Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 19/20
The 29th round of the 2021-22 season in Ligue 1 was opened on Friday, when St-Etienne shared the spoils with Troyes in a 1-1 draw, but arguably the most interesting duel of the weekend in the French top flight is set to take place on Sunday, when AS Monaco welcome Paris Saint-Germain to the Stade Louis II.
Having won the title in 2016-17, when their team boasted players like Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Thomas Lemar and Radamel Falcao, Monaco have struggled to reach anywhere near those heights since. At the moment, they’re in eight place in the table with 41 points, six points behind Strasbourg in fifth – the last to lead into a European competition, two points behind LOSC Lillie in sixth, one point behind Nantes in seventh, while Lens in ninth and Olympique Lyon in 10th also stand on 41.
On top of that, Monaco have been eliminated from two competitions this month, losing to Nantes in the semifinals of the French Cup and getting knocked out of the Europa League at hands of Braga in the round of 16.
In all competitions, their last-six run consists of a 1-2 defeat at home to Reims, the loss to Nantes on penalties in the cup after a 2-2 draw, an encouraging 0-1 win away to Olympique Marseille, a 2-0 loss away to Braga in the first leg, a 1-0 defeat away to Strasbourg, and a 1-1 draw in the second leg at home against Braga.
Interestingly enough, Monaco parted ways with Niko Kovac and appointed Philippe Clement as head coach following a 2-1 win over Rennes in December, and given the recent struggles that the team have endured, the sudden move now doesn’t seem to have been a wise one.
Clement might consider some changes to the lineup after the disappointing Europa League exit. Aleksandr Golovin, who provided the assist for Axel Disasi’s late consolation equalizer against Braga, might be named to start ahead of Sofiane Diop this time. Guillermo Maripan could replace Benoit Badiashile in the heard of defence.
Vetaran midfielder Cesc Fabregas in injured, as is winger Krepin Diatta.
If Monaco suffered a disappointing European exit, it’s arguably nothing compared to how PSG will be feeling at the moment. It’ll take a long while for anyone at the club or their supporters to feel anything but disbelief and anger at what happened in the Champions League round of 16. They outplayed Real Madrid for a large part of the two-legged contest, but still managed to succumb to a Karim Benzema hat-trick and make an unceremonious exit from the competition they’ve been most desperate to win.
Needless to say, the development prompted various speculations about the future of Mauricio Pochettino, and Mbappe is widely believed to be set to make the Real switch at the end of the season. There have been rumours (quickly dismissed, though) about a rift between Neymar and Gianluigi Donnarumma, while Neymar and Lionel Messi both suffered boos from the stands of the Parc des Princes during the subsequent win over Bordeaux.
Be that as it may, PSG are on a good path to recover the Ligue 1 crown, currently owned by LOSC Lille. They top the table with 65 points, five more than Marseille in second and OGC Nice in third, and six more than Rennes in fourth. The job is obviously not done yet, but it’s going in the right direction.
The last six matches PSG have played include the 1-0 win in the first leg over Real, a 3-1 loss away to Nantes, a 3-1 home win over St-Etienne, a 1-0 defeat away to Nice, the 3-1 loss in Madrid, and the 3-0 home win over Bordeaux. Three home wins and three defeats away from home, and they will obviously be keen to buck the trend on Sunday in Monaco.
The central midfield positions will be strengthened by Marco Veratti, who missed the Bordeaux clash through suspension, and Ander Herrera, who is said to have recovered from an eye infection. Veteran defender Sergio Ramos should finally be in contention as well, though it remains to be seen if he starts ahead of either Marquinhos or Presnel Kimpembe.
Winger Angel Di Maria is out with a hamstring problem, while the absence of Juan Bernat (calf) and Laywin Kurzawa (back) means Nuno Mendes will be on the left defensive flank.
Whatever may be happening in the dressing room, it’s pretty clear that there’s something wrong at PSG. They have a reputation of being no more than a collection of stars who can’t be managed properly together, but whatever the issue may be, their supporters will be hoping to see it sorted out as soon as possible.
As for this game, it may be time for the table toppers to start winning away from home again, and if they play like they surely can, Monaco won’t stand much chance.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 19/20
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