AS Monaco are set to do battle with fourth-division upstarts Rumilly for a place in the Coupe de France final against Paris Saint-Germain, coach Niko Kovac with a chance to extend his Cup pedigree into French football.
Coupe de France semi-finals
Parc des Spots, Annecy
Rumilly Vallières (D4) - AS Monaco
- Kick-off at 20:15 GMT
Niko Kovac has fashioned AS Monaco into a formidable force in Ligue 1 Uber Eats this season, and while his side may be out of the running for the title, they are on track for a Champions League finish - either through the league or through the Croatian coach's specialty - the cup.
Kovac: 'Respect this opponent'
A winner of the DFB Pokal at the helm of Eintracht Frankfurt (2018) and Bayern Munich (2019), Kovac will be out to repeat the feat in France as he fields an attacking 3-2-4-1 formation - while fully aware that complacency can be deadly in such David-and-Goliath situations - at Annecy's Parc des Sports on Thursday night.
"The danger still exists. Everyone is expecting AS Monaco to win. The danger is very much there. We have to respect the opponent even if they are from a lower division -because they work hard day in and day out. It is a dream for them to play for a place in a Cup final in the biggest stadium in France," said the wily Monaco boss. "This match will be difficult against an opponent who will give 100%. If we play at 50% or 90%, we could lose the game. We must therefore respect this opponent and give everything. The first goal is the next game. It’s not Rennes or Lens [Monaco's remaining Ligue 1 Uber Eats fixtures], but this next game is the most important."
Amghar: 'The most detailed preparation possible'
Meanwhile Rumilly - whose fourth-division amateur league season has been cancelled due to COVID - have made an incredible run, notably stunning Toulouse in the quarters despite the absence of regular competition, and coach Fatsah Amghar isn't about to stop dreaming of a place in the final.
"The challenge is, frankly, really enormous... and I remain realistic. We are an amateur club and Monaco are one of the biggest clubs in the country. But I believe in our chance to qualify," said the 45-year-old. "I have put in place the most detailed preparation possible by dissecting at least four of Monaco's matches. We are not going to change our philosophy of play; it would be suicidal to upset our reference points. We have creative elements at the back and fast strikers. These are our strengths."
The winner will face holders Paris Saint-Germain at the showpiece final at the Stade de France on Wednesday 19 May.
Rumilly Vallières: Delaunay; Boinali, Ribeiro, Lévêque, Michaud; Gay, Peuget (c), Guillaud, Cottin; Liongo Aduma, Moke Nkedi
AS Monaco: Majecki; Sidibé, Disasi, Badiashile; Tchouaméni, Fofana; Aguilar, Fabregas, Volland, Ballo-Touré; Ben Yedder (c)