AS Monaco manager Philippe Clement has told a pre-match press conference that he is under no illusions as to the threat posed by Ferencváros, although he is counting on his side’s “mental and physical strength” to extend their winning run.
Clement spoke to the media on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s Europa League tie at the Stade Louis II, the first to take place in the Principality of this current European campaign. His side are teeming with confidence, for many reasons, but largely because of their three-game winning run, which included victories against local rivals Nice, as well as European hopefuls Lyon.
Before the fixture at the Allianz Riviera, the first win in their current run, defender Caio Henrique told Monaco Life that a win against their local rivals could “launch their season.” And so it has proved, with the Brazilian left-back a key component of their recent success.
“His start to the season has been of a very good level,” began Clement. “He has progressed even further compared to last season. He is feeling good within the dressing room and his playing style perfectly suits a three-man defense. As a result of that, he can show his offensive qualities more.”
Collectively, Monaco are high on confidence, but the recent performances of some key players is also helping to boost confidence on a personal level. Axel Disasi and Youssouf Fofana, both of whom have been undroppable since the beginning of the season, earned a place in Didier Deschamps’ provisional France squad.
“I am very happy for them because they’ve both had very good starts to the season. I think it’s very good to have experiences like that. Last season when Aurélien [Tchouaméni] came back from international duty for example, he did so with more confidence and experience. I am very happy when my players are picked for their international teams. It allows them to play at a good level, whilst accruing experience,” Clement told Monaco Life.
As well as confidence, there is a level of physical preparedness within the squad that makes Monaco a formidable opponent. Last year, the club boasted the most impressive physical statistics of any French club and ranked third on a European level. This year, the club have continued on the same path, and the results are being felt by the players themselves.
“[Aleksandr] Golovin told me this morning that he felt as if he had never recovered quicker from a match in his career. You see then why they worked so much during pre-season,” said Clement.
In that context, Monaco may find themselves with a tough challenger during Thursday’s tie against Hungarian champions Ferencváros. Due to their dominance in the domestic division, they can afford to make wholesale changes, and only two of the players that started their Europa League tie last Thursday started during their domestic fixture at the weekend.
“This will be a tough match against a side that will undoubtedly be fresher than us,” said Clement. However, the Belgian coach also sees the strengths within his side to allow them to secure that fourth consecutive victory in all competitions.
“I am seeing solidarity, discipline, and a mental and physical strength, even when we weren’t winning at the beginning of the season. There are also more and more automatism, which is normal with a new system and new players to integrate into the squad,” said Clement.
Monaco attacker Krépin Diatta also praised the atmosphere within the group ahead of the clash, telling Monaco Life, “The competition within the squad is very healthy. When someone doesn’t play, they don’t complain. So long as the spirit within the group is like that, we will get results.”
Although without the defensive anchor of Guillermo Maripán and Kevin Volland for the fixture, Monaco will be hoping to validate Diatta’s comments and continue their run of positive results. A victory would not only be their fourth in quick succession, but it would also consolidate the strong start to their Europa League campaign and potentially allow them to clinch top spot in the group.
Photo of Philippe Clement and Krépin Diatta by Monaco Life