New Straits Times - - Sport -

in­clud­ing three in the 6-3 ag­gre­gate win over Borus­sia Dort­mund in the last eight.

The pacy for­ward pro­vides a sym­bol for the rise of a fine counter-at­tack­ing team fea­tur­ing other dan­ger­ous play­ers such as Colom­bian marks­man Radamel Fal­cao.

It takes more than that, how­ever, to im­press Ju­ven­tus, the tight­est de­fence in Europe’s top club com­pe­ti­tion with just two goals con­ceded in this cam­paign.

“Even Barcelona could not score in two games against them so it will be com­pli­cated for us“, Monaco’s Poland de­fender Kamil Glik said ahead of to­day’s first leg in the prin­ci­pal­ity. reach 15 league goals in Europe’s top five leagues since for­mer Golden Ball win­ner Michael Owen for Liver­pool in 1998; the youngest to have reached five goals in the Cham­pi­ons League, and the first player to score in each of the first four Cham­pi­ons League knock­out rounds he played in.

Mbappe has net­ted 24 goals this sea­son, in­clud­ing 18 in his last 18 — and he was play­ing in the re­serves un­til Novem­ber. His pow­er­ful run­ning, skill, sheer

The Ital­ian cham­pi­ons, who ad­vanced to the last four with an ag­gre­gate 3-0 win over Barca, were held to a 2-2 draw at Ata­lanta in a rare de­fen­sive mix-up in Serie A on Fri­day.

Their pedi­gree and record for be­ing im­preg­nable when it mat­ters, how­ever, sug­gest Ju­ven­tus should be re­garded as the favourites.

“Monaco have tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal qual­i­ties as well as tal­ented young play­ers,” Ju­ven­tus coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri said.

“They do not have the same his­tory as Ju­ven­tus but that does not mean it will be easy for us to make it to the fi­nal,” he added.

While Al­le­gri can rely on a ful­ly­fit squad, his Monaco coun­ter­part pace, and cool fin­ish­ing make him a mix be­tween Thierry Henry and Brazil great Ron­aldo.

In fact, he is so pop­u­lar in France that even op­pos­ing fans from Lyon and Caen ap­plauded him off the field when he played there.

Only a few clubs can re­al­is­ti­cally af­ford him: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manch­ester City, Manch­ester United and Ju­ven­tus.

It puts Monaco in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion, and one they have been Leonardo Jardim, crit­i­cised for field­ing a B-team in a 5-0 French Cup semi-fi­nal thrash­ing by Paris St Ger­main last week, has a de­fen­sive worry with mid­field dy­namo Tiemoue Bakayoko doubt­ful due to a bro­ken nose.

Monaco have shone in Europe and at home this sea­son and their do­mes­tic ti­tle hopes re­ceived a wel­come boost when a ner­vous PSG side lost 3-1 at Nice on Sun­day, leav­ing the club from the French Riviera three points clear at the top with a game in hand.

Ju­ven­tus, mean­while, are clos­ing in on a record sixth straight Serie A ti­tle and can turn to their Euro­pean his­tory for in­spi­ra­tion, hav­ing won the show­case club in be­fore for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

In the sum­mer of 2015, be­cause of for­mer Fi­nan­cial Fair Play rules de­signed to con­trol club fi­nances, Monaco needed to raise money and sold the heart of their team.

For­ward An­thony Mar­tial joined Manch­ester United in a deal ris­ing to €80 mil­lion, while mid­fielder Ge­of­frey Kon­dog­bia, winger Yan­nick Fer­reira Car­rasco, cen­tre-half Ay­men Ab­de­nour and left-back Layvin Kurzawa were all sold — rais­ing about com­pe­ti­tion twice, in 1985 and 1996.

Monaco, by con­trast, reached the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal only once, in 2004, los­ing 3-0 to a Porto side coached by Jose Mour­inho af­ter a great run fea­tur­ing wins over Real Madrid and Chelsea.

The sides have faced each other twice be­fore on the Cham­pi­ons League stage with Ju­ven­tus win­ning both ties, in the 1998 semi­fi­nals and the 2015 quar­ters.

Ju­ven­tus have never been elim­i­nated by a French team in 11 pre­vi­ous meet­ings in Euro­pean club com­pe­ti­tions. Reuters €200 mil­lion al­to­gether. This fol­lowed the sale of Colom­bia’s star for­ward James Ro­driguez to Real Madrid for around €80 mil­lion the pre­vi­ous sum­mer.

Monaco’s fi­nances are far bet­ter now and the club will likely not sell more than one or two play­ers this sum­mer.

This in­creases the chances of Mbappe stay­ing as the main striker next sea­son, should Rad­mael Fal­cao leave af­ter turn­ing down three of­fers from Chi­nese clubs in Jan­uary. AP

Ju­ven­tus boast the best de­fence in the Cham­pi­ons League this sea­son hav­ing con­ceded just two goals.

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