Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 9/10
The start of 2020/21 season is approaching fast, particularly in the French top flight which kicks off on Sunday when AS Monaco welcome Stade de Reims to the Stade Louis II.
When last season was curtailed in France due to the Covid-19 pandemic (the only one of the top five European leagues to have been ended prematurely), Monaco were stuck in ninth place. They had accumulated 40 points from 28 games, nine less than Lille OSC in fourth, which is the last spot that leads to Europe. They will certainly be hoping for a better campaign this time around, under the command of the former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac.
Monaco played four pre-season friendlies this summer, with varying outcomes. They beat Cercle Brugge by 2-0, lost to Standard Liege by 2-1, drew 1-1 against Eintracht Frankfurt, before recording a 2-0 triumph over AZ Alkmaar.
This game will be a big one for 22-year-old defender Axel Disasi, given that he has just joined Monaco from Reims for a reported fee of €13 million. Apart from him, the club signed forward Anthony Musaba from NEC Nijmegen for around €2m. Meanwhile, defender Kamil Glik, midfielders Kevin N’Doram, Romain Faivre and Francesco Antonucci, as well as forwards Nabil Alioui and Lyle Foster, have all left the club this summer.
Disasi is expected to start in the heart of defence alongside Benoît Badiashile. Wissam Ben Yedder will likely lead the attacking line, flanked by Gelson Martins and Henry Onyekuru.
Stade de Reims
Reims did slightly better than Monaco last season, with the one point which stood between them at the early end of the campaign enough to lift them to sixth place. But interestingly enough, that single point more on their account was enough to land David Guion’s side a place in the second qualifying round for the 2020/21 Europa League, which is scheduled to take place on September the 17th. But with almost a month to go before the start of their European adventures, they will certainly look to get off to a good start domestically before their efforts a split on multiple fronts
Reims obviously took their pre-season preparations very seriously and played no less than nine matches between July 9th and August 15th, winning five, drawing one and losing three. The most notable of those was probably the 0-4 defeat at the hands of Bordeaux two weeks ago.
This summer, 27-year-old midfielder Valon Berisha arrived to Reims from Lazio, reportedly for €5m. They also signed defender Thibault de Smet (22) from Sint-Truiden, midfielder Fraser Hornby (20) from Everton’s U-23 side, and 23-year-old striker Anastasios Donis from Stuttgart for €4m. As has been said above, Axel Disasi left to join Monaco for €13m, while fellow defender Hassane Kamara made his move to OGC Nice for €4m.
Boulaye Dia will probably be start as the focal point of attack, with Mathieu Cafaro and Arber Zeneli on either side. Berisha is also likely to be in the line-up, in his usual place in central midfield.
Predicting an outcome of a first-round match is never a straightforward business. The teams are usually still in the different phases of testing in terms of formations and personnel, as well as the tactical ideas of the coach. Sometimes it’s a cautious affair, with both sides extremely keen to avoid kicking the campaign off with a defeat, and sometimes they go all out to start with a win.
As for this particular clash, Kovac will certainly be keen to prove his unsuccessful stint in Munich was a fluke and will likely opt for an attacking approach.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 9/10
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