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.


Mohamed Salah viewing Champions League final against Real Madrid as ‘just another match’

Updated 38 min 40 sec ago
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Mohamed Salah viewing Champions League final against Real Madrid as ‘just another match’

  • The Egyptian ace has been the key man in Liverpool’s march to Saturday’s showdown in Kiev against Real Madrid
  • “Every match is different, this is my first Champions League final so I am very excited. It is of course a very important game”

He may be about to play in the biggest match of his life, but Mohamed Salah is going to approach the Champions League final as if it is just another game.
The Egyptian ace has been the key man in Liverpool’s march to Saturday’s showdown in Kiev against Real Madrid, scoring 11 goals and setting up a further four. Added to that has been his dynamic domestic form with the 25-year-old’s 32 LePremier ague strikes setting a new record and helping him land a host of awards, among them the coveted PFA Player of the Year gong.
All that has piled the pressure on Salah ahead of the final. But if you thought that would get to him then think again, with the Liverpool talisman claiming he is going into the clash as he would any other match.
“I cannot put more pressure on myself so I just play a normal game for me,” Salah said at a press conference announcing he is the new DHL brand ambassador for the MENA region.
“Of course, it is different, it’s the final of the Champions League, but you have to take it easy, relax and enjoy the game.
“Every match is different, this is my first Champions League final so I am very excited. It is of course a very important game.
“But I am trying not to take it too seriously and not put myself under too much pressure, both for me as an individual and the team as a whole.”
It should perhaps come as no surprise to hear the Liverpool and Egypt star talk about the biggest game in club football in such understated terms. Salah’s 44 goals have all come with the kind of smile on his face which suggests he is playing with a freedom normally associated with a kid having a kickabout with his mates in the park. Added to that, Liverpool’s progression to the final has come virtue of a devil-may-care attitude that hints that passion rather than pressure is what has been on their mind every time they walk onto the pitch.
That philosophy has been instilled to them by their coach Jurgen Klopp. The German is revered as much by the players as by Liverpool’s fans and Salah is in no doubt as to how important he has been to his form and the team’s remarkable Champions League run.
“From day one we are friends, he treats me like a friend,” Salah said of Klopp.
“We are very close to each other but still he’s the coach and I am a player. He is a great man and as a coach you can see everyone loves him.”
Standing in the way of Salah and Co. from lifting Liverpool’s sixth European Cup are Real Madrid. While the Spanish giants have not hit the heights of previous campaigns, they stand on the verge of a third Champions League crown in a row, and, with Cristiano Ronaldo in fine form, will provide the Reds’ toughest test yet.
Such has been the heights he has hit this season that Salah has often been compared to Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, and touted to become the first player since 2007 other than that duo to win the Ballon d’Or. It is a comparison he has sought to distance himself from and once again he downplayed any idea that the final was a case of him verses the Portuguese star.
“He is a top-level player, but as he said he plays with his right foot and I play with my left,” Salah said.
“We are both focused on playing well in the final and trying to win it for our teams. All I can do is try hard and focus on doing well for Liverpool.
“I want to get to a higher and higher level, I am hoping to do well in the final and we are going to go there to do well in the final and to try and claim the trophy.”