Monaco remains atop Ligue 1 and alive in the Champions League and French Cup; can its young stars balance the late-season congestion?
Monaco is still atop Ligue 1 after edging past Angers 1-0 on Friday, much to the relief of coach Leonardo Jardim, who rested Tomas Lemar, Djibril Sidibé and Kylian Mbappé with the Champions League quarterfinals on the horizon.
Monaco was second best for much of the game, which was decided by Radamel Falcao’s winning goal on the hour mark in what was his first appearance after six matches out. Angers created more chances, but had one of those nights where it couldn't finish. Monaco is usually so free-scoring, but this was a hard-fought victory that gives conviction to its title hopes. Sometimes champion sides need to win ugly.
But the fixtures are piling up: Borussia Dortmund is the Champions League opponent this week, followed by Dijon, Lyon away and then Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup semifinal. Monaco has played 51 matches already this season, a campaign that began on July 27 with its Champions League qualifiers, and it still has a league match against Saint-Etienne, postponed from last weekend, that has yet to be rescheduled.
Fans may remember 2004 with dread; that season, the team coached by Didier Deschamps was fighting on three fronts for titles. It lost a French Cup quarterfinal to second division Chateauroux, let a 10-point lead in January slip in Ligue 1 to end up in third place and lost that season’s Champions League final to FC Porto.
Monaco remains three points ahead of PSG in the title run-in and this week is the next big test for Jardim’s young talents, who have already eliminated Tottenham and Manchester City from the Champions League this season. Can they do the same to Dortmund, with so much else on the way?