Having started these previews for Monaco’s Champions League adventure back in August, no one could have anticipated you would still be seeing them in May. An already terrific achievement for the Principality club has one more hurdle to jump before it can match the success of the 2004 campaign.
The one opponent that blocks their path to Cardiff are Italian giants Juventus. The Old Lady eliminated Barcelona in impressive fashion last week and have dominated Serie A over the past few seasons, providing the Ligue 1 leaders biggest challenge to date.
Can Les Rouges et Blanc upset the odds again? Or will Juventus be a bridge too far?
The positive news coming from the home side is that Djibril Sidibé is within the 20-man squad for tonight’s Champions League semi-final first leg at the Stade Louis II. The Frenchman has missed almost a month of action due to appendicitis but is not yet ready to jump in. His deputy Almamy Touré has suffered a psoas problem and conventional winger Nabil Dirar is due to start at right-back
Tiemoué Bakayoko also returns to the fold having missed the weekend’s win over Toulouse with a broken nose. The incident happened in a collision with Kamil Glik in training, so the midfielder will be wearing a protective mask for the foreseeable future.
Juventus have no new injury concerns heading into tonight’s game but will be without the suspended Sami Khedira. Claudio Marchisio is expected to deputise in his absence alongside former Lyon man Miralem Pjanic.
The Serie A leaders will lean on their stern defence, who have yet to concede in the knockout stages and have allowed only two strikes in the entire competition this season.
Kylian Mbappé (AS Monaco) – It’s difficult to look at anyone else when talking about Monaco at the moment but Juventus will know that the teenager is a threat they need to keep their eyes on. One of the most sought-after talents in Europe, Mbappé will want to continue his current record of five goals in four Champions League starts.
There’s been plenty written about the 18-year-old so it’s a little redundant to rattle off his well-rounded game again but just watch this boy play football. When he’s on the ball and running towards goal, the stadium rightfully stands up in anticipation that he could do something special, a quality we rarely see from anyone, which is why Juventus will be desperate to keep him quiet.
Paulo Dybala (Juventus) – One of the most dangerous strikers in Europe, Paolo Dybala has been a revelation since joining Juventus from Palermo a few years ago. His tight ball control, clever movement and pinpoint finishing have given Italian defences nightmares for a while and on the biggest stage, he showed how good he has been for a long time against Barcelona.
With Monaco’s leaky defence, the Argentine will be licking his lips at the opportunity to test them at every opportunity. If the principality’s back line fail to contain him, Dybala could get out of hand very quickly.
Two years ago, these two sides faced off in one of the most defensive Champions League ties in recent memory. One team has stuck by their defensive guns while adding more flair, the other has gained great attacking prowess at the expense of a steely demeanour.
There’s a popular saying in American Football that defence wins championships. Juventus are by far the most impressive unit on that front this season and even with all the firepower at Monaco’s disposal, it will take a bombardment to even put a dent in the Italian’s armour.
Leonardo Jardim’s men will fly out the box in an attempt to catch Juventus napping, which Massimo Allegri will simply not allow. After a fast 10 minutes, the Old Lady take the grip of the game and suffocate the Ligue 1 side into submission.
Another special moment from Dybala kicks Monaco into full-on attack mode, exposing them to take an extra hit late on. Unfortunately for Monaco, even with another leg ahead, this is where their Champions League dream will begin to fade into memory.
AS Monaco 0-2 Juventus