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.


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”