In the opening week of the 2018/19 Champions League campaign, AS Monaco will host Diego Simeone's Atlético Madrid side in what promises to be an intriguing battle.
These two great clubs will play each other for the first time on Tuesday at Monaco's Stade Louis II. With both teams coming into this game on the back of a poor start to their respective domestic leagues, it's difficult to determine who will come out on top.
However, with a tough test away to Borussia Dortmund in their next Champions League game, Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim will be hoping to relieve some pressure by getting a result against Atlético Madrid. Comparatively, Simeone's side have a home tie against Club Brugge who, on paper, represent the weakest team in Group A.
Atlético Madrid go into this fixture with four players currently struggling with injuries. French left-back Lucas Hernández, who impressed during France's World Cup triumph, is struggling with a gastric problem and is a doubt for Tuesday's Champions League opener. Other injuries include Vitolo (knee), new signing Santiago Arias (fractured rib) and Croatian centre-forward Nikola Kalinic who is struggling with an ankle injury.
AS Monaco and Jardim have a few more selection headaches. Croatian World Cup hero Danijel Subašić has missed all of Monaco's first five games as he struggles to regain match fitness. Suffering from the same problem is summer signing Alexsandr Golovin, who impressed for Russia but seemed to run himself into the ground. Other injury concerns include Rony Lopes (hamstring), Pietro Pellegri (wound) and Andrea Raggi who is suffering with an illness.
AS Monaco (4-1-4-1): Benaglio, Sidibé, Glik, Jemerson, Henrichs, Bennasser, Chadli, Tielemans, Ahoulu, Grandsir, Falcao
Atlético Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak, Juanfran, Godín, Giménez, Filipe Luis, Correa, Koke, Saúl, Lemar, Costa, Griezmann
Diego Costa vs Kamil Glik
On his day, Diego Costa can prove to be the most difficult centre-forward to handle in the world. We have seen countless performances for both Chelsea and Atlético Madrid where he has almost single-handedly bullied opposition defences and won games. The most recent instance of this was against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, when Simeone's side won 4-2 thanks to a Diego Costa brace.
The Spaniard's first goal highlighted all his key attributes, as he showed the tenacity to chase after a loose ball, the strength to bully Varane and Ramos, before smashing an unstoppable shot beyond the despairing Keylor Navas.
Kamil Glik, the more physical and experienced of Monaco's two centre-backs, is likely to be tasked with keeping Diego Costa quiet on Tuesday. Glik will need to show his strength to ensure that Costa finds it difficult to hold the ball up for Atlético Madrid.
If the Polish centre-back can frustrate Spain's star striker, there's every chance that Costa's temper will flare up as we have seen so many times in the past. Whoever comes out on top in this battle is likely to be on the winning side.
Youri Tielemans vs Saúl
Saúl has started the season in red-hot form, reflected by his goals against England and Croatia in Spain's opening Nations League matches. The Spanish midfielder is an all-action type of player but will be tasked with providing a goal threat from midfield for Simeone's side, with Koke less able to play this role. If Saúl isn't dealt with effectively by Monaco, he will pop up in dangerous positions all game and cause serious problems for Jardim's team. Marking him tightly might be key to stunting Atlético's attack.
Saúl's opposing midfielder will likely be Youri Tielemans, who has started the season in a better manner than the previous campaign, where he was voted as one of the biggest flops in the first half of the season by France Football. The Belgian international has been a hot commodity in Europe for a couple of years now, having been touted as one of the best young prospects in world football at Anderlecht.
Tielemans has the ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and dominate the midfield, which is exactly what Jardim will need if his side are to take three points off Atlético Madrid.
With both side going into this game in surprisingly poor form, this is a tough match to call. The bookies have Atlético Madrid as strong favourites to win and, whilst I don't think it will be as easy as they are suggesting, I do think they'll sneak a win as they so often do under Simeone. Monaco are without some key players, such as Subašić and Golovin, and this will make it an even more difficult task for them.
If Monaco are to get anything from this game, they will have to improve on their defensive form, which has seen them concede seven goals in five games thus far. Whilst Falcao does have the goal-scoring nouse to trouble Atlético's defence, a partnership of Godín and Giménez might prove to be insurmountable.
Predicted Scorline: AS Monaco 0-1 Atlético Madrid