Nathan Staples previews AS Monaco’s opening Europa League trip to Anderlecht.
Having dropped out of Europe’s top competition, Monaco will now be looking to bleed in some of their exciting young talent in the Europa League. With Thursday night now the place to be, the principality could be one of the favourites for the title should they treat the competition seriously but first, they have to negotiate a sticky group that includes Belgian side Anderlecht.
Jeremy Toulalan faces a race to be fit after missing the weekend’s game against Gazalec Ajaccio with a thigh injury. Tiemoue Bakayoko, Helder Costa and Joao Moutinho are to miss out through knocks but Nabil Dirar is likely to return after sitting out on Sunday with a sore hip.
Despite losing Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic to Newcastle United in the summer, Anderlecht still boast some interesting talent including the highly rated Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Steven Defour and former Sampdoria hitman Stefano Okaka.
Fabinho (Monaco) – The versatile Brazilian has arguably been Monaco’s best player so far this season, whether it’s been at right-back or in midfield. With so many players injured in the middle of the park, he could debutise there again and could be vital in stopping what the Belgian side would consider their strength.
Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) – Having won Belgium’s Young Professional Footballer of the Year twice in a row, it’s no surprise that 18-year-old Tielemans has been tipped for big things in the future. A strong forward-thinking presence with the ability to pick a killer pass and possessing an eye for goal, he’s one to watch out for both in Thursday’s game and for the future.
Despite a slightly patchy start to the season themselves, Anderlecht will fancy their chances at home against a sluggish Monaco side still finding its feet after a summer of transition. With the talent they have, combined by the poor showings from the principality club last season, the Belgian side will be desperate to make this group as close as possible.
Result: Anderlecht 1-1 Monaco