The moment that AS Monaco gained promotion back to Ligue 1, the games between AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain were going to be highly anticipated when the calender was made for the 2013-14 season. On Sunday, these two nouveau-rich clubs of French and European soccer will face off in Paris in a clash with big implications for both teams.
Entering Week 6 of the 2013-14 Ligue 1 season, AS Monaco are top of the table with 13 points through five games played, while PSG are second with 11 points through five games played. Depending on results of games played prior to their late Sunday kickoff, AS Monaco will either be first or second in the standings, while PSG could be anywhere from second to fourth in the league standings come kickoff on Sunday.
Because both teams are owned by billionaire owners who have spent millions of Euros to strengthen each squad and making many question if they are flouting UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, the matchup between these two teams looks more like those of Barcelona-Real Madrid because of the star players lining up for both teams.
Yet, neither team has yet to dominate lesser opponents in league play the same way their Spanish counterparts have been able to manage to do so far.
Entering the game on Sunday, it is AS Monaco who are the best team of the two as coach Claudio Ranieri has done a very good job of molding players who helped the team to promotion, forming a team that has a clear idea of how they are expected to play tactically during a game.
While Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Jeremy Toulalan, and Eric Abidal have brought goal scoring, playmaking and defensive solidity to Monaco, it has been young players like Emmanuel Riviere, Lucas Ocampos and Yannick Carrasco who have stepped up their play and been the main catalysts for Monaco’s good play so far.
For PSG and first-year coach Laurent Blanc, it has been a familiar issue of PSG occasionally struggling to look like a cohesive unit during league games, and they have pulled out either a draw or win in several games because money has allowed them to buy world-class players who are capable of winning games thanks to sheer individual skill.
While the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva get the limelight for being the big names, it is the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti (when he gets a chance to play) and underrated goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu who have helped the likes of Ibrahimovic or Cavani score key goals.
In games like PSG and AS Monaco where they are evenly matched up on paper, the key battle will be in the midfield. For PSG, Blaise Matuidi is a certain starter, and he could be partnered with Thiago Motta if Blanc decides to be more defensive in mindset, or Marco Verratti in a more offensive-oriented route.
For AS Monaco, expect to see Jeremy Toulalan as one of the starting holding midfielders to be partnered with either Joao Moutinho or Geoffrey Kondogbia.
Whichever team’s holding midfield duo that does best to control the tempo and pace of the game will be the team that is better positioned to take all three points from this highly-anticipated game. As far as prediction for this game goes, I expect to see a very tactical game where neither team wants to cede anything to the other. In the end, I expect to see a 2-2 draw with all the goals coming in the first half.