Trophée des Champions: Rivalry resumes in Tangier
By S. Willis
Trophée des Champions: Rivalry resumes in Tangier Ligue 1 Conforama champions AS Monaco take on Coupe de France winners Paris Saint-Germain in the season curtain-raiser in Tanger, Morocco on Saturday, hoping to deny the capital club a fifth-straight
Grand Stade de Tanger, Morocco
AS Monaco - Paris Saint-Germain
Monaco managed to break Paris Saint-Germain's dominance in Ligue 1 Conforama last season, and now the question is whether Leonardo Jardim's side can brush off a summer filled with big-name departures and transfer speculation over stars like Kylian Mbappé, Thomas Lemar and Fabinho and set the tone for another season of hegemony-breaking performances.
Jardim: 'The ambition of winning'
Indeed, Paris Saint-Germain have taken the last four Trophée des Champions titles, and Jardim, doubtless aware of the psychological advantage of winning the season's first title, is tipped to field a full-strength line-up at the Grand Stade in Tangier just a week before the beginning of the 2017-18 Ligue 1 Conforama campaign.
"We'll find a competitive side to go out there and represent Monaco well, as we have done for the past three years," said the ASM boss who, prompted by the midfield departures of Tiémoué Bakayoko and Bernardo Silva, could give Portuguese youngster Rony Lopes - back from a successful loan spell at LOSC - his first start for the club he signed for back in 2015. "We'll start the match as reigning league champions, but Monaco can never be considered to be favourites. We have the ambition of winning, of course - it's a final and you either win or lose."
Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery, on the other hand, has seen few comings and goings in his squad over the summer, and it should be a fairly familiar starting XI that he sends out to deal with last season' bugbear side. However, superstar signing Dani Alves will more than likely make his first competitive start for the capital club at right-back, with Alphonse Areola given the nod between the sticks.
Emery: 'No favourite'
"We want to start the season with a huge match," the Spaniard, who will likely start Portuguese forward Goncalo Guedes on the left of attack given Angel Di Maria's suspension and Julian Draxler's not yet having resumed training following his captaining Germany to Confederations Cup gold in June. "All our fans are waiting for this match. I have faith in my players, who will give everything to beat the side who won the league last season."
Despite his ambition, Emery was keen to follow Jardim's lead in looking to shake off the favourites tag.
"This is a match between last season's two best teams and it will be very tight. There is no favourite; for me, it's 50-50. We have a lot of drive and a strong desire to attack and win. It will be a great match."
AS Monaco: Subasic; Sidibé, Glik, Jemerson, Kongolo; R. Lopes, Tielemans, Fabinho, Lemar; Falcao, Mbappé
Paris Saint-Germain: Areola; Daniel Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Kurzawa; Verratti, Thiago Motta, Rabiot; Guedes, Cavani, Pastore