Monaco will be more desperate than ever to reignite their Ligue 1 title charge when they travel to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard for Friday’s battle with Saint-Etienne.
The hosts claimed a much-needed win over Angers in their most recent encounter, whereas Monaco’s top-of-the-table showdown with Lille ended in a goalless stalemate.
With Wahbi Khazri back in the team and back among the goals, Claude Puel’s Saint-Etienne have been handed a significant boost in their bid to steer clear of the dreaded dotted line in the business end of the season.
The Tunisia stalwart has endured a challenging campaign fitness-wise, but he struck the only goal of the game on the 52-minute mark in a 1-0 win at Angers last Saturday – only his second league goal of the season – and Les Verts managed to halt a three-game winless run with that triumph at the Stade Raymond Kopa.
Puel’s side are in no danger of being caught by Dijon, who are likely consigned to a 20th-placed finish, but the 16th-placed Verts have witnessed Lorient and Nantes pick up results in gameweeks which they have faltered in, although they still boast a six-point lead over the latter with nine games left to play.
However, Saint-Etienne are now preparing to play host to Monaco at a ground where they have lost just two of their last nine in Ligue 1, although they can only boast a solitary victory in that run – a 1-0 win over Metz last month – with the other six encounters ending in stalemates.
Victory on Friday would certainly give the hosts a huge psychological boost approaching the final weeks of the season, as they would temporarily rise above Strasbourg, Brest and Reims up to 13th before the weekend’s fixtures take place, but Monaco make the journey to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard pining for three points for completely different reasons.
Niko Kovac was unable to exchange pleasantries with Christophe Galtier on the touchline due to the Lille manager’s suspension, and many wondered whether Monaco would blow the title race wide open against the league leaders due to their coach’s absence last Sunday.
Both title-chasers had their moments, but the staunch rearguards of Lille and Monaco were not to be breached as both sides claimed a point apiece from Sunday’s game, and they would have been relieved to see Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon also falter in their bids for domestic silverware after that stalemate.
Kovac appears to have addressed Monaco’s previously leaky defence – they have shipped just one goal in their last five across all competitions – but Les Monegasques are now at risk of going three games without a goal in Ligue 1 for the first time in over 18 months, as this change in formation has not worked wonders for Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland.
Monaco’s potent attackers boast 26 goals and 13 assists between them this term – while Aleksandr Golovin has also proved his worth to Monaco since returning from injury – and it is imperative that Kovac helps his attackers rediscover their goalscoring touch lest they risk slipping further away from the league’s other big boys.
The fourth-placed Monegasques find themselves seven points adrift of leaders Lille and cannot rise any higher with a win on Friday, but they travel to Saint-Etienne having won eight of their last nine away games in all competitions, and they are the solitary team in Ligue 1 yet to draw on the road this season.
On the other hand, Saint-Etienne have managed to navigate their last four top-flight fixtures against Monaco without suffering defeat and will be aiming to register their third consecutive home win against their opponents on Friday, having beaten Les Monegasques 1-0 and 2-0 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in the past two seasons.
Saint-Etienne Ligue 1 form:
Saint-Etienne form (all competitions):
Monaco Ligue 1 form:
Monaco form (all competitions):