Am­bi­tious Monaco fight­ing on 3 fronts af­ter 141 goals

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Per­haps the only thing stop­ping Monaco this sea­son will be ex­haus­tion.

Af­ter scor­ing 141 goals, Leonardo Jardim’s team tops the French league and re­mains on course for the tre­ble af­ter reach­ing the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals on Wed­nes­day, dis­patch­ing Ger­man side Borus­sia Dort­mund 6-3 on ag­gre­gate. It is also in the last four of the French Cup.

The first of Monaco’s 141 goals was scored by striker Radamel Fal­cao way back on July 27, against Turk­ish side Fener­bahce in the third qual­i­fy­ing round of the Cham­pi­ons League.

Fast for­ward to the present and Fal­cao, who scored in Wed­nes­day’s 3-1 win against Dort­mund with a su­perb div­ing header, has 27.

“At the start of the sea­son not many peo­ple would have thought the team would do this well, or that I would,” said Fal­cao, who has fought back from dis­ap­point­ing loan spells with Manch­ester United and Chelsea fol­low­ing a se­ri­ous knee in­jury. “I feel ap­pre­ci­ated and sup­ported by the club and by the play­ers. My fam­ily is set­tled and this helps me play bet­ter.”

Monaco leads de­fend­ing cham­pion Paris Saint-Ger­main on goal dif­fer­ence in the league, hav­ing played one game less, and faces a hec­tic run-in. That starts with a dif­fi­cult trip to Lyon on Sun­day, fol­lowed by a French Cup semi­fi­nal against PSG three days later in Paris.

Those games could go a long way to shap­ing Monaco’s sea­son.

“It’s not easy to play the Cham­pi­ons League and to try and win the league at the same time,” Jardim said. “We’re the team that’s play­ing the most in Europe.”

Jardim isn’t com­plain­ing, how­ever.

“At this level you can’t im­pose lim­its on the play­ers. Per­haps the French Cup is the third choice, but for the other two we’ll push to our lim­its,” he said. “Be­cause it’s not just our Cham­pi­ons League but the Cham­pi­ons League of France. The French clubs aren’t used to reach­ing this level, so we are also rep­re­sent­ing France.”

The last French side to reach the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals was Lyon in 2010, while Mar­seille is the only French side to win the com­pe­ti­tion, in 1993.

In­ten­tion­ally or not, Jardim sent a sting­ing re­minder to PSG of its short­com­ings in Europe. Af­ter be­ing elim­i­nated in the quar­ter­fi­nals for the pre­vi­ous four sea­sons, PSG went out in the last 16 this time af­ter be­ing crushed 6-1 by Barcelona in the sec­ond leg.

Monaco has a min­i­mum of nine games left, and a max­i­mum of 11 should it reach the Cham­pi­ons League and French Cup fi­nals.

“It makes for a lot of games, which is very hard,” Jardim said. “If we had gone out in the quar­ter­fi­nals (against Dort­mund) we’d be fresh to pre­pare all the (other) games, but we’re very am­bi­tious and I don’t want the men­tal­ity of the play­ers to change.”

The play­ers are ready to take up the chal­lenge.

“We’re com­peti­tors and we want to be in­volved in ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion. We were one of the first sides in the com­pe­ti­tion and now we’re in the (Cham­pi­ons League) semi­fi­nals, it’s some­thing to sa­vor,” left back Ben­jamin Mendy said.

Monaco will have one day more to pre­pare than Lyon, which was fac­ing a tough Europa League quar­ter­fi­nal re­turn leg against Be­sik­tas in Is­tan­bul on Thurs­day night.

Monaco play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter team­mate Valere scored the team’s third goal in Tues­day’s game against Borus­sia Dort­mund Photo: AP

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