Tables turned on Monaco as it lags behind title rival PSG

Celtic’s Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton (C/#6) reacts with teammates after a Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Glasgow Celtic at Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on Nov. 22, 2017. (AFP/Franck Fife)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Tables turned on Monaco as it lags behind title rival PSG

Paris Saint-Germain chased Monaco all last season before losing the French league title by eight points.
The tables have been turned this season, though, and Monaco is now lagging behind.
While PSG is very much in the ascendancy, Monaco’s season threatens to unravel after early elimination from the Champions League and a tough start to its title defense.
A win at Monaco’s Stade Louis II stadium on Sunday night will move league leader PSG nine points clear of second-place Monaco. And that would put PSG in prime position to reclaim the title it won four seasons in a row before Monaco ended that run.
Given the erratic nature of Monaco’s rebuilt lineup, and the power of PSG’s attack, a PSG win is hard to tip against. PSG crushed Celtic 7-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday night to take its goal tally for the season to 67 in 18 games.
Monaco is a vastly inferior team to the one which reached the semifinals of the Champions League last season.
Tuesday’s 4-1 home loss to Leipzig sent Monaco tumbling out of Europe at the group stage, and prompted a stern rebuke from club vice president Vadim Vasilyev.
“We failed in our European campaign. There are difficult moments in football and this really is one of them,” Vasilyev said. “I didn’t like the fact the players’ heads dropped so quickly.”
But he should look a lot closer to home before pointing the finger. For it would have doubtless been a far better campaign had the club not sold so many of its best players from last season. Monaco’s ability to spot talented young players and turn them into potential stars is a great money-making scheme, but it seems to have come at the price of genuine sporting ambition.
Initially, during a television interview with soccer show Telefoot late last season, Vasilyev had assured Monaco fans the club would not sell more than two of its highly sought-after players.
Monaco ended up selling five players.
Worse still, one of those players further strengthened PSG’s mighty attack when 18-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe joined PSG in a deal worth 180 million euros ($216 million).
Wide midfielder Bernardo Silva and left back Benjamin Mendy went to Manchester City and defensive midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko joined Premier League champion Chelsea.
Monaco stripped the spine of a successful team.
The other significant departure was forward Valere Germain to Marseille. While he is not in the same category as the other four in terms of market worth and talent, Germain came through the ranks at Monaco to become a versatile and influential team member.
“Monaco wasn’t at the right level this season in the Champions League,” coach Leonardo Jardim said after the loss to Leipzig. “We need to build a stronger team for next season.”
Jardim pledged that Monaco will “arrive in this competition better prepared next season.”
That might prove to be wishful thinking, because qualifying outright in second place remains complicated.
Both Marseille and Lyon have improved considerably and could maintain a sustained push for second spot.
Heading into this weekend’s matches, Lyon was three points behind Monaco in third place and Marseille four points back in fourth.
PSG, meanwhile, is doing what Monaco did last season: tearing teams apart and scoring almost at will.
In the league, PSG has netted 43 goals in 13 games and at this rate is on course for 126— which would crush Monaco’s formidable tally of 107 from last season.
Edinson Cavani is now arguably the most lethal striker in Europe and took his tally to 21 in 18 games after netting twice against Celtic.
Neymar also scored twice against Celtic, but has not hit top form yet. If he does, PSG’s attack could become even more dangerous over the coming months.
Monaco, which is far too dependent on top scorer Radamel Falcao, must find answers fast before it drifts out of contention in Ligue 1.


Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

Updated 15 November 2018
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Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

  • 2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari
  • If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events

LONDON: Francesco Molinari is looking to end a fairytale season by becoming the European No. 1 at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which starts today, and the first Italian to achieve the feat.
2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari, with a maiden Major victory in the Open Championship in July, which followed a first Rolex event victory at the BMW PGA Championship in May. He has also not missed a single cut this season, a run that extends over four years in regular European Tour events.
And in a glorious Ryder Cup for the Europeans, he became the first player from the continent to win five points out of five, while securing the winning point in his singles match against USA’s Phil Mickelson.
Speaking to journalists ahead of today’s tee-off, the Italian said: “It feels incredible, a new position for me, I’ve never been here in the past.
“I think it’s just a consequence and a sign of an incredible season. I would have never guessed that I would be here in this position if you told me in April or May this year but it’s been an incredible summer, topped by an unbelievable Ryder Cup.
“Really, it’s a dream season for me and it’s nice to be here in this position. Hopefully I’ll be able to close it out. I know it’s not going to be easy and I’m not making any assumptions but I’ll do my best on the course to do the job.
And when asked about his prospects of winning the Harry Vardon trophy this weekend, he said: “You can have the best week of your life and win one tournament but to win a competition that lasts throughout the season, with the amount of talent there is right now on the European Tour, is something really hard to do but it’s also still hard to figure out for me how I’m here in this position.”
Molinari needs to finish tied-fifth or better at the Jumeirah Golf Estates to seal the Race to Dubai crown, but Ryder Cup partner Tommy Fleetwood — the man he formed such a strong bond with in Paris — is the only man who can prevent him the perfect ending.
Victory for the Englishman on the Earth Course is the only way he can deny Molinari the title, but the Italian was full of praise for his “best friend” and would not begrudge Fleetwood if he successfully defended his Race to Dubai crown.
“I know we said this and we’re going to sound really cheesy but if I don’t win, I’d rather see him win than anyone else,” he said.
“We really are good friends and he’s had an amazing season. To think that he won last year and to come here, still with a chance to win two in a row, it’s incredible, really.
“So fair play to him. What I can say for me is that it’s been a great season and however it goes this week, I’m still going to have lots of great memories from all of what I’ve done this year, and probably the best memory is what we’ve done together with him in France.
“I can’t really be mad at him, even if he wins.”
If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events and he praised the introduction of the European Tour’s prestige level of tournaments.
“There’s a few events that we target every year,” he said. “It’s great for us to have the opportunity to play in such special tournaments.
“Especially for guys like me, playing a home event in Italy that is part of the Rolex Series, just gives a completely new meaning to the Italian Open.”