Monaco’s offensive juggernaut goes rolling serenely on, as they won Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Nice to open up a three-point advantage over their neighbours at the summit of Ligue 1.
The 2-0 victory at Stade Louis II was thoroughly deserved, with Bernardo Silva pulling the strings for the hosts as strike duo Valere Germain and Radamel Falcao gave the hosts three points that must make them favourites to lift the French title in May.
Not only do they have an advantage in the standings, they have a favourable run-in. They have already completed their fixtures against their two closest challengers in Nice and Paris Saint-Germain, while they easily negotiated the challenge rejuvenated Marseille put in front of them in January.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to see where they could stumble, unless, of course, they were to allow their adventure in the Champions League to distract them from their task at hand.
Indeed, it is evident why the likes of Manchester United have taken an interest in a raft of Leonardo Jardim’s players. The whole midfield quartet – Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar – have all, at one stage or another, been associated with Jose Mourinho’s Old Trafford club, and while Falcao may still be regarded as their star figure, the foundation of Monaco’s success is laid with this four.
Only PSG might reasonably suggest they can match this midfield in Ligue 1, but what the Parisian side cannot equal is the scoring power that Monaco have all over the field.
No fewer than seven of their squad have netted at least five league goals this term, and of the starting XI that played against Nice, only left-back Benjamin Mendy is without a tally to his name in Ligue 1. If the former Marseille man is embarrassed about that statistic, he can point to his terrific cross to set up Germain’s opener as one of the key reasons for his side’s success over their rivals.
It is, however, Falcao who remains crucial in front of goal. His ability to score in a variety of fashions has wrought 14 strikes for the season in Ligue 1 – not bad for a player written off after hapless loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, and a particularly fine return given he has played only 17 times in Le Championnat.
Certainly, there was nothing too dramatic about either of his goals, yet this no-fuss approach has helped his side net an astonishing 68 times in the league this term – and on 100 occasions overall.
When he was replaced by Kylian Mbappe with 15 seconds of normal time remaining, there were smiles and back slaps all round on the bench.
His demeanour was cut in sharp contrast to Mario Balotelli, Nice’s undoubted ace. The Italian has not scored away from home in Ligue 1 since arriving at the Allianz Riviera in August and rarely looked capable of doing so on Saturday. He sulked his way through the second half, demonstrably frustrated by the lack of suitable service he deemed he was getting.
With Falcao in such fine form, and supported by a cast that shows few signs of letting its standards slip, it is now difficult to back against Monaco stealing PSG’s crown, which would arguably be the greatest achievement in the Colombian’s career to>