Having now reached the stage where they were knocked out last season, winning the playoff round of the Champions League this season would be a pivotal moment in Monaco’s campaign, both for the club and for French football’s coefficient rankings with UEFA.
Standing in their way is another Spanish club in Villarreal and while their summer has been turbulent to say the least, the Principality side still need to be at their very best to secure a place in the group stages of Europe’s premier competition.
Djibril Sidibe has not travelled with the squad after picking up an injury in the game against Guingamp at the weekend, so either Fabinho will return to his natural role at right back or Andrea Raggi will deputise in his stead, while Kylian Mbappe remains at home after also coming off injured in the 2-2 draw at the weekend.
Colombian forward Radamel Falcao will be on the sidelines for a month so he remains at home while Joao Moutinho finally joins the squad having missed their opening Champions League encounters as he still searches for a move away from the Stade Louis II.
A tricky summer has left Villarreal without several first-team players and they were hit with a double blow last week as Marcelino announced his departure the same day as it was confirmed striker Roberto Soldado will miss a large part of the season due to injury.
Cedric Bakambu, Jonathan Dos Santos, Jaume Costa, Daniele Bonera and Denis Cheryshev will all miss the game with various injuries while Victor Ruiz is suspended. There will also be a return for AS Monaco sporting director Antonio Cordon, who left the Yellow Submarine to join the Ligue 1 side this summer.
Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco) – The diminutive Portuguese international has struggled to find a starting spot this season but showed his class after coming on from Mbappe on Friday and somehow found a way for Monaco to earn a draw. Clever, creative and a real threat, manager Leonardo Jardim cannot afford to leave him out this time with his striking options so limited.
Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal) – The Yellow Submarine prided themselves on a stern defence last season, boasting the best defensive record outside of the top three in La Liga, and the Argentine was key to that success. Although he will be missing his usual partner in Victor Ruiz and with Eric Bailly moving to Manchester United, a solid performance from the stout Musacchio is essential for Villarreal with so many key attacking players missing.
With Villarreal on their knees, Monaco have to go for the jugular, especially in the away leg. Champions League football is everything to them and they will not have prayed for a better opportunity than the one that has been presented to them by the misfortune of their opponents.
Villarreal will do their very best but if Monaco can score early and utilise Bernando Silva much like they did at the weekend, they can cut through this side like butter and without too much of a threat coming the other way, they can take a real stranglehold of this tie.
Result: Villarreal 0-2 AS Monaco