AS Monaco will be hoping to keep up the pace with league leaders LOSC Lille when they lock horns with Olympique Lyon at Stade Louis II this weekend in Ligue 1.

As we enter the final stages of the 2020/21 Ligue 1 campaign, the title race is far from decided with three teams still very much in the hunt for the crown. One of those teams will be in action on Sunday night as AS Monaco play hosts to Olympique Lyon hoping to stay in touch with those above them in the standings.

Following their 1-0 win over Angers last time out, Monaco are currently third in the table, five points behind leaders Lille and four below second-placed Paris Saint-Germain. With still four games left to be played including the one on Sunday, Niko Kovac’s side are still pretty much in contention for the title as long as they keep winning, while hoping for the ones above them to slip up.

At the same time, the Principality outfit must also be watchful of Olympique Lyon breathing down their neck from the fourth place. While Les Gones’ 3-2 defeat last week against Lille all but ended their hopes of the title, the third-place finish and in turn a berth in the UEFA Champions League, is very much a possibility for them, given as they are just four points shy of their Sunday’s opponents.

The reverse fixture, played in October last year, ended in a thumping 4-1 win over Lyon. However, Monaco got the better of them in the French Cup quarter-final last month, winning 2-0. Ahead of their latest meeting, which will have major repercussions at the top end of the table, The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

AS Monaco

The Monaco squad has been ravaged by injuries and coronavirus of late but Niko Kovac has welcomed a few players back into the fold as Chrislain Matsima and Eliot Matazo are in the squad called up for the game against Lyon. However, the hosts will be without Stevan Jovetic, Krepin Diatta and Sofiane Diop due to injuries while Aleksandr Golovin and Gelson Martins miss out due to coronavirus.

Niko Kovac has largely preferred to set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in the second half of the campaign, although there have been games when he has opted for a 4-2-3-1 or even a three-man backline. On Sunday though, the former Bayern Munich boss is likely to stick with the 4-4-2 given that it worked a treat against Lyon in the cup game last month.

Benjamin Lecomte ought to be the man in goal for the home team where he will be shielded by the centre-back partnership of Guillermo Maripan and Benoit Badiashile. Flanking the duo ought to be Djibril Sidibe and Caio Henrique, although Fode Ballo-Toure is also an option for Kovac to consider for the left-back slot, although he is likely to slot in as the left-midfielder from where he will push forward and look to hit in crosses into the box.

On the right-side of the midfield four, Ruben Aguilar could get the nod in order to keep the threat posed by someone like Maxwel Cornet in check. Aurelien Tchouameni should hold the fort down in the centre of the park with support coming from Youssouf Fofana, although Cesc Fabregas could be an option for the manager if he craved more creativity from the centre.

Up top, there is no looking past the top two goalscorers for Monaco this season in Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland, although the latter is likely to drop deep at times and play off the Monaco captain.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Lecomte; Sidibe, Maripan, Badiashile, Henrique; Aguilar, Fofana, Tchouameni, Ballo-Toure; Volland, Ben Yedder

Olympique Lyon

Lyon have been handed a bitter blow ahead of their trip to Stade Louis II as Islam Slimani has been ruled out with an injury while Melvin Bard is also set to miss out due to fitness issues. Sinaly Diomande, though, is back in contention after serving out his one-match ban against Lille. In addition, Jason Denayer has also been included in the squad despite Rudi Garcia claiming that the centre-back wouldn’t be ready on the eve of the game.

Lyon set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in last game against Lille and may continue in a similar setup despite having played with a three-man defensive line against Monaco in the Cup quarter-final last month. In goal, there is no looking past the figure of Anthony Lopes while Leo Dubois should slot in at right-back, having made his return from injury in the previous contest.

With Bard ruled out, Maxwel Cornet should occupy the left-back role. The returning Diomande ought to start at the heart of the defence alongside Marcelo, who will be hoping to put behind his disaster-class in the previous game. Mattia De Sciglio will drop out after playing as a makeshift centre-back against Lille.

Tiago Mendes and the impressive Maxence Caqueret ought to form the midfield double pivot for the visitors, with the former focused on breaking up play while the latter will be the workhorse in the centre. Lucas Paqueta has been preferred as the No. 10 by Garcia and that is unlikely to change when they visit Monaco this weekend.

With Slimani ruled out, Tino Kadewere should slot in as the lone centre-forward who will have support from the wide duo of Karl Toko Ekambi and club captain Memphis Depay with the latter being the biggest threat to the hosts’ defence.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lopes; Dubois, Marcelo, Diomande, De Sciglio; Caqueret, Mendes; Toko Ekambi, Paqueta, Depay; Kadewere

Key Stats

  • None of the last nine Ligue 1 encounters between the two teams have ended in a draw, with Lyon winning six of those while Monaco came out on top thrice. The last stalemate between the two sides came in October 2015.
  • AS Monaco have lost just one of their last 19 Ligue 1 games (W15 D3) – a 1-0 defeat to Strasbourg in March.
  • Lyon, meanwhile, have managed to pick up just two victories from their last six league matches (D2 L2).
  • Monaco have managed to accumulate 38 points at home in Ligue 1 this term (W11 D5 L1) – at least four more than any other team in the competition. They have not lost any of their last nine matches at home in the competition (W6 D3).
  • Lyon are unbeaten in their previous 15 away games in Ligue 1 (W9 D6), the longest such current run in the competition.

Player to Watch

Wissam Ben Yedder

With eighteen goals and six assists from 33 Ligue 1 outings, the 30-year-old Ben Yedder has been the standout player for AS Monaco this season, leading the team from the front. The French international has found the back of the net five times in his last four Ligue 1 outings, including the match-winning goal against SCO Angers last time out.

Given what’s at stake in this encounter, Kovac is expected to start with his captain at the top, despite the impact he has made coming on as a substitute. How Monaco fare on the night will hinge on whether Ben Yedder is able to deliver the goods in front of goal or not.

Prediction

AS Monaco 2-1 Olympique Lyon

Both teams have immense attacking quality but as was seen in the last game against Lille, Lyon have shown a tendency to crumble in key moments, which could come to haunt them again on Sunday night. Monaco have a terrific record at home this term and have shown that they can produce solid, disciplined performances, having managed four clean sheets in a row in their last four league games at Stade Louis II.

And even though that run could be breached, Niko Kovac’s men should have enough in the tank to see out a crucial victory that will not only strengthen their grip on third place but also keep them in touch with the top two.

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