PARIS: Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim has called on his players to put their Champions League disappointment out of their minds and take a big step towards securing the French title when they go to Nancy on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
The principality side look set to bow out of the Champions League in the semifinals after losing 2-0 at home to a superior Juventus at the Stade Louis II in Wednesday’s first leg.
Only two sides have ever recovered from losing the first leg at home to win a Champions League tie, but that is what Monaco have to do now in the return next Tuesday.
Things are rather more straightforward in Ligue 1, where Monaco sit three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain and six ahead of Nice with a game in hand on their two pursuers.
Given their better goal difference, two wins from their last four matches should suffice for Monaco to secure a first French championship since 2000.
“The best thing to do now is think about Nancy. A win there would give us a great chance to win the league,” said Portuguese coach Jardim.
“We have an advantage in the league but nothing is won yet so my message to the players is to go out and win the next match. It is not true that PSG or Nice are out of it.”
It has already been a memorable season for Monaco, who is the first French club to reach the last four of Europe’s elite competition in seven years. But the league has always been the main priority.
“Our run in the Champions League is something extraordinary. We have to be proud of it. It is greater than winning a Cup,” added Jardim.
“The players need 72 hours to recuperate, which they don’t have to prepare for Nancy. As always we will send out the most competitive team we can.”
Monaco won 6-0 at home to Nancy earlier in the season and it is hard to see them slipping up at the Stade Marcel-Picot against opponents who lie in the relegation zone, even if marauding left-back Benjamin Mendy will miss the game with the hamstring problem that also ruled him out in midweek.
Draxler: ‘Bounce back’
PSG need Monaco to slip up after a 3-1 defeat away to Nice last weekend reduced their prospects of winning a fifth consecutive title.
Unai Emery’s men entertain bottom side Bastia at the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon and will do so without both Thiago Motta and Angel Di Maria after they were sent off in Nice.
“It’s not easy starting the week after a loss, but we are professionals and we need to keep working to bounce back, to get back to our best and produce the best possible performance against Bastia this Saturday,” PSG’s Germany star Julian Draxler told the club’s website.
Beating PSG kept alive Nice’s chances of leapfrogging the capital side and snatching automatic Champions League qualification.
However, Nice—whose leading scorer Mario Balotelli was at the Stade Louis II for Monaco’s clash with Juventus — are not likely to have it easy this weekend as they travel to face Europa League chasers Marseille at the Velodrome.
Nice have not lost in 12 games but Marseille are one of four sides fighting it out for two Europa League places.
Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux play each other on Friday while Lyon, currently fourth, must rouse themselves for a home clash with Nantes after a 4-1 defeat away to Ajax in their Europa League semifinals first leg all but ended their dreams of winning that competition.