad rotation will be expected with a midweek Coupe de la Ligue quarter final trip to Nice to follow, will have to do without the suspended Kamil Glik and probably top scorer Radamel Falcao who looks set to miss out due to “fatigue”. That may be a blessing not only for Yzeure but for Falcao too; the last time he came up against 4th tier opponents in the Coupe de France, it was four years ago against Monts d’Or Azergues in the tie which saw the Colombian pick up that dreadful cruciate knee ligament injury which kept him out of the 2014 World Cup and stalled his career for a couple of years.
Unfortunately for Yzeure, even without the likes of Falcao, Glik and potentially a host of other first teamers, Jardim can still call up the likes of squad players such as Rachid Ghezzal, Youri Tielemans and Steven Jovetic. The Yzeure excitement could quite easily and quickly turn into a nightmare.