MIS­SION IM­PROB­A­BLE

Monaco in search of his­tory-mak­ing come­back against Ju­ven­tus

New Straits Times - - Sport - MI­LAN

AS MONACO, beaten 2-0 at home in the first leg of their Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nal against Ju­ven­tus, will have to make his­tory in to­day’s re­turn if they are to end Ligue 1’s long ab­sence from the fi­nal.

Only two teams have ever won a knock­out tie in the com­pe­ti­tion af­ter los­ing at home in the first leg and in both cases — Ajax Am­s­ter­dam against Panathi­naikos in 1996 and In­ter Mi­lan against Bay­ern Mu­nich in 2011 — they had only one goal to make up.

Monaco, who them­selves were the last French side to reach the fi­nal when they lost to Jose Mour­inho’s Porto in 2004, would also have to end Juve’s fouryear un­beaten home record in Europe and a run of six suc­ces­sive clean sheets in the com­pe­ti­tion.

Monaco have never won a game in Italy in seven at­tempts while Juve’s record against French teams will not give them much en­cour­age­ment ei­ther — the Ital­ians have won all pre­vi­ous 11 knock­out ties against Ligue 1 op­po­nents in­clud­ing Monaco them­selves on two oc­ca­sions.

Both teams lead their own leagues and are on the brink of win­ning their re­spec­tive ti­tles while Ju­ven­tus have also reached the Italian Cup fi­nal, putting them on course for a treble.

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, whose side won 3-0 at Nancy on Satur­day to close in on the Ligue 1 ti­tle, said that an early goal could change the com­plex­ion of the tie.

“We have to stay con­fi­dent, try to play our game and put on a good per­for­mance and if we score at the start of the game, maybe that could change things,” said Jardim.

If there is one thing which gives Jardim hope, it is Monaco’s pro­lific scor­ing record this sea­son.

They have blasted 139 goals in 55 matches in all com­pe­ti­tions, not in­clud­ing the French League Cup, and have man­aged three or more goals in a match on 25 oc­ca­sions.

Kylian Mbappe, 18 and one of the hottest prop­er­ties in Euro­pean foot­ball, has scored 18 goals in his last 20 com­pet­i­tive games, while the team fea­tures other dan­ger­ous play­ers in­clud­ing resur­gent Colom­bian forward Radamel Fal­cao.

Ju­ven­tus forward Paulo Dy­bala limped off dur­ing Satur­day’s 1-1 draw at home to Torino, which ended his side’s run of 33 con­sec­u­tive home league wins, but coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri said it was just a case of cramp.

“It was nor­mal in the cir­cum­stances and to­wards the end of the sea­son,” said Al­le­gri, who warned his team not to think about any an­other re­sult than a win.

“Monaco are a side with great tal­ent and we have ab­so­lutely not yet sealed our qualification. We need to win the sec­ond leg.” Reuters

Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe has scored 18 goals in his last 20 com­pet­i­tive games.

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