Monaco vs. Ajaccio Preview | Ligue 1 Match of the Week
Sunday 8th December 20:00
AS Monaco FC will look to keep the pressure on Paris Saint-Germain and LOSC Lille at the top of the table as they chase a third win in eight days when struggling AC Ajaccio travel to the Stade Louis II on Sunday evening. Claudio Ranieri’s side have cast off doubts as to their form with convincing wins against Rennes and Nice over the last week and came into this weekend’s round of fixtures just two points off top spot while also comfortably clear of the chasing pack as they look to achieve a top-three finish at the very least. The principality side have coped well in the absence of nine-goal top scorer Radamel Falcao due to a minor thigh injury, with teenager Anthony Martial coming in for his first two Ligue 1 starts as a partner to Emmanuel Rivière in attack. Martial scored in the win against Rennes and set up a goal for Rivière in the 3-0 victory along the Côte d’Azur at Nice, while James Rodríguez is flourishing at the tip of a diamond midfield and has also scored his first two goals in France’s top flight over the last week. Monaco look solid at the back again too, and Ranieri has admitted his delight at recent performances, even if he accepts that continuing to push PSG for the title remains a big ask.
“It will be difficult to put pressure on PSG,” he said.
“They are a side capable of winning the Champions League. For us it’s the first year. We just need to keep working, worry about ourselves without looking at the others.”
Ranieri added that he believes Monaco can cope without Falcao for one or two games, but he knows getting the Colombian back to form and fitness as quickly as possible must be a priority. The former Atlético Madrid striker continues to struggle with a slight pain in his thigh and the club have said that he will only return once they have been reassured by test results.
“I need Falcao back. I do and Monaco do,” said Ranieri.
“I think he will play (against Ajaccio) but I will not take any risks. I think he wants to play, but I am happy with (Anthony) Martial, who showed great character and played well (against Nice).”
Monaco have not lost at home this season, winning six and drawing two of their games at the Stade Louis II, and they have not been beaten at home by the Corsicans since September 1967.
An Ajaccio victory this weekend would be an enormous shock, as they head to the mainland mired in the relegation zone with a meagre nine points to their name. Ajaccio have not won any of their last nine Ligue 1 matches, and are without a win in ten games in all competitions. They have drawn two and lost two of four matches since Christian Bracconi replaced Fabrizio Ravanelli as coach however they took encouragement from Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Bastia, in a Corsican derby played behind closed doors at the Stade Parsemain in Fos-sur-Mer, home of Ligue 2 club FC Istres. On that occasion, Brazilian forward Eduardo struck late to rescue a point for Ajaccio, who played almost half an hour with ten men following the sending-off of youngster Joshua Nadeau.
“It’s a point for the club, for the supporters,”
said Bracconi after that game.
“I think in the second half we showed that the desire is there. I am very proud of the players. But I was still a little disappointed because I thought we could have done more to make for our opponents. But every point takes us a little closer to survival, or at least I hope it does.”
Ajaccio have not won away from home in over a year, but they did hold PSG to a 1-1 stalemate in a remarkable game at the Parc des Princes in August and skipper Johan Cavalli believes they can draw inspiration from that as they head to Monaco.
“We got a point in Paris. We’re not going to say that we are going to take one point or three from Monaco but we are not beaten yet. We will go there and give our all to get something,” said the playmaker.
Nice v Monaco
Ajaccio v Bastia
Monaco: Radamel Falcao is hoping to return after missing the last two games with a thigh injury. Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is expected to return to training in ten days after picking up an ankle ligament injury recently. Nabil Dirar, who has not played since suffering a knee injury on the final day of last season, is back in training. Ranieri has said that he could feature in Monaco’s last game of 2013 against Valenciennes on December 21. Ricardo Carvalho has a nose fracture and must wear a protective mask.
Ajaccio: Ronald Zubar (quadriceps) and Benoît Pedretti (calf) are both out until after the winter break. Ricardo Faty is close to a return after a foot injury, having not played since the end of March. Stefan Popescu is also close to a comeback after suffering a shoulder injury while playing for the Romania under-21 side recently.
Possible Line ups
Monaco are huge favourites for this game , 26 points separate the teams in the league and Ajaccio have not managed an away win in their last 19 matches. Rodriguez has been in great form for Monaco and this should make up for the likely absence of Falcao, although he could well come off the bench at some point. If he does then you have to feel some sympathy for Ajaccio who will struggle to cope with the gulf in class. Their best bet seems to be Mostefa and Pierazzi scrapping away to disrupt the flow of Monaco’s passing game. This is easier said than done and I think we can expect a few bookings for Ajaccio.
90MinuteCynic Prediction: Monaco 4 – 1 Ajaccio