Double centurion Jardim targets more derby joy
By A. Scott
Leonardo Jardim is aiming to mastermind a second victory for AS Monaco against Côte d'Azur rivals OGC Nice in as many weeks after celebrating 200 games in charge of the principality club at the weekend.
AS Monaco - OGC Nice
The Portuguese coach, who was appointed in 2014, reached the landmark in Saturday's 0-0 draw away to Montpellier Hérault SC. On Monday, he was given a souvenir Monaco shirt with the number 200 on the back, signed by the whole squad, by vice-president Vadim Vasilyev.
Jardim's stats are impressive, with 112 wins and 375 goals scored in that run. His win rate of 56 percent is the highest of any Monaco coach to have taken charge of more than 100 games. Now fourth on the list of longest-serving coaches in the principality, he may struggle to get to Arsène Wenger's record tally of 349 games, or Lucien Leduc's 345. But he is quickly closing in on Didier Deschamps and his mark of 208 matches at the helm.
"I am very pleased and proud to reach this figure. I am in the top five of coaches who have taken charge of most Monaco games, and that is a very big responsibility," Jardim said. "I have been in charge for a lot of big games, but the most memorable was the match against Saint-Etienne last year when we won and it helped us to win the title. That, in terms of emotion, is the most important game."
Highlights: Monaco unable to break down Montpellier
Derby encounters with Nice are always big occasions too, all the more so with Monaco locked in a thrilling battle for podium places with Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique de Marseille. Monaco are currently 11 points behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain, while they ended the weekend in second, only above OL by a difference of one goal, and just a point clear of OM in fourth.
Falcao back this time
Monaco saw a run of six straight wins in all competitions come to an end as they were held by Ligue 1 Conforama's meanest defence at the Stade de la Mosson on Saturday, but the good news is that leading scorer Radamel Falcao is now available again after missing the first three outings of 2018. That is all the more important with Guido Carrillo still absent.
"Falcao and Carrillo have had their problems, but we need a forward who gives us that impact up front," Jardim admitted after Keita Baldé toiled in Montpellier and Stevan Jovetic failed to impress off the bench.
Highlights: Nice edge out Amiens
"Baldé has found it difficult leading the line. Jovetic doesn't give us that impact either, so we need our real number nines to come back. Baldé is more of a wide player. He is a nice boy. He works hard and I have nothing negative to say about him. He is young and he has room to improve. I don't think missing the pre-season helped him, but we believe in him."
Nice in good form
Monaco won 2-1 away in Nice last midweek in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue and triumphed 3-0 when they last hosted Les Aiglons a year ago, with Falcao scoring twice.
However, Nice head to the Stade Louis II looking to extend a fine run of form in the league. Lucien Favre's side are fresh from edging out Amiens SC 1-0 at the weekend with a Pierre Lees-Melou goal, the ideal way to get back on track after being eliminated from both domestic cup competitions.
They have won five and drawn one of their last six Ligue 1 Conforama matches, form that seen them strengthen their grip on sixth place. A win here will move them provisionally level on points with FC Nantes in fifth, and coach Lucien Favre could give Mario Balotelli his first start of 2018 after the Italian appeared from the bench against Amiens.
"He did very well when he came on for the last 25 minutes. Will he start? It is possible. He didn't play the previous three matches and he has missed a lot of training sessions, so we will see," said Favre.
Nice are without the suspended Adrien Tameze, while Christophe Jallet will not play after suffering a calf injury in training on Monday.
Monaco: Subasic; Sidibé, Glik, Raggi, Jorge; N'Doram, Moutinho; Lopes, Lemar, Baldé; Falcao (c)
Nice: Benítez; Burner, Dante (c), Sarr, Le Marchand; Lees-Melou, Seri, Cyprien; Saint-Maximin, Balotelli, Pléa