One game in and everything is looking rosy already for Monaco. A big win at Wembley really puts them in the driving position of this competitive group and they know a result against a tricky Bayer Leverkusen could already spell a virtually safe passage to the next round.
That’s easier said than done, Leverkusen have an array of attacking talent and after their draw against CSKA Moscow, a win in this one is that much more important. With both having had an indifferent spell recently but both capable of playing entertaining football, this could be an interesting encounter if things start opening up.
Monaco will be without Radamel Falcao as manager Leonardo Jardim confirmed that the Colombian is still recovering from the concussion he suffered in the midweek loss to OGC Nice. Benjamin Mendy is available again after his one-game suspension but he could miss out if Andrea Raggi is brought back into the fold.
Midfield duo Tiemoue Bakayoko and Fabinho sat out the 2-1 win over Angers at the weekend and are tipped to return for the Champions League, while Nabil Dirar remains a long-term absentee after coming off injured against Tottenham Hotspur.
Leverkusen can call on Hakan Calhanoglu and Lars Bender again after both missed the weekend’s win over Mainz. Both were left out as a precaution but while the Turk is likely to start, there is less optimism from manager Roger Schmidt that the German will follow suit.
Kamil Glik (AS Monaco) – A force in both boxes recently, the Polish international has made a big impact since he joined the club this summer. A consistent performer that can really marshall a defence, he has been a key reason as to why Monaco have started the season so well.
With so many dangerous attacking threats in the Leverkusen line-up, Glik has to be on the top of his game. If he is and if he can also cause some problems from set pieces as well, he might just ensure the principality club pick up a vital win.
Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen) – The former Manchester United forward had a spectacular first season in Germany and after missing the opening few games of the season, he is beginning to hit his stride. The Mexican nabbed a hat-trick at the weekend, a real statement that he’s not slowing down soon.
Quick, clever and a lethal finisher, Monaco cannot afford to give Chicharito any space at any point of the game. If he is in behind the defence at any point, it usually does not matter who is in the way, Hernandez seemingly only knows how to score in those situations.
It is a tough one to call. Monaco have been poor both in the loss to Nice and the fortunate win against Angers in the weekend, while Leverkusen have looked pedestrian in the Bundesliga bar the victory on Saturday.
I have not been entirely convinced by Schmidt’s men so far, who have so many interesting attacking players but have question marks elsewhere. Bernd Leno is burning hot and cold, the defence is young and inexperienced while they still haven’t found the right combination of players in midfield.
However, Monaco have looked weaker at the back recently and I can’t see them keeping a clean sheet either. Go for the Ligue 1 side to go ahead after a good start but once they slow down, Leverkusen spot gaps and Chicarito punishes an out-of-position Jemerson to take a share of the points.
Result: AS Monaco 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen