Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Monaco hope for Nice neighbours in final day derby

Publish on 23/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Radamel Falcao and AS Monaco will head nervously into their final day Côte d'Azur derby against OGC Nice with their Ligue 1 Conforama status still in jeopardy.

 OGC Nice - AS Monaco 

With 90 minutes left to play this season, the 2017/18 runners-up could still face a return to the second tier of French football that they last experienced six years ago.

Though last weekend's crucial 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Amiens SC removed the possibility of them ending in the bottom two — and so being automatically relegated — Leonardo Jardim's men could still finish in 18th and have to face a two-legged play-off for their top-flight place.

It does require a number of factors to go against them: Amiens must win at home to already relegated En Avant Guingamp, SM Caen — currently in the play-off spot — have to beat Girondins de Bordeaux by four goals at their Stade Michel d'Ornano, while Monaco must lose by four goals at the Allianz Riviera.

Impossible? Food for thought then: Monaco have made the short trip back to the principality nursing 4-0 defeats on their last two visits for a league game to Nice.

"Of course we have taken a big step towards top-flight survival. We fought for every ball and we got the three points. It's really important," said Falcao, who got the opening goal — his 15th of the league season — against Amiens before Alexsandr Golovin added a late second.

"It was the attitude the coach was looking for from this game. We went out to get the three points with a lot of intensity. We scored the first goal and kept going."

"It was a very good response on the pitch from the team, who showed a very good attitude and respected the strategy put in place," explained Jardim.

"We have taken an important step with these three points, but we're not safe yet. We have to prepare for the derby and get a result. Because in football, it's always a box full of surprises. The players know it's been a difficult season. It's not time to celebrate anything."

Vieira success

As Nice's season draws to a close, they do not have much to celebrate either. European qualification that once looked within their capabilities has slipped away with a run of just three wins in their last ten league games — and a solitary victory in their last six — but Patrick Vieira's maiden campaign in a senior coaching role in Europe should still be considered a success.

Having succeeded Lucien Favre last summer, the ex-Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City midfielder has seen Mario Balotelli fail to fire in the first half of the season and then leave for Olympique de Marseille midway through it. Coupled with Alassane Plea's departure for Borussia Mönchengladbach before he arrived, Vieira has had to try and solve the Sphinx-esque riddle of winning football matches without scoring goals.

He has done that. Nine of his team's 14 wins have come thanks to a 1-0 scoreline with the value of each of their 28 goals augmented by their defensive stubborness, underlined by the league-high 15 clean sheets kept by goalkeeper Walter Benitez.

The almost unparalleled efficiency they have shown at either end of the pitch means they are on course to finish in the top eight of the table for a fourth successive season, the first time they have achieved that feat since midway through the last century.

To ensure they do that, they must beat their neighbours from along the Mediterranean coast and bounce back from the 3-0 schooling they received at AS Saint-Étienne last weekend.

"That sums up our season, where we play some good football, we manage to do some interesting things, but in the end, we can't put them away, we misplace the final pass, we are naïve defensively and then concede a goal. But in terms of spirit, I can't criticise my players," said Vieira following the loss at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

"It's important to finish well. If we look at the season, we have had some tough times, but we have faced up to them. We have worked very hard, the players are very committed. It's important to finish on a good note and with style."

Probable teams

Nice: Benitez – Pelmard, Hérelle, Dante (cap.), M.Sarr – Lees-Melou, Tameze, Danilo – Atal, Saint-Maximin, Ganago

Monaco: Benaglio – D.Sidibé, Glik, Naldo, Ballo-Touré – Fabregas, Ad.Silva – G.Martins, Golovin, R.Lopes – Falcao (cap.)