French Ligue 1 side Monaco travel to Spain for a crucial two-legged tie with Villarreal that will decide the Champions League faith of the clubs who enter the duel in contrasting fortunes, but with plenty of problems for both managers.
Shocking start to the season
It has been a shocking week for Villarreal fans, who have witnessed the departure of the manager Marcelino just days prior to Villarreal’s qualifier with Monaco. The 50-year-old led the Yellow Submarine to a fourth-place finish in La Liga last season which had been considered great accomplishment, but it appears that a clash with the board and a couple of senior players allegedly over his decision to strip Mateo Musacchio of his third-captain duties was enough of a reason for Marcelino Garcia Toral to leave the club after three years in charge. Marcelino was quick to write an open letter to Villarreal fans and everyone connected to the club, including the players, thanking them for their contributions prior to his departure. The club official were also quick in finding his replacement with Fran Escrbia being brought to replace him at the helm. With little time at his hands, Escriba is now faced with a demanding challenge of linking together the likes of Alexandre Pato, Roberto Soriano and Cristian Espinoza as the most prominent summer signings, who are all expected to help the Yellow Submarine record a positive result against the French club.
Villarreal are facing big selection issues with long-term absentees Jonathan Dos Santos, Roberto Soldado and Denis Cheryshev all out of the clash. Cerdic Bakambu is also struggling with a thigh problem, while it was confirmed that the experienced Italy centre-back Daniele Bonera will miss the Monaco clash through injury. In addition, summer addition Nicola Sansone is banned for the occasion.
Les Rouges et Blancs have opened the new Ligue 1 season with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Guingamp at the Stade Louis II at the weekend continuing with inconsistent performances that followed them throughout the preseason. Monaco still hope to make the most of their European campaign as they head into the clash against Villarreal after eliminating Turkish side Fenerbahce in the previous qualifying round 4-3 on aggregate. The 3-1 home victory over Fenerbahce was only the third triumph in last ten matches for Leonardo Jardim’s men with Radamel Falcao playing a key role in the win which saw the Principality club go through into the play-off. The Colombian’s return following unsuccessful loan spells in the Premier League was seen as a major boost for the French outfit and Falcao displayed fine goal scoringform during preseason, but will unfortunately be forced to sit out through the match with Villarreal as he picked up a thigh injury that is likely to keep him sidelined for a couple of weeks.
In addition to Radamel Falcao, Monaco will be without their goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis while the fans will be hopeful that full-back Djiblir Sidibe will recover from an injury he picked in the opening match of the new Ligue 1 season at the weekend.
Villarreal have had a fairly successful summer as far as new signings are concerned, but the Spanish club have had a shock managerial change that is likely to have an effect on the team’s performance. Monaco have done well to eliminate Fenerbahce, but are yet to discover their form especially away and we should be in for an interesting duel between two sides.
Top Pick: Both teams to score – yes 2.20 (6/5) @StanJames
Alternative pick 1: Villarreal 2.05 (21/20) @Bet365
Alternative pick 2: Over 2.5 goals 2.48 (31/21) @Unibet