After 14 winners from his last 21 Ligue 1 tips James Eastham casts his eye over French challengers Monaco’s chances against Arsenal this week…
Monaco v Arsenal
Tues, 19:45 GMT
Live on ITV1
Monaco produced one of the shocks of the round when they won 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg. Despite fielding an inexperienced side that contained several understudies and players playing out of position, Leonardo Jardim’s Ligue 1 outfit were masterful on the break and defended stoutly against an Arsenal side that missed some good scoring chances.
With one foot in the quarter-finals Monaco are expected to take a defensive approach but Arsenal won’t have given up hope of producing a remarkable comeback. It promises to be a fascinating encounter at Stade Louis II on Tuesday night.
Monaco 3.3512/5, Arsenal 2.3411/8, The Draw 3.55n/a
Given how brilliantly Monaco played and how predictably naïve Arsenal were in defence in that first leg it may come as a surprise that Arsenal are favourites to win in 90 minutes this week. But there are a couple of things to take into account.
First, Monaco’s performance at the Emirates Stadium was unusually good. They might play that well again, but it’s unlikely. They raised their game, were outstanding on the night and also, let’s not forget, rode their luck at times, with Arsenal missing some good chances. Monaco’s long-term form in all competitions is excellent (W15-D5-L2) but they rarely face teams of Arsenal’s calibre.
Second, Monaco don’t need to win. They can even afford to lose 2-0 and would still go through. It’s always risky backing a side that doesn’t need to win. So in that sense, the prices make sense.
Under/Over 2.5 Goals
Unders 1.9420/21, Overs 2.0421/20
Monaco have a reputation for being an obdurate defensive team but there have been signs of their back four creaking in recent weeks. They conceded once in the first leg and could have leaked more goals. In their last two league games – a 3-0 win over Bastia and a 3-1 win at Evian – they have played some fluid attacking football but left themselves more open than usual at the back.
Arsenal have to score at least three times to stand a chance of going through so at some point this game is likely to open up. And for all their failings in the first leg Arsenal are clearly good enough to trouble the Monaco back line. The hosts will try to keep things tight for as long as possible – but if and when Monaco concede, we could see some nerves in the home ranks. Overs is the selection.
Arsenal’s primary goalscorers are well known, and fans on both sides of the channel will be fully aware of Dimitar Berbatov, who will be around 3.39/4 to find the net any time when the market has liquidity. But who else is worth considering in the Monaco ranks?
Look out for include Aymen Abdennour (15.014/1), a wholehearted defender who impressed in the first leg and causes trouble at attacking set-pieces. Also quick and agile when the ball is loose in the penalty area is 18-year-old defender Almamy Toure (21.020/1), who netted his first professional goal in Monaco’s 3-1 win at Evian 10 days ago. He is not certain to be in the starting line-up but will be dangerous if he gets picked when Monaco play set-pieces into the penalty area.
Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.0421/20