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Monaco look to bounce back against derby rivals Nice

Monaco look to bounce back against derby rivals Nice

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Publish on 02/24 at 11:14 - A. SCOTT

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AS Monaco and OGC Nice come into Sunday’s Côte d’Azur derby at the Stade Louis II in fine form domestically but the principality club are hoping to avoid a hangover after their agonising exit from the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

AS Monaco – OGC Nice Sunday at 1705 CET (1605 GMT)

>> LIVE SCORING, STATS AND COMMENTARY

Monaco  are stinging after their latest painful elimination from a Cup competition put paid to their dreams of European glory this season. Philippe Clément’s team squandered a 3-2 lead from the first leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off tie against Bayer 04 Leverkusen as they lost by the same score in the return in the principality on Thursday. That meant a penalty shoot-out, in which a miss by Eliot Matazo ultimately proved decisive.

It is Monaco’s second exit from a knockout competition on penalties in 2023 after they went out of the Coupe de France at the first hurdle in a shoot-out to second-tier Rodez. Their supporters will not have forgotten their exit from last season’s Coupe de France to Nantes on penalties in the semi-finals or defeats in extra time in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League in each of the last two campaigns. This latest setback means it is likely to be another season without silverware for the club.

Watch: Monaco win at Brest in Round 24

That is unless they can do something very special in the league, in which their recent form has been outstanding. The main focus now will be on securing a top-three finish and Champions League qualification, after Monaco ended last weekend in third place, seven points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, two points behind Olympique de Marseille in second, and one above RC Lens in fourth.

Outstanding league form

“Over the last four months we have experienced some great moments but also some big disappointments, but I have never been so proud of the players,” said Clément after the Leverkusen defeat. “We can be disappointed, but tomorrow we need to pick ourselves up again and look forward.”

The eight-time champions have been in outstanding league form since the season restarted following the World Cup. Monaco are unbeaten in nine, with seven wins and two draws in that time. They have won their last four on the bounce. Following a slow start to the season they have also picked up more points than any other team since the beginning of September.

“I don’t want to think about where we are in the table just now. Our objective is to remain focused and just keep doing what we have been doing over the last few months,” Clément said. "We want to keep our good run going and aim as high as possible."

Monaco’s league record since the start of September reads 14 wins, three draws and two defeats in 19 games. That run began with a 1-0 victory in Nice in the first derby of the season, when Breel Embolo scored the only goal at the Allianz Riviera.

Praise for Schmeichel

Nice  were struggling themselves at that point but their turnaround since Didier Digard replaced Lucien Favre as coach last month has been extraordinary. In seven games under their interim boss, Les Aiglons have won five and drawn two. They have conceded just two goals, with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel keeping five clean sheets including in last week’s 0-0 draw at home to Stade de Reims.

“He is performing really well,” said Digard of the Danish goalkeeper. “But we are not surprised. We were maybe more surprised when he was not performing as well. His real level is that at which he is performing just now.”

Watch: Nice and Reims share spoils

The INEOS-backed club were in the bottom half when Favre departed, and lay 12 points adrift of the European places. Their revival meant they ended last weekend in eighth, only five points behind Stade Rennais in fifth. They also have a Europa Conference League last-16 tie to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Youcef Atal and back-up goalkeeper Marcin Bułka have both been working their way back to fitness for Nice. Nicolas Pépé has been recovering from a knee injury but on-loan Fulham full-back Joe Bryan has a calf problem. Vanderson and Guillermo Maripán have been in the treatment room for Monaco. Rubén Águilar was also absent against Leverkusen, meaning Chrislain Matsima started that game at right-back.

Possible teams

Monaco: Nübel; Águilar, Disasi, Sarr, Caio Henrique; Martins, Fofana, Camara, Golovin; Ben Yedder, Embolo

Nice: Schmeichel; Lotomba, Todibo, Dante (c), Bard; Boudaoui, Thuram, Ramsey; Laborde, Moffi, Diop

>> ROUND 25 FIXTURES/RESULTS



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