Aurélien Tchouaméni has been one of the stars of an AS Monaco side involved in a four-way tussle for the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title. On Sunday he goes back to his former club when the principality side visit struggling Girondins de Bordeaux.
Girondins de Bordeaux - AS Monaco Sunday at 17:05 CET (1505 GMT)
The likes of Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland might get most of the attention in Niko Kovac’s Monaco team, but the role played by Tchouaméni should not be understated. The 21-year-old has formed an outstanding central midfield partnership with Youssouf Fofana, another talented prospect who joined the principality club on the same day in January last year.
As well as spending an initial €15 million to sign Fofana from RC Strasbourg Alsace, Monaco invested a reported €20 million to recruit Tchouaméni from Bordeaux just after his 20th birthday on a four-year deal. He had made fewer than 40 first-team appearances for the Girondins.
Watch: Monaco get better of Dijon
Tchouaméni managed just three brief appearances for Monaco last season under Robert Moreno before the coronavirus pandemic brought a premature end to the campaign. “I needed to acclimatise. I had never left Bordeaux,” Tchouaméni, who was born in Rouen but moved to Bordeaux aged one, recently told L’Equipe. “And it is more difficult when you arrive in the middle of the season.”
However, he has been propelled into a key role this season under former Bayern Munich coach Kovac. He has made 33 appearances, the most of any Monaco player alongside Sofiane Diop. Tchouaméni has played the most minutes, starting 30 Ligue 1 Uber Eats games and missing the other two only because of suspension.
'Difficult times' for Bordeaux
Tchouaméni, whose father is a pharmacist and runs a factory producing vaccines, will therefore be one of the first names on the teamsheet at the Matmut Atlantique as Monaco look to stay in the title hunt. The principality side have lost just one of their last 17 Ligue 1 Uber Eats outings and have won their last three outings by an aggregate score of 11-0. That form left them in third place coming into the weekend, four points behind leaders LOSC but also just one point better off than Olympique Lyonnais in fourth position - only the top three qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
“The good results we have been getting give us confidence and I hope we can keep this up until the end of the season. There are six games to go so we need to keep going and then see where we are at the end,” goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte told beIN Sports.
Watch: Bordeaux beaten again
The contrast with Monaco’s opponents is striking. Bordeaux have lost their last three league games and have been beaten nine times in their last 11 outings. That miserable run of form has seen the six-time former champions slump to 15th in the table and left them just six points above the bottom three. They are not yet safe from the threat of relegation.
“These are difficult times. We have never gone through such a difficult period. We are going to need to dig deep,” said coach Jean-Louis Gasset after last week’s 4-1 thumping at AS Saint-Etienne. Their match at FC Lorient could turn into a crunch six-pointer if results go against them this weekend.
The one bright spot for Bordeaux recently has been the form of Hwang Ui-jo, with the South Korean forward netting five goals in his last four games and totalling 11 goals for the campaign. Meanwhile Monaco’s Cesc Fabregas is on the sidelines after coming off in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Dijon FCO with a hamstring injury.
Bordeaux: Costil; Baysse, Koscielny (c), Benito; Sabaly, Adli, Seri, Oudin; Ben Arfa, Hwang, Zerkane
Monaco: Lecomte; Sidibé (c), Maripan, Badiashile; Aguilar, Fofana, Tchouaméni, Caio Henrique; Golovin, Jovetic, Diop