Daunting PSG test for Henry's beleaguered Monaco
By A. Scott
Thierry Henry is in dire need of a break but his depleted AS Monaco side face a daunting task on Sunday as they entertain the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade Louis II.
AS Monaco - Paris Saint-Germain
Henry is still looking for his first win after five games in charge of the principality club, including a chastening 4-0 home hammering at the hands of Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
The France legend watched on helpless from the touchline as Monaco slumped to their heaviest ever home loss in Europe, a defeat that ended their chances of reaching the last 16. Meanwhile, Monaco have taken just one point from his three Ligue 1 Conforama games in charge and ended last weekend in 19th place in the table, only off the bottom thanks to a better goal difference than EA Guingamp.
There is still time for Monaco to turn it around, but it is worth wondering if Henry fully realised what he was letting himself in for when he was appointed last month. The 2017 champions have now gone 15 games without a win since beating FC Nantes 3-1 on the opening weekend of the season - an extraordinary turnaround for a club who won 16 straight Ligue 1 games between February and August last year.
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"Thierry Henry is having a hard start, it's a difficult situation," said his former France teammate Didier Deschamps, who also began his coaching career at the Stade Louis II, going on to win the Coupe de la Ligue and take the team to a Champions League final. "He is just starting out but he has the capacity to become a very good coach."
Henry's hopes of turning things around by the Mediterranean Sea are not helped by the injury crisis affecting his team just now. On Tuesday, Polish centre-back Kamil Glik - the only Monaco player to have played every minute in the league this season - came off late on with a groin injury and is set for a spell on the sidelines.
Glik joins a lengthy queue to the treatment room which means Monaco could be missing as many as 12 players for the visit of Paris. Andrea Raggi and Youri Tielemans are suspended, while Aleksandr Golovin, Stevan Jovetic, Rony Lopes and Pietro Pellegri are just some of the players struggling with injuries.
"Yes and no," said Henry when asked after the Club Brugge defeat if he thought the job would be so difficult. "You always try to have an impact straight after arriving. There are so many injuries. Two weeks is not a long time to make changes. We will try to be positive."
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The former Arsenal striker added: "We need to find a solution to try to stop Paris. We need to keep moving forward."
Lucky 13 for Paris?
Nobody has been able to stop Paris domestically, however. That includes Monaco, whose season began with a 4-0 defeat to the capital club in the Trophée des Champions in China in August. Thomas Tuchel's side are enjoying a record-breaking start to the campaign with 12 wins out of 12 seeing them come into the weekend already 11 points clear at the summit.
They have not been getting things all their own way in Europe, though, and a 1-1 draw away to Napoli on Tuesday left their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stage still in the balance. Unable to hold onto the lead given to them by Juán Bernat late in the first half, Paris are still third in their group with two games left.
Despite that, the manner of their performance for large spells in Italy would have pleased Tuchel, and if the likes of Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé find form here, Monaco could be in for a torrid evening.
Paris also have a superb recent record against the principality club, winning their last seven meetings in all competitions and scoring 27 goals in the process. They have already scored 41 goals in their opening 12 league outings this season, and are boosted this weekend by the return of centre-back Presnel Kimpembe after a three-game domestic ban.
Monaco: Benaglio; Sidibé, Henrichs, Jemerson, Barreca; Aït-Bennasser, Pelé, Chadli; Grandsir, Falcao, Diop
Paris SG: Areola; Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Kimpember; Meunier, Verratti, Rabiot, Bernat; Mbappé, Cavani, Neymar