22.02.2023Europa League

Our next opponents: AS Monaco keep run going

A week after the first leg in Leverkusen, AS Monaco entertain the Werkself in the play-off decider in the Europa League on Thursday 23 February (kick-off: 18.45 CET). The team under coach Philippe Clement won 3-2 at the BayArena. Monaco were also winners in Ligue 1 at the weekend.

The Black and Red fans experienced a roller-coaster of emotions in the game in Leverkusen. The visitors took an early lead through a Lukas Hradecky own goal. The second half proved to be hectic. The Werkself applied more pressure and levelled with a goal from Moussa Diaby (48’) and went on to take the lead with a great move and brilliant goal scored by Florian Wirtz (59’). But Monaco hit back. Krépin Diatta netted the equaliser with a curler (74’) and a hectic finish followed. Hradecky made a great save to deny Ben Yedder and Adam Hlozek hit the inside of the post at the other end. Axel Disasi made it 3-2 for the visitors with a lone-range effort in the third minute of added time. “My team showed great mental and physical strength,” said coach Philippe Clement. “We had the upper hand in the final fifteen minutes and the game was like a Champions League match.”

Clement rotates in five positions

AS Monaco continued their run in Ligue 1 at the weekend. The 2-1 win at Stade Brest was the ninth league game unbeaten on the bounce (7 wins, 2 draws). Clement made five changes to the team that played in Leverkusen. Ruben Aguilar and Guillermo Maripan made way for Malang Sarr and Chrislain Matsima in the back four. Eliot Matazo was preferred to Mohamed Camara in midfield. And Wissam Ben Yedder and Eliesse Ben Seghir were replaced by Takumi Minamino and Breel Embolo up front. The 1-0 lead for Monaco was the joint work of Ben Yedder and the goalscorer Aleksandr Golovin (39’).

The Red and Whites were on top in the second 45 minutes without dominating. Substitute Myron Boadu made it 2-0 for the visitors (73’) – it was the tenth goal from the bench for AS Monaco this term and that is the best return in the French top-flight as well as proof how strong the squad is in attack. Brest netted a consolation minutes from the end of the game.

The victory kept Monaco, without the former Leverkusen player Kevin Volland in the squad, in third place in Ligue 1 behind Olympique Marseille and Paris St. Germain. They remain two points behind Marseille in second spot. “We’re on a good run but now we have to carry on and, above all, recover,” said Krépin Diatta after the game. “It’s a very important game on Thursday and the target for the club is obviously to go through to the next round.”

"our great strength is the collective"

Philippe Clement will probably rotate his team again on Thursday. The coach is happy he can rely on players who do not normally play: “I trust all my players. The big strength of our team is the collective and we showed that in Leverkusen on Thursday. You could see the mood on the bench when we scored the goals.”

AS Monaco scored two goals at the BayArena from long-range. That does not surprise Clement. It was practised in training. Shots from distance are “an important weapon” where you need more technical ability rather than strength .

The Werkself can expect a tough task at the Stade Louis II on Thursday. Monaco are full of confidence. But they are not invincible in the principality. They have already lost three times in Ligue 1. They also lost 1-0 at home to Ferencvaros in the Europa League. And in the Coupe de France, the French domestic cup competition, they were knocked out by second division Rodez Aveyron Football 5-4 on penalties in January. “We’re in with a good chance,” said Simon Rolfes ahead of the second leg. “It was an attacking game last Thursday. It will be a close run thing against a good team but we can win,” said the sporting managing director.

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