Whilst the previous round seemed a little like a formality, the Champions League Qualifying’s playoff stage will provide AS Monaco with a much sterner test. The principality club face a tough trip to the Mestalla to take on Valencia in Spain tonight and they will have to be at their best to come out on top.
Monaco will be missing both Joao Moutinho and Aymen Abdennour through injury, whilst Layvin Kurzawa is a doubt with an ankle problem. Bernardo Silva will be back under contention after missing both games in the previous round.
Nuno Espirito Santo will be unable to call on Argentine international Nicolas Ottamendi, who is close to joining Manchester City, whilst first choice stopper Diego Alves is sidelined with a thigh injury. Young Australian goalkeeper Matt Ryan is likely to deputise in Alves’ absence.
Bernardo Silva (Monaco) – The little Portuguese attacking midfielder is in some scintillating early form, scoring twice on opening weekend and looking impressive despite Monaco’s failure to win against Lille last Friday. Everything positive from Leonardo Jardim’s team usually has Silva involved at some point, he is a huge influence on the team and will be vital if they want to stand any chance of winning.
Shkordran Mustafi (Valencia) – Mustafi really showed why he was selected in Germany’s World Cup winning squad with his outstanding performances for Valencia last season. Strong in the air, good positioning and willing to get stuck in, he’ll be the key man in the Spanish side’s back-line in the absence of Ottamendi and is also a danger at set-pieces that Monaco will need to keep an eye on.
This one is a tough one to call. Both are good sides, well aware of the strengths of their oppenents and both will be desperate to reach the next round. That desperation tends to lead to cautiousness and with both sides well known for their defensive sensibilities, this one has a goalless draw written all over it. Even if that result suits neither side heading into next week’s deciding game.
Result: Valencia 0-0 Monaco