Enticing battle of the Portuguese coaches
By D. Crossan
Nantes' new coach Miguel Cardoso gets to pit his wits against fellow Portuguese Leonardo Jardim as 2017 champions Monaco visit Stade de la Beaujoire on the opening Saturday of the Ligue 1 Conforama season.
Monaco suffered a chastening 4-0 reverse to Ligue 1 Conforama champions Paris Saint-Germain in the Trophée des Champions in China last Saturday and Jardim's side will be far from full strength as the Principality club begin their quest for a podium finish at a Nantes that promise to be more of an attacking threat under their new management.
Falcao: Starter or sub?
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Jardim said: "Not all of our international players who played at the World Cup are ready. Youri Tielemans is available, we'll see whether Radamel Falcao is able to start the game or whether he'll come on as a substitute. Danijel Subasic and Djibril Sidibé aren't ready yet. Kamil Glik is not ready either and he'll need time to get back into shape."
It has been another busy transfer window for Monaco with many incomings and outgoings. Among those to have departed during the summer were Thomas Lemar, Fabinho and Joao Moutinho, all mainstays of the 2017 title success and the charge to the Champions League semi-finals the same season.
The biggest of the close-season signings was Alexsandr Golovin, who starred for Russia at the World Cup in his home country. Unfortunately for the attacking midfielder and Jardim, Golovin hurt his ankle in training on Wednesday and is going to absent for an unspecified duration.
Jardim knew the transfer activity would occur, fitting in with the Monaco project. The 44-year-old commented: "We're used to keeping six or seven players as a base. They have experienced and around them we introduce young players. August looks likely to be difficult for us but little by little everybody will get up to speed. We'll send out a competitive team at Nantes. They play good football and I know their coach well. They are compact defensively."
Nantes bolstered in attack
Nantes finished ninth last season under Claudio Ranieri despite only scoring 36 goals. Having built a reputation for attacking football at Rio Ave, Cardoso will attempt to address that deficiency and the club's transfer dealings have certainly added to the goal threat of a side overly reliant on Emiliano Sala last term.
Gabriel Boschilia has joined on loan from Monaco and following a long-term injury will look to recapture his fabled set-piece prowess - he scored a gem of a free-kick for Monaco in a 1-0 win at Nantes two seasons ago. Under an agreement between the two clubs, the Brazilian will not be available on Saturday.
Waris and Miazga boost Les Canaris
Ghanaian forward Maejeed Waris could feature after joining on loan from Porto with an option to buy. Not used too much in Portugal by former Nantes boss Sergio Conceicao, Waris should get far more match time at the Beaujoire. The former Valenciennes and Lorient goalscorer said "The Porto coach knew I wanted to leave. I knew about Nantes from my time at Lorient. I asked a few people what they thought of Nantes and that comforted me in my decision as they said it was the best club for me."
American defender Matt Miazga has joined on loan from Chelsea with an option to buy, following in the footsteps of fellow USA international Alejandro Bedoya. Miazga said: "Several clubs came in for me and Nantes grabbed my attention. I heard a lot of good things about Nantes before joining. I spoke to Alejandro Bedoya and he said good things about his time here."
Nantes: Tatarusanu – Kwateng, Djidji, Diego Carlos, Lima – Ab.Touré, Moutoussamy – L.Evangelista, Rongier (cap.), A.Dabo – K.Coulibaly
Monaco: Benaglio – Pierre-Gabriel, Glik (cap.), Jemerson, Serrano – Tielemans, Aholou, S.Diop – Grandsir, Jovetic, R.Lopes