No Lemar as Monaco take on Leipzig
AS Monaco will be without injured midfield star Thomas Lemar (hamstring) as they kick off their Champions League campaign away to RB Leipzig on Wednesday looking to bounce back from a league hammering at the weekend.
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
UEFA Champions League, Matchday 1 - Group G
RB Arena, Leipzig
RB Leipzig - AS Monaco
The recent international break seemed to do Monaco few favours, their 16-match Ligue 1 Conforama winning streak coming to a juddering halt with a 4-0 drubbing in Nice at the weekend, but now Leonardo Jardim's men have a chance to get back on track as they travel to Germany for the opening match of their Champions League campaign.
Jardim: 'We're used to this kind of thing'
After making it to the semis last term, the pressure will be on the principality club to get off to a solid start in the competition, but they will have to do without in-form France midfielder Thomas Lemar as they look to do so. The influential 21-year-old, who picked up his hamstring strain against Nice, is out for eight days and no-one at the club is looking to rush back into action and risk a relapse.
"We're missing an important player but that's life," tempered Jardim, who is likely to choose from among new recruits Stevan Jovetic, Keita Baldé and Rachid Ghezzal to deputise on the left-hand side of midfield in his 4-4-2 formation. "We're used to this kind of thing and everyone has been working hard to replace him. Perhaps this will open up an opportunity for another player. That's the club's mentality and the philosophy of this team."
Tielemans to start?
Which is just as well considering that defensive midfielder/deep-lying playmaker Joao Moutinho is under an illness cloud and could also miss the call. However, replacing the Portuguese would be a more straightforward business with 20-year-old Belgian recruit Youri Tielemans, who has impressed mainly off the bench since signing from Anderlecht in the summer, waiting in the wings.
Captain Radamel Falcao and key defensive midfielder Fabinho are both ready to go, as is Jardim's first-choice back four of Djibril Sidibé, Kamil Glik, Jemerson and Jorge, as they take on the newest sensation in the Bundesliga.
Jardim: 'Worthy adversary'
"I first heard of RB Leipzig a few years ago, but last year they definitely had an excellent league season," said Jardim of the club from Germany's east that finished second in the Bundesliga last season after a giddy ascent from the fifth division that began jus eight years ago. "They're a team with a lot of youngsters, who press high, and they have a lot of pace up front, with two top-notch strikers [Jean-Kévin Augustin and Timo Werner] who play well together. They're a worthy adversary; to finish second in the Bundesliga you have to be strong and compact."
Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl has favoured Augustin - who signed from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer - so far in the Bundesliga but could opt to go with experience by calling on club stalwart and Danish international Yussuf Poulsen to partner last season's 21-goal club top scorer Timo Werner in attack.
Meanwhile key midfielder Naby Keita, who picked up a groin strain in the 2-0 win over Hamburg on Friday - RB Leipzig's third win in four outings this season, which took them to fourth place in the Bundesliga standings - is out of commission and should be replaced by Slovenia international Kevin Kampl.
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi; Klostermann, Orban, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Sabitzer, Demme, Kampl, Frosberg; Poulsen (or Augustin), Ti. Werner
AS Monaco: Subasic; Sidibé, Glik, Jemerson, Jorge; Tielemans (or Moutinho), Fabinho; R. Lopes, Falcao, A. Diakhaby (or Jovetic), Ghezzal (or Baldé, or Diakhaby)