AS Monaco sit pretty at the top of group E as we approach the second round of fixtures, following a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at the Wembley Stadium. The other game of the group saw Bayer Leverkusen rush to a 2-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes, only for CSKA Moscow to stage a two-minute comeback, and force a 2-2 draw at the BayArena.
The French now a face a visit from the Germans, in a group that is widely regarded as the least predictable in the tournament, this season.
Radamel Falcao will be the biggest name missing for this tie, after the Colombian was involved in a gruesome collision with Yoan Cardinale, against OGC Nice, that saw him rushed to the hospital at halftime with a suspected concussion.
Prior to the 4 – 0 loss at the Allianz Riviera, Leonardo Jardim’s men sat top of Ligue 1, enjoying an explosive start to the new season, with four wins and a draw in their opening five games. They’ve been playing some fantastic football this season and, after all the years of spending, finally look like a team ready to mount a solid challenge for the Ligue 1 title, and possibly a run to the quarterfinals in the Champions League.
They certainly showed some of that slick football against Tottenham Hotspur who, after an opening period of dominance, almost seemed to forget how to defend, and the French quickly rushed to a 2 – 0 lead inside the opening half hour. Spurs threatened at a comeback when Toby Alderweireld got one back for the home team just before the halftime whistle, but it amounted to nothing, and the visitors comfortably defended their one goal lead to see out the match at 1 – 2.
Fabinho was moved to the midfield at the end of last season, and the Brazilian has been a revelation ever since, combining excellent technique on the ball with a hard hitting tackle, to free the likes of Joao Moutinho further up the pitch. The former right back has also been in amongst the goals, and is currently the team’s top scorer this season, with three goals in five starts.
On the injury front, AS Monaco will be without the services of the aforementioned Radamel Falcao, and Nabil Dirar, who went off injured in the first five minutes against Spurs and is expected out for six weeks.
The expected lineup is:
Andrea Raggi, Kamil Glik, Jemerson, Dijbril Sidibe;
Fabinho, Tiemoue Bakayoko;
Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho, Thomas Lemar;
Bayer Leverkusen currently sit 12th in the Bundesliga table after a poor start to their domestic campaign, that started off with a loss against Borussia Monchengladbach. Javier Hernandez, who scored 26 goals in his debut campaign, has looked slightly out of sorts, and while Joel Pohjanpalo has picked up the pieces with 4 goals of his own in the league so far, the indecisiveness in front of goal has cost the German team.
Against CKSA Moscow, they could also curse their luck. Roger Schmidt’s men rushed to a 2 – 0 lead inside the opening 15 minutes and, had it not been for the world class heroics of Igor Akinfeev in goal, could’ve put daylight between them and their opponents by halftime. Instead, an outstanding effort from Alan Dzagoev halved the deficit by the 36th minute mark, and Roman Eremenko added another two minutes later to bring the game back to square one. The Germans dominated for the rest of the 90’, but could not restore their lead and had to settle for the draw.
Bayer have been in and around the Champions League spots for the past 5 seasons now and, having been handed a relatively easier draw, will be looking to make more of a mark on the competition this time around.
On the injury front, the Germans, too, are missing a few big names. Lars Bender got a knock in the 0 – 0 against Augsburg, and his fitness will be of concern before kickoff in Monaco, alongside set-piece specialist Hakan Calhanoglu, who is recovering from a shin injury. Vladlen Yurchenko and Karim Bellarabi are long term absentees.
The expected lineup is:
Benjamin Henrichs, Aleksandar Dragovic, Omer Toprak, Wendell Borges;
Julian Brandt, Kevin Kampl, Charles Angruiz, Admir Mehmedi;
Chicharito, Joel Pohjanpalo.
*Team news as at time of writing.
Clash Of The Two Formations:
It’s always an interesting encounter when a 4-4-2 meets a 4-2-3-1. Most teams in Europe have adapted to playing to different variations of the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-3-3 formations, because of the added bonus of having three men controlling the midfield. The modern game is based on quick, efficient movement on and off the ball, and a three-man midfield allows the team on the ball to, not only attack with more fluidity, but also ensure there is always one man protecting the back four from any possible counter-attacks.
The added advantage in midfield is why most teams have moved away from the two-man attack, but it is refreshing to see the formation slowly making a comeback. Leicester City played with two men up front very efficiently on their way to the miracle title win last season. Atletico Madrid have perfected the system to a level where their aggressiveness as a team more than makes up for the fewer numbers in midfield.
If executed well, a two man attack can work wonders against defences generally used to playing against the single striker, but one of the two up front has to constantly drop back to make sure the side don’t get overwhelmed in midfield when not on the ball.
Both teams will feel the absence of their injured absentees up top, but the state of the two defences means we could be in for a treat.
AS Monaco 2 – 2 Bayer Leverkusen.
The match kicks off at 7:45pm CET, on Tuesday, Sept 27.