Football: Monaco’s Philippe Clement faces defensive headache ahead of Bayer Leverkusen clash

AS Monaco manager Philippe Clement doesn’t have an abundance of defensive options as he heads into a key Europa League tie against Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday. 

Since the start of the month, Les Monégasques have had somewhat of a defensive crisis with Vanderson, Ruben Aguilar and Guillermo Maripán all suffering not-so-insignificant injuries. There was a hope that the crisis would abate ahead of the Europa League clash against Bayer Leverkusen, but that doesn’t seem to have come to pass.

The injury suffered by Brazilian centre-back Vanderson against AJ Auxerre, which initially seemed innocuous, has now ruled him out for three weeks, and as Clement told Monaco Life, he will not be fit to face Leverkusen. The same goes for Maripán, who suffered an injury in the first leg against the German side. No dates have yet been given for the pair’s return.

Axel Disasi, Malang Sarr and Chrislain Matsima, whose season-long loan at FC Lorient was cut short, as well as the displaceable Caio Henrique, are therefore the only defensive certainties in Monaco’s squad to face Leverkusen. However, there is a chance that Aguilar will feature having had a positive individual training session at La Turbie on Wednesday. As Clement told Monaco Life, a decision will be made on the French right-back on Thursday ahead of the match in the evening at the Stade Louis II.

“When you leave your comfort zone, you grow.”

Should Aguilar not be deemed fit enough to start, Matsima will likely start back-to-back matches for Monaco at right-back, having impressed in Ligue 1 action against Stade Brestois on Sunday. At the heart of the defense, vice-captain Disasi has seen the pieces around him shuffled in recent weeks, firstly through Benoît Badiashile’s move to Chelsea and then due to injuries to his defensive partners.

However, the French international isn’t worried about a lack of familiarity with this reformed defence. “Chrislain is coming back from a loan spell, but prior to that, we were together for two years. I’ve been training with Malang since the start of the season, and even if he isn’t playing regularly, that works really well in training. That’s the strength of the team and, therefore, I’m not worried,” Disasi told Monaco Life. 

On Matsima, whom he will likely play alongside against Leverkusen, Disasi said that he sees a player that has grown thanks to a loan spell at Breton side Lorient. “I believe in the principle that when you leave your comfort zone, you grow. I feel as though he has grown a lot and that since he’s come back he’s a bit more mature,” he said.

Mixing-up the partnerships

On the other side of Disasi, it will almost certainly be Sarr that gets the nod. Clement told Monaco Life that he isn’t worried about a lack of a connection between the pair given his experimentation in training. “In our daily work, there are lots of automatisms. I try to create different partnerships on a daily basis so that there are more connections between all of the players. It’s important for communication,” said the Belgian coach.

Clement added that he has seen Sarr progress, and attributed the strong competition for a spot in the back line as an explanation for his lack of playing time, especially in the early part of the season. “There is lots of competition here and I’m happy about that, even if it sometimes gives me headaches. For Malang, it is a good opportunity and he has shown good things in recent weeks,” the Monaco manager told Monaco Life.

With the return of Maripán unspecified, Sarr, as well as the returning Matsima may have plenty more chances to shine in the coming weeks and months, starting with a baptism of fire against Leverkusen with a narrow 3-2 advantage to protect at the Stade Louis II on Thursday.


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Photo of Axel Disasi and Philippe Clement by Monaco Life