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Can Monaco cut the mustard in relegation 6-pointer?

Publish on 24/01/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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AS Monaco head to Dijon FCO on Saturday evening without Thierry Henry, who has been replaced by former boss Leonardo Jardim.

 Dijon FCO - AS Monaco 

Franck Passi will lead training on Friday, with Monaco announcing that they have suspended Henry pending a final decision on his future with the club without a win in five Ligue 1 Conforama games.

There had been significant excitement when Henry succeeded Leonardo Jardim as Monaco coach in October, and wins over SM Caen and Amiens SC at the end of 2018 hinted that the principality club - 18th when the French World Cup winner took over - had turned a corner.

Injuries have not been kind to him in the time since. Nacer Chadli (thigh), Stevan Jovetic (knee) and Andrea Raggi (thigh) are some of the headline absentees from Saturday's encounter, but they lead an injury list that is 11 players deep.

Arsenal vincible?

Henry dipped into the transfer market over the winter break, signing his former Arsenal teammate Cesc Fabregas, as well as veteran Brazil centre-back Naldo and promising left sider Fodé Ballo-Touré from LOSC.

Things have yet to click into gear, though. Monaco were beaten 5-1 by RC Strasbourg Alsace last Saturday before having their Coupe de France progress halted at the last 32 stage by Domino's Ligue 2 outfit FC Metz on Tuesday. Henry was hoping for a better performance in Dijon.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Atletico Madrid were relegated in the '90s with stronger players than we have now," said the 41-year-old, who started his playing career Monaco in 1994. "We're in this situation, even if [the most recent defeat] was in the Coupe de France, but this weekend against Dijon in Ligue 1 it's going to be war."

Falcao's place assured

Michy Batshuayi was reported to have agreed terms on a loan deal from Chelsea, but the striker, who knows Henry well from the latter's time as Belgium assistant manager, has yet to officially sign. Monaco's best results of late have been achieved with one man in attack: Radamel Falcao, and Passi is likely to start the club captain up front at the Stade Gaston Gérard.

Monaco have yet to lose to Dijon in their seven meetings since the first one between the sides in 2012, but they may find their hosts a decidedly trickier proposition than might be expected. Antoine Kombouaré replaced Olivier Dall'Oglio as coach in January and things have been brighter for the Côte-d'Or club of late.

Dijon thrashed AS Saint-Etienne 6-3 in the Coupe de France on Wednesday, and while they lost their previous Ligue 1 Conforama outing to Girondins de Bordeaux 1-0 last Saturday, they played the best part of an hour with ten men following Romain Amalfitano's sending off. It was a result which left Kombouaré bitterly disappointed.

'Learned we can compete'

"It's more than disappointment," he said at his post-match press conference. "I hated the goal we conceded and I hate this defeat. The boys played a huge game, but this can happen when you're at the bottom.

"I put myself in the place of the players today. They're suffering after making such a big effort. At least we learned that we can compete with a team like that, that we could play and be solid defensively. I like how we played but this defeat hurts."

Kombouaré is without Valentin Rosier (foot), Benjamin Jeannot (calf) and Frédéric Sammaritano (knee), while Yoann Gourcuff and the club parted ways by mutual consent this week, with the former France international having featured in just eight games.

 

Possible teams

Dijon: Allain; Chafik, Yambéré, Lautoa, Haddadi; Abeid, Loiodice; Kwon, Sliti, Saïd; Tavares

Monaco: Benaglio; Glik, Naldo, Badiashile; Henrichs, Fabregas, Tielemans, Ballo-Touré; Lopes, Golovin; Falcao