Monaco target return to form against OM
By A. Scott
AS Monaco need to get back to winning ways when they play host to Olympique de Marseille at the Stade Louis II on Sunday after a slump in form that has jeopardised their UEFA Champions League chances.
AS Monaco - Olympique de Marseille
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The principality club lost second spot in the Ligue 1 table to Olympique Lyonnais last weekend after a humiliating 4-1 defeat away to LOSC at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. That result followed a 2-1 defeat at home to Girondins de Bordeaux, meaning Monaco have lost back-to-back league games for the first time since the opening two weeks of last season.
Finishing second is the goal for Monaco as that brings with it automatic qualification for next season's Champions League group stage while third spot only offers a place in the third qualifying round of the competition and will mean an early return for pre-season training.
However, even finishing third is under serious threat for Leonardo Jardim's side, who also have OGC Nice, Stade Rennais FC and AS Saint-Etienne putting them under pressure and who must go to Rennes and Lyon in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Monaco had gone eight Ligue 1 games unbeaten and had lost just once in 18 before the start of this month. That run included a 2-0 win away to the champions Paris Saint-Germain, but the concern is that they have lost momentum at the crucial time.
Jardim: 'difficult moment'
"It is a difficult moment in our season. We need a reaction in our last five matches," conceded Jardim after the defeat in Lille. "The confidence is not the same, but we are professionals and we must react. We have lost our advantage but I think we can still finish second and we will work towards that objective."
Monaco's defence, so watertight last season, has been a major problem in this campaign and the principality side have conceded 10 goals in their last five outings. Jardim has a particular problem in the left-back position this weekend as the Nigerian international Elderson Echiejile begins a two-game suspension following his sending-off at Lille last weekend. In addition, Fabio Coentrao suffered an injury to his right thigh in training last week and must undergo an operation that will keep him out for between three and six months.
Joao Moutinho, who has been out for several weeks with an ankle injury, has been back in training as Monaco look to inflict further misery on crisis-hit Marseille. OM are without a win in any of their last nine Ligue 1 games and their only win in 11 games in all competitions came against minnows US Granville in the Coupe de France.
A 0-0 draw at home to Bordeaux last weekend saw them extend their club record sequence without a league victory at the Stade Vélodrome to 14 games, while an 11-match unbeaten run on their travels was ended when they lost 2-1 at SC Bastia a fortnight ago.
Under-pressure coach Míchel has targeted glory in the Coupe de France to salvage OM's season as they prepare to go to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard of Ligue 2 in the semi-finals on Wednesday, but they are not yet safe from the threat of relegation.
"We owe a debt to the fans and we have a very clear objective for the end of the season: the Coupe de France. We got ourselves into this situation in the league table and we have to face up to it," said the Spanish coach in the week owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus put the club up for sale.
Michel: 'good news for OM'
"Since the death of Robert Louis-Dreyfus in 2009, Margarita's investment has been daily, without fail," said Marseille president Vincent Labrune. "Nobody can fully understand the extent of her implication. She has always maintained her commitments. Her main desire is to give the club new impetus to make it more competitive. It is very good news for all lovers of OM."
For now OM travel along the Mediterranean coast without the suspended Romain Alessandrini, while Lassana Diarra and Abou Diaby have been carrying knee injuries.
Monaco: Subasic; Fabinho, Wallace, Carvalho, Raggi; Dirar, Toulalan (c), Silva, Bakayoko, Lemar; Carrillo
Marseille: Mandanda (c); Manquillo, Nkoulou, Rekik, Mendy; Sarr, Romao, Thauvin, Diaby, N'Koudou; Batshuayi
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