AS Monaco face the toughest possible test as they seek to recover from their midweek European disappointment when they play host to Ligue 1 Conforama’s rampant leaders Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s top-of-the-bill Week 14 encounter.
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UEFA Champions League semi-finalists last season, Monaco had hopes of at least reaching the knockout stages once again this term despite a summer that had seen the Ligue 1 Conforama title-winning side shorn of some of its key members.
But the French champions will now only have their domestic crown to defend and the national cups to compete for after Tuesday’s 4-1 mauling at the hands of RB Leipzig that means their European adventure will end after their final group game in early December.
“This year, in this group, we have paid dearly for our mistakes. Also, we haven’t been up to the standard of such a competition, with three defeats at home and two draws away,” admitted Jardim, who saw Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Kylian Mbappé and Tiémoué Bakayoko all depart over the summer.
“We need to build a stronger team for next season. We always have the ambition and the dream of changing things.”
He added: “The board knows that this can happen. It’s cyclical. You have to respect the development and the progress of the players. Next year, we’ll come into this competition better prepared than today.”
A 3-1 win over PSG – at that time the four-time defending champions – at the Stade Louis II just three games into the 2016/17 campaign gave a hint of what was to come as Monaco deposed the capital club at the top of the table come the season’s end.
But unlike their rivals, PSG strengthened significantly over the summer, adding Neymar Jr in addition to Mbappé, and their leap forward has shown. Their 4-1 win over FC Nantes in Week 13 kept them unbeaten this season and underlined their majestic form, while the six-point lead they have already built over this weekend’s opponents in second place is already looking a formidable obstacle for their challengers.
That gap is not the only frightening thing about the current league leaders. Their 7-1 trouncing of Celtic in Wednesday’s Champions League encounter was their fifth straight win and took their goals tally to 24 in just five matches, already a group-stage record.
“I think the team played a very complete match,” said coach Unai Emery, who saw Edinson Cavani and Neymar Jr both score twice after Celtic had stunned the Parc des Princes by taking a first-minute lead with former PSG youth academy talent Moussa Dembélé scoring the first goal his ex-club have conceded in the competition this season.
“The only negative was the goal we conceded. But the team reacted well to that early set-back and controlled the ball throughout the game. We pressed very well and always wanted to score more. We played some beautiful football, we were very ambitious and we need to continue like this to keep improving.”
“It was a magnificent match,” added captain Thiago Silva, whose side are now unbeaten in 19 competitive outings in 2017/18. “We set a new record for the number of goals scored in the group stage, but it’s the hard work of the whole team that is paying off.
“Every player is focused on what we have to do, and we try and score as many goals as possible, right to the final whistle; it’s a great mentality. We have to keep it up now, because there’s still a long way to go and we have a lot we want to achieve.”