As swashbuckling Monaco qualify for the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2004, UEFA.com’s David Crossan examines why the Ligue 1 leaders’ European adventure could extend all the way to the final in Cardiff on 3 June.
Mbappé will cause any defender sleepless nights. Familiarity doesn’t seem to make life any easier as the 18-year-old speedster managed to score in the second leg against both Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.
The newly-capped French international is taking everything in his stride on and off the pitch. He laughed when I put it to him that he was making the UEFA Champions League look easy. With five goals in four starts, the fact is he is.
“All we have to fear is fear itself”
It is one thing to talk about attacking football being in your “DNA” as Leonardo Jardim did ahead of the return legs of the round of 16 and the quarter-finals, it is quite something else for the players to be able to play in your habitual style in games of such magnitude.
To ally insouciance with application is a rare gift and Monaco have it. Never has Franklin D Roosevelt’s famous quote felt more apposite in football terms.
Players don’t have to get along to cohere on the field but it certainly helps. “We’re a bunch of mates who manage to enjoy ourselves out on the pitch,” Mbappé told me. Monaco have a close-knit group and the players spend much time together away from the training ground.
In age terms the squad is split between those under 24 and the thirty-somethings. At some clubs that could be a problem yet at Monaco the elder statesmen seem to feed off the energy of the youngsters, joining in the training ground joshing and gently mocking Mbappé for his alleged resemblance to a character in the Rugrats cartoon.
Pace, nous and goals
As well as the speed of Mbappé and Benjamin Mendy, who rampages forward from left-back, Monaco possess craft in midfield with Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar. After laying on two goals on Wednesday, Lemar has five assists in the knockout phase.
Silva didn’t have the greatest night with the ball at his feet but compensated for that by covering more ground than any other player on the park. Add into the mix a forward of Radamel Falcao’s sature and record and you have the ingredients for success.
… and the case against
In the semi-finals Monaco will come up against a superior class of opposition with experience of the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League. There are concerns that Monaco are starting to become fatigued, having already played 54 matches in all competitions this season. Moreover, Monaco have conceded in all but one UEFA Champions League game this season.