Alexander Nübel says he now has "confidence in myself" as the on-loan Bayern Munich goalkeeper aims to keep a third successive clean sheet of 2022 when Monaco go to Montpellier on Sunday (kick-off 5.05pm CET).
MONTPELLIER vs. MONACO Sunday, 5.05pm CET (4.05pm GMT)
By Nübel's own admission, the first few months of life at the Stade Louis II have not been easy after joining on a two-season deal from Bayern. Shaky performances from the Germany U21 international — billed as 'the next Manuel Neuer' — were matched by inconsistent displays from his teammates as Niko Kovac's side struggled to live up to their pre-season hype as potential top-three challengers in the opening games of the 2021/22 Ligue 1 Uber Eats campaign.
However, despite Kovac being replaced during the winter break by Philippe Clement, Monaco's recent upturn in fortunes has continued with the principality outfit having recorded four wins and just one defeat — against league leaders Paris Saint-Germain — in their last six top-flight outings.
Key to that has been a watertight defence, which has kept successive clean sheets against Nantes and Clermont this year — and three in their last five league matches — to provide a solid platform for succes, and Nübel has more than played his part.
WATCH: Monaco keep out Clermont
"I haven't really changed my way of working. I needed to adapt to this new life, a new country, a new league. The first games weren't at the level I had hoped, but I had to stay calm and roll up my sleeves," said the 25-year-old.
"That's what I did. Week after week I improved, and I feel a lot better now. Today, I have confidence in myself, I'm putting in some good performances, and I'm feeling good about things."
Defenders Benoît Badiashile and Djibril Sidibé miss the game through injury, though it will be at the opposite end where Clement may have the most concerns given the team have failed to score in five of their last six Ligue 1 away games.
Wissam ben Yedder, who came off the bench to take his tally to 12 league goals with a brace in last weekend's 4-0 home win over Clermont, could start and will likely captain the side; Montpellier, however, will be missing their usual captain, Téji Savanier, as he starts a three-game ban for the red card he received in the 1-0 defeat at Troyes in midweek.
WATCH: Montpellier slip up at Troyes
"He knows full well that he is penalising us. He might not sleep well, but we need him to rest because when he comes back, he can do us a lot of good. We're without our technical leader and our captain, that's always problematic," said fellow midfielder Jordan Ferri, who isn't concerned about the team's dip in form — no points from two 2022 league games — which has seen them slide to ninth.
"Monaco is only the third game of the second part of the season, there's nothing to panic about. We have to stay united, calm and confident in what we have achieved up to now. We have to stop this downward spiral as soon as possile, because despite what we might say, it could lead to doubt and put us in difficulty."
After missing the trip to Troyes following a positive COVID-19 test, coach Olivier Dall'Oglio may again have to watch from home, and in addition to Savanier, he is also without Ambroise Oyongo (AFCON), and the injured Maxime Estève, while Pedro Mendes remains short of match fitness following his ACL injury.
Montpellier: Omlin; Souquet, Cozza, Sakho, Ristic; Ferri, Chotard; Mollet, Wahi, Mavididi; Germain
Monaco: Nübel; Aguilar, Disasi, Maripan; Jean Lucas, Tchouaméni; Martins, Diop, Caio Henrique, Jakobs (or Ben Yedder); Volland