Paris Saint-Germain VS AS Monaco
Venue: Parc des Princes
Date: 22nd September 2013
Kick-Off: 20:00 (GMT)
I hate to use typical clichés, particularly when it involves money and financial fair play. I try my best not to focus solely on the money aspect of the club which is inevitably considered as the key attribute after two years of heavy investment. But, when we are coming up against a club in the same domestic league that has spent similar amounts, it is going to be one of those marquee fixtures of the season that catches the eye to the neutral.
Safe to say there is a real brewing interest in tonight’s encounter and not just from supporters in the capital or Monte Carlo either. Monaco’s promotion to Ligue 1 last season resulted in a summer of heavy spending. Their billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev made it his mission to get one of France’s most successful clubs back into the top-tier after years of obscurity which culminated in relegation in 2011. They even looked destined for a consecutive relegation at one point as they could not get a victory to safe their life, winning just one in 19 Ligue 2 games. How did they solve the problem? They invested. It started with the acquisition of Nabir Dirar for €7.5m from Club Brugge in the January of 2012, helping aid a stable finish. That was followed up by the capture of Argentine prodigy Lucas Ocampos seven months later which was seen as a major coup. The appointment of Claudio Ranieri as coach was also a masterstroke.
What happened after that? Well, you know the rest. They coasted to promotion and stunned the football world by luring some of the game’s brightest talent for huge sums of money. Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez and of course Radamel Falcao the catching names in a monumental summer for French football in terms of star recruitment.
The opening stats do not lie either. They are joint top scorers with Evian – nine goals – and they statistically have the best defence in the league, conceding just two. The experience of Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abidal has been a huge reason for that. This has all resulted in a terrific start which sees them sitting top of the league heading into the clash tonight. We sit in third, just two points off, knowing a win will take us to the summit.
We could not have prepared any better following a second-half renaissance in Greece. The 4-1 victory away to Olympiakos was not without its flaws but it certainly raised a few eyebrows across Europe, considering the Greeks flawless home record. This was just four days after our best performance of the season away to Bordeaux so we are in good stead to face the Tinkerman’s stars.
We are boosted by the return of Jeremy Menez. He made his return in midweek and is in the group for tonight. He will no doubt be on the bench, most probably with Javier Pastore sitting beside him. Ezequiel Lavezzi did enough to warrant a start after changing the course of the game in Greece when he came on in the second-half. He deserves to start in my opinion up top with Edinson Cavani and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At the back, Alex is still out with a thigh strain so Marquinhos will continue in the centre of defence with Thiago Silva after making his debut on Tuesday.
Monaco are title contenders, there is absolutely no doubt that. This is the first real marquee clash of the season and one which the world will be keeping a keen eye on. That reaffirms in itself just how much Ligue 1 has grown in the last few years, albeit money has played the biggest role in that to lure some of the game’s top tlanet. Nevertheless, Ligue 1 is on the map and a rivalry for years to come may just kick start this evening. Hopefully it will be us with bragging right come Monday morning.