Life under Niko Kovac begins now for Monaco, whose COVID-hit squad travel to Nantes for Sunday afternoon’s Ligue 1 fixture.
Les Monegasques find themselves sixth in the table ahead of the weekend’s encounter, while Antoine Kombouare’s side are only one place and one point behind their upcoming opponents.
From surviving relegation by the skin of their teeth to establishing themselves as genuine contenders for European football, 2021 was quite the year for Nantes, who are in the midst of one of their best runs of form in recent memory heading into Sunday’s game.
Indeed, Kombouare’s side have marched to five successive wins across all competitions – including each of their last three in Ligue 1 – and they kicked off the New Year by beating AS Vitre 2-0 in the Coupe de France thanks to Ludovic Blas and Willem Geubbels.
The winter break arguably came at the worst possible time for Nantes as they began to hit a rich vein of form, but they have picked up where they left off with that Coupe de France win and find themselves just three points adrift of Montpellier HSC in the final European spot.
Les Canaris ended 2021 with a trio of victories in the top flight over Saint-Etienne, Lens and Lorient – although two of those sides currently sit below the dreaded dotted line to the relegation zone – so a positive result here would certainly throw the cat amongst the pigeons.
Nantes have also suffered defeat in just one of their last six home games in the top flight – scoring at least two goals on the five occasions where they did not lose – and Monaco certainly need the new manager bounce to kick in if they are to stand a chance this weekend.
Despite managing to maintain a title charge with Monaco throughout most of the 2020-21 season and steering them back into the Champions League, Niko Kovac’s time in the principality hotseat recently came to an end, with his side a far cry from the team that they were 12 months ago.
Les Monegasques have moved quickly to appoint former Club Brugge coach Philippe Clement as Kovac’s successor, with the 47-year-old taking charge after leading the Belgian outfit to some eye-catching results in the Champions League earlier this season.
Monaco were under the interim tutelage of Stephane Nado for their Coupe de France clash with Quevilly Rouen Metropole earlier this week, and a brace from Kevin Volland either side of Wissam Ben Yedder’s opener saw Les Monegasques march to a comfortable 3-1 success.
That result marked Monaco’s third win on the trot in all tournaments, but a paltry tally of four wins from their last 10 in Ligue 1 means that the Monegasques currently sit outside the European places, and worryingly, they have failed to score in four of their last five away games in the top flight.
Monaco and Nantes kicked off the 2021-22 season back on August 6 – where Les Canaris came away with a 1-1 draw – but the hosts have won just one of their 16 Ligue 1 meetings with Les Monegasques since both sides were promoted back to the big time in 2013.
Nantes Ligue 1 form:
Nantes form (all competitions):
Monaco Ligue 1 form:
Monaco form (all competitions):
We say: Nantes 1-1 Monaco
Neither side will be able to put out their strongest XI at the Stade de la Beaujoire, but Monaco’s prospects of ending their scoreless run away from home are strong with both Ben Yedder and Volland fit and firing.
Nantes are not the relegation candidates that they were in the 2020-21 season, though, and Kombouare’s side have the resilience required to hold Monaco to a second 1-1 draw in succession.