first team / Monaco - OL D-1

It’s not a holiday!

Published on the 22 April 2006 à 10:00 by R.B

At the end of January there were 22 points separating Monaco and Lyon. 11 matches later, that difference has blown out to 32. This Sunday, the two sides finally meet after the Week 24 game was postponed due to an unplayable pitch.

The principality club, transformed during the January Mercato has completely fluffed its season. No titles, not even close... it’s a long time since that happened on the Côte d’Azur. They have much left to play for in the 2005-06 season that will be remembered for the resignation of Didier Deschamps. On paper, however, the quality of this side is not in question, but it has been all too often handicapped by injuries (Roma, Squillaci, Vieri, Chevanton, Gerard…). They have four games left to save their pride, three at home. And you can bet the Monégasques will indeed be looking to upset the champions to make up for their disappointing run. Meriem is out for at least six months (knee ligaments) while Chevanton and Vieri are doubtful.

Les Lyonnais enchanted the Parc des Princes last Sunday en route to their 12 away win of the season and the five times champions of France don’t want to stop there. There are more records on offer... the chance to leave an indelible mark on French football… the pleasure of giving and taking… personal goals yet to be achieved. Deprived of the the services of the maestro Juninho, suspended, the Olympiens are pressure free. Always strong, focused and often brilliant when the pressure was on, the champions showed against PSG that despite the absence of pressure, their professionalism still shine through. There are only two away games left in which to maintain a season’s invincibility on the road, something that nobody has achieved in the history of the French league.

Monaco this Sunday? “It will be a tough match but we’ll be going there to play our own game. I’ll be doubly motivated because I’ve never won in the principality.” OL captain Claudio Caçapa also confirmed: “the team is extremely motivated for these final four matches… the season isn’t over yet.” If Claudio has never won at Monaco, there are only two in the squad that have: Coupet and Govou; Sid was replaced in the 72nd minute by Steve Marlet who scored a few minutes later on 3 November 2000 as Lyon ran out 2-0 winners (Laigle and Marlet). As for Monaco, there isn’t a single player left at the club that played that day. Will Gérard Houllier be tempted to give certain players a chance to get a rare run in the first team? Juninho will have to be replaced while Ben Arfa and Benzema will play with the reserves in the Gambardella Cup…

Nobody has forgotten last season’s physical battle, or a rare intensity, that the hosts were within a whisker of winning. Unfortunately for them, the head of Clément stole away what would have been a dramatic win in the 95th minute. Instead of closing to within five points of the league leaders, Deschamps’ men basically kissed goodbye to their chances of the title. This season, there aren’t eight points separating the two sides 12 weeks from the end, but 32, just 360 minutes from the end. The numbers say it all! But that’s not to say that Sunday’s match will be one-sided or without interest, even if for the Lyon fans, eyes are already turned towards the derby…
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