Two giants of the French game languishing in mid-table do battle at the Stade Louis II on Friday night, as Monaco play host to Ligue 1 champions Lille.
Niko Kovac’s men currently occupy 11th spot in the rankings, while the holders sit one place and two points below their upcoming hosts.
Monaco and Lille’s returns to continental action this season have come at quite the cost, as the two sides embroiled in a four-way title race for much of last season struggle for any sort of inspiration during their more hectic schedule this time around.
Kovac’s men drew a blank for a third game in a row across all competitions just before the international break as they were held to a goalless draw by Reims, with Les Monegasques also drawing 0-0 with PSV Eindhoven and losing 2-0 to Brest before the international break.
A worrying barren run in front of goal sees Monaco sit 11th in the table at present, but the tightly-congested nature of the top half means that they are only one point behind sixth-placed Montpellier HSC and six adrift of Lens in second spot.
Les Monegasques also have next week’s Europa League battle with Real Sociedad to take into account, but Kovac will relish the five-day gap in between games and ought to have used his time wisely during the international break to assess his side’s struggles.
The hosts need no lessons in producing the goods at home, though, as they have strung together a three-game winning streak in Ligue 1 at the Stade Louis II – scoring three goals each time and conceding just two – so Monaco should sense an opportunity to sink the wounded champions.
Jocelyn Gourvennec is hardly justifying his appointment to the Lille dugout following the summer departure of title-winning coach Christophe Galtier, as the reigning champions’ title defence already appears to be in tatters.
Les Dogues did claim a confidence-boosting win over Sevilla in the Champions League earlier this month but followed that up with a 1-1 stalemate in Ligue 1 against Angers, as Tiago Djalo’s opener was cancelled out by Azzedine Ounahi with seven minutes remaining.
Lille appeared to have sparked a mini-revival with a three-game winning run at the end of September, but Gourvennec’s side have now drawn two and lost two of their last four domestic encounters to sit 12th in the rankings with 16 points from a possible 39.
Amid links with ex-Tottenham Hotspur manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Gourvennec would do well to reverse his side’s league fortunes on hostile territory this week, but the holders have rather embarrassingly won just one of their seven away games in the 2021-22 Ligue 1 season.
Monaco and Lille played out a goalless draw at the Stade Louis II last term after Les Dogues had won 2-1 at home, but the champions are winless in nine Ligue 1 fixtures on Monaco’s turf since prevailing 4-0 in the 2009-10 season, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the scoresheet.
Monaco Ligue 1 form:
Monaco form (all competitions):
Lille Ligue 1 form:
Lille form (all competitions):
We say: Monaco 2-1 Lille
While both clubs are far from where they would ideally like to be at this stage of the season, Monaco’s hot streak at home coupled with Lille’s dire form on the road only points to a Monegasques success here.
Les Dogues are always in with a chance of making the net ripple with David in the form of his life, but the absence of Botman is likely to harm them against a Monaco side desperate to turn their own goalscoring fortunes around.