It has been built up for the last few weeks. We are on the cusp of the biggest game of the season as the champions travel to Monte Carlo to face the title pretenders AS Monaco. Paris Saint-Germain knows exactly what is at stake with a win against Claudio Ranieri’s side. It will open up an eight point margin ahead of them with 14 games remaining. It would be significant gap that could arguably secure the title there and then.
We are only at the beginning of February but a win for the champions would go a long way in retaining their crown. Monaco is our only challenger after Lille slipped off the pace with a bad run of form post winter break. The seven time winners of Ligue 1 know they have to beat us on Sunday night or at least hold us to a draw if they are to catch our tail. Defeat is not an option!
Their form has been pretty decent to the start of the year. They were left disappointed last weekend by only managing a 2-2 draw in Lorient. Those two extra points would have made a world of difference coming into this fixture. Les Parisiens would have felt a little hotter under the collar knowing a defeat could have extinguished the lead at the top.
What is also in our favour is no Radamel Falcao. Although the Colombian’s goals had dried up during the latter part of last year, his absence for the rest of the season is a monumental blow for ASM. It made the club react by signing former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov from Fulham on the final day of the January transfer window. He is in line for his debut and it will be interesting to see how he gets on against Thiago Silva and Alex. But, in my honest opinion a Berbatov is not going to lay siege on a title dream unlike Falcao who scored in the 1-1 draw at the Parc last September. Despite Monaco being a rival club, it saddened me to see a player of the ilk struck down by such a serious injury. I truly hope he makes a speedy recovery and makes this summer’s FIFA World Cup.
Back to the game on Sunday. If we are to win, it would put us in an incredible position to go on and retain the league with three months to go. But, we have European football to contend with – unlike Les Rouge et Blanc. This is a factor. Although a win on Sunday may seem like we are coasting, the squad is going to be tested during the two games against Bayer Leverkusen and if we get past them into the quarter-finals, even more so. You can now understand with Adrien Rabiot picking up his injury, Laurent Blanc needed to sign Yohan Cabaye as all of a sudden, we started to look a little thin in midfield. Also, with Edinson Cavani out for another two weeks or so, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to rely on the support of his peers out wide. Lucas Moura has been terrific in the last two outings and he should retain his place again.
Despite our poor record at the Stade Louis II, there is no reason why should not be able to win on Sunday. If we do, we cannot for one second rest on our laurels by believing the league is won. Monaco are weakened by the loss of Falcao but they still possess quality to win crucial games with the likes of James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho. With our congested fixture list coming up it is going to make for an intriguing final quarter of the season. But, a win on Sunday would make things feel a little easier.