With a lack of Premier League action this weekend, we must now turn to Europe’s other leagues for this weekend’s preview. The most attractive European matchup of the weekend has to the be clash of monetary giants in Ligue 1. Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain will host league leaders AS Monaco at the Parc des Princes, and anything but a win will see them lose even more ground in a tight title race. Both sides are coming into this match in excellent form, neither have lost a league fixture since mid-December, and with their high flying attacks, I’m sure this will be an excellent viewing spectacle.
Starting off with Monaco, the man of the season has to be Radamel Falcao. The Colombian striker had a nightmarish two seasons on loan with Manchester United, and Chelsea, and it looked as if he was finally past his prime. There were even rumors that Monaco were going to try and offload his wages by selling him to China or Major League Soccer. Thankfully, for the club, they kept El Tigre. Through 15 league appearances this season, he’s found the back of the net 12 times, and he’s even provided two assists as well. In his last three games alone, he’s scored twice, including the winner against Nancy in the French Cup. While he may not be the high flying striker that we all came to love during his days at Porto and Atlético Madrid, he has shown that he still has a nose for goal, and that he can make a difference in important matches. Don’t be surprised if he adds to his goal tally on Sunday.
While it’s easy to attribute Monaco’s success this season to Falcao’s resurgence, the Colombian is only part of the puzzle. Out of the top five European leagues (Bundesliga, EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1), Monaco have scored the most goals this season: 64. This ridiculous statistic is fueled by the variety of players that have been able to find their scoring boots this season. Other than Falcao, 13 other players have found the back of the net in league play, and all but two of them have done it on more than one occasion. This means that PSG can’t just focus their defensive efforts on silencing Falcao. Instead, they have to be aware of nearly every player on the pitch, which gives individuals more space to work with in attack. Through 21 matches, only one team (Nice) has been able to silence Monaco’s attack, and I don’t think that PSG will be able to replicate that type of performance.
At PSG, it’s finally starting to look like the players have adapted to Unai Emery’s tactical system. A slow start to the season that included a 3-1 loss to Sunday’s opponent, had fans nervous that life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be difficult, but as of late, they’re side has really started to click. Thiago Motta told reporters that the slow transition was to be expected as the players adjusted to the new training methods, transfers, and playing style. The Italian highlighted that his new manager wants to play an attacking style of play, but they’re capable of changing their tactics dependent on how their opponents line-up. As we prepare for the final quarter of the season, I think that we will see continued growth at PSG, but that slow start now sees them sit three points behind Monaco in third. A win would push them level, but a massive gap in goal differential would keep them from sitting atop the table.
One new transfer that has paid immediate dividends for Emery is Julian Draxler. The German midfielder was brought to the Parc des Princes earlier in the month after becoming somewhat of a public enemy in Wolfsburg, and he’s already showing fans why he was considered such a talent earlier in his career. A goal in his debut sparked excitement about his arrival, but a slight knock against Nantes has put his availability in doubt. If he’s unable to lineup on Sunday, Emery could call no a couple of different options to fill the void. The obvious choice would be Ángel Di Maria, but reports have swirled that the manager wasn’t too impressed with the Argentine’s performances earlier in the season. Di Maria is coming off of an inspiring two-goal performance against Bordeaux in the French Cup earlier in the week, so he could be looking to build on that against Monaco. As much as I dislike Di Maria for how he left United, it’s impossible to argue that he’s not an incredible talent, and I think that he will thrive in this high pressure situation. Will it be enough to carry PSG to a momentous win?
While I think that these two sides are very well matched, I think that Monaco have the edge. PSG have an insane amount of talent on their roster, but Monaco look like more of a team. Their world-beating attack will carry them to three points as they increase their lead atop the table. Final score: PSG 0-2 Monaco