Monaco primed for Champions League spot

2015-05-22 09:33
AS Monaco (AFP)

Paris - Monaco can clinch an immediate return to the Champions League with a win at Lorient on Saturday, but Marseille and Saint-Etienne can pip them to the post on the final day of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain clinched the title last weekend, while Lyon were confirmed as runners- up, but third place in Ligue 1 gives access to the final Champions League qualifying round in August.

Worthy but unexpected quarter-finalists in the Champions League this season, third-placed Monaco have 68 points, just two ahead of Marseille and Saint-Etienne on 66, with Marseille also enjoying a comfortable goal difference margin on the other two.

Monaco have been outstanding in Ligue 1 since December, losing just twice and conceding a miserly eight goals.

Their 40-year-old Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim has forged a water-tight defence and built an industrious, youthful counter-attacking system where 20-year-old midfielder Bernardo Silva and 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial are showing there is life after Falcao and James Rodriguez.

"We don't need to worry about anyone else, and we won't be listening to the other games" said Jardim, who agreed a contract extension until 2019 last week.

"We just need to win our match, because Marseille and Saint Etienne are going to win theirs," said Jardim, who will be satisfied Lorient secured their top-flight status last week.

Croatian 'keeper Danijel Subasic said the mood in the dressing room was relaxed and confident.

"I don't know if the other teams will win, but I hope not. Our game is like a final, it opens the doors to the Champions League," said Subasic, who has 19 clean shhets in Ligue 1 this season.

Long-time leaders Marseille watched their title aspirations evaporate after Christmas and gradually the team led by intense Argentine coach Marcello Bielsa saw a run of poor luck allow their Champions League ambitions slip from their grasp too.

But a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Monaco two weeks ago and a resounding 4-0 win over Lille last time out has given the southern giants one last roll of the dice.

They host mid-table Bastia on Saturday with arguably two of their top forwards playing their last game for a club who are trying to get rid of their top paid players.

The two concerned are Andre-Pierre Gignac, France's second-top scorer who propelled their early season charge, and Ghana's Andre Ayew who will be out of contract and on their way.

"I was expecting better," said the 25-year-old Ghana star Ayew. "I wanted the team to be more competitive next year so we could challenge for the title."

"Also the club cannot offer me the same salary that I'm on at the moment," added Ayew, son of former Ghana and Marseille legend Abedi Pele.

Saint-Etienne have their own internal squabbles to deal with as they go into their match at home against Guingamp.

Player-of-the season Max-Alain Gradel said this week the club lacked ambition, sending a shockwave from the top to bottom.

"It's not a lack of ambition that stops us rivalling PSG, just a lack of means," replied Christophe Galtier.

His club have bought their training ground, rebuilt their stadium, bought back their club shop and opened a club museum over the past four years whilst coming in the top-five each time.

Gradel was referring to the sale of Kurt Zouma to Chelsea, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Borussia Dortmund and Blaise Matuidi to PSG over the same period.

But others remained focussed on the final game.

"We're not booking holidays yet in case we get the third spot, in which case we'll spend the summer getting ready," insisted 'keeper Stephane Ruffier, their joint player of the season.

Ligue 1 fixtures:


Bordeaux v Montpellier, Caen v Evian, Lens v Nantes, Lorient v Monaco, Marseille v Bastia, Metz v Lille, Paris Saint-Germain v Reims, Rennes v Lyon, Saint-Etienne v Guingamp, Toulouse v Nice

Read more on:    monaco  |  ligue 1  |  soccer

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