Having fought back into a Champions League-contending position, Philippe Clement was insistent in Friday’s press conference that any pressure on his players isn’t manifesting itself in a negative way.
As the season ticks down to its eventual denouement in just three weeks time, AS Monaco in their recent streak, their best since January 2021, have won six “finals”, just four remain to earn that much-coveted podium position.
A final usually entails a level of emotional exhaustion from which it is so often difficult to recover. Yet that has not come to pass. Benoit Badiashile told reporters before Sunday’s game against Angers that the calm, collected Clement has a lot to do with that. “The coach is always calm, optimistic and positive, and that’s what we need because our group is quite young.”
It is a combination of man elements that have given rise to this certain run, but the role of Clement on a man-management level mustn’t be underestimated, and the Belgian told Monaco Life that he believes his side are ready for the last four finals, starting with Angers at the Stade Louis II on Sunday.
“I think my players are ready for the final sprint. Before, we looked too much at the table, but now we only concentrate on ourselves, on what we can control, match after match.”
Coming from Belgium, whose domestic division entails an annual play-off, Clement’s managerial experience with Club Brugge is also complementary to a team that has had to treat every game with an added importance since mid-march.
Sunday will be no different, and Angers come in with a solid recent away record, having drawn their last two and only narrowly losing out against Marseille. But they arrive into a Stade Louis II fortress, where Monaco have only lost one of their last 19 games in all competitions.
To keep that streak going, Clement can count on an almost fully fit squad. Monaco Life attended group training at La Turbie on Friday and can confirm that, following illness, Ruben Aguilar is back training with the group and fit to face Angers. The same cannot be said for Gelson Martins nor Cesc Fabregas. The former may not play again for Monaco this season having sustained what Clement described as a “blow” during last Saturday’s N2 fixture against Aubagne FC.
Meanwhile, Aurelien Tchouameni, Axel Disasi and Vanderson are suspended, meaning that there will be an element of rotation in the squad, but as Clement has said previously, everyone is “involved” in preparation for moments like these. Everyone will have to play their part in the chase to reach that podium; only goal difference and four “finals” stand in their way.
Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life