first team / OL - Monaco D-1

Still 90 minutes left before the winter break...

Published on the 22 December 2006 à 18:00 by R.B

Monaco’s visit to Gerland this weekend will mark the end of OL’s fixtures for the calendar year. It will be OL’s 55th match against a team slowly finding its bearings after a terrible start to the season.

17 points in front on the Ligue 1 table, qualified for the round of 16 of the Champions League, the semi finals of the Coupe de la Ligue, not to mention the last 64 of the Coupe de France coming up and a fifth league title already in the trophy cabinet… OL has had an amazing second half of the year after an excellent end to the season 2005-2006. To complete the year, they just need to beat Monaco in their 28th match of the season 2006-2007 and their 55th of the year. Just one more victory, because that is the raison d’etre of this club, because that would be the perfect Christmas present for the die-hard fans. Three points before the break because it hasn’t happened in the last five seasons. The defeat to Lille in December 2005 slightly spoiled the holidays…

Monaco ? A team on the rocks; a terrible start to the season; a manager fired; a slow comeback…they have 19 points in 18 games whereas they 28 at this point last year! Things have taken a turn for the better since the replacement of Bölöni with Laurent Banide. AS Monaco has taken 12 of a possible 19 points from its last eight games, scoring 14 goals. The defence has its act together; Touré has taken charge of the centre of the park while also proving a surprising goal scorer; Koller is on his way back from injury... There were so many changes at the club in the off-season, and indeed well into August, that one can see this great French club on the mend.

Against Sochaux last Saturday, 7 of the 14 players weren’t at the principality club last year! Argentines, Brazilians, Czechs, a Croat, Italians, Senegalese, Uruguayan, Sierra-Leonian, Spanish, French… multinational Monaco would appear to have a common language to express itself. AS Monaco’s captain Givet will be missing for the match, but will welcome back its pit bull Bernardi, the player giving Nice’s Rool a run for his money in the yellow card stakes (8 to Rool’s 9). In short, Monaco is more solid than its league position implies.

[IMG40028#R]3 goals against PSG, 4 at Lens and 3 against Nancy… OL has found its scoring touch despite all its strikers being currently out of commission. Malouda is making up for the absence of Fred, Benzema, Wiltord, Carew and hasn’t stopped scoring (1 goal per match). Ben Arfa has taken his game to the next level. Cris is more than ever “a rock star” well-aided by Squillaci or Müller. Juninho is in a class of his own… Collectively, mentally, it’s hard to do better. Win always, no matter the level of the competition. And on Saturday Sidney Govou, who has recently rediscovered his scoring touch, will play his 200th match in Ligue 1. What can you say about Coupet’s 400th Ligue 1 match? Huge.

“We’re not on holidays yet…” Former Monaco player Sébastien Squillaci won’t be giving out any early Christmas presents to his former team-mates. Allez OL, just 90 minutes before you can take a well-earned breather before dreaming of all the titles up for grabs between now and the end of May!
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