The job is done. AS Monaco have progressed to the knockout stages after their win against Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago and thanks to a draw in Russia, tonight’s opponents Bayer Leverkusen will be joining them.
That draw also meant the principality club will finish top of the group regardless of the result in this dead rubber. A great result for Leonardo Jardim’s men who should take this opportunity to rest a few key players for the challenge of fighting for both the league and Europe for the foreseeable future.
A number of first team players have not made the trip to Germany, with Danjiel Subasic, Kamil Glik, Djibril Sidibe, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and Radamel Falcao all staying at home. That could mean starts for youngsters such as Almamy Toure, Gabriel Boschilia, Adama Traore and Kylian Mbappe Lottin.
Nabil Dirar does make the squad for the first time in the Champions League since his injury in the opening fixture against Spurs. Left back Benjamin Mendy returns as well, having missed the weekend’s 5-0 victory over Bastia.
Leverkusen are running a little thin on the front line, with the news that Kevin Kampl will be out for eight weeks with a foot injury. Forwards Admir Mehmedi and Kevin Volland are also unavailable, meaning that it’s likely that Javier Hernandez will get a start up front.
Bayer 04 are looking to protect their unbeaten European record at the BayArena, which stretches back to 2014, but have yet to beat Monaco in a competitive game in their history.
Gabriel Boschilia (AS Monaco) – With a number of big names taking the night off, it’s a real chance for the young Brazilian to shine again in their wake. Despite only making three starts this season, Boschilia has impressed with his ability on the ball, both from open play and set pieces and looks like another potential diamond unearthed by Monaco.
His four goals and one assist in nine league appearances just shows how good he has been in sporadic moments, especially given he’s played less than 300 minutes in total. It will be very interesting to see how he reacts on a big European stage.
Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen) – One of the best young talents in Germany, Brandt is slowly turning into a superstar at Bayer. The 20-year-old had a fine end to last season and has continued that momentum into this campaign, scoring two goals and creating five assists this season.
Comfortable on either wing, confident in front of goal and a player who loves to put defenders on skates, the youngster can be a joy to watch. It could be a great test for Monaco’s young full-back Almamy Toure to stop the biggest current danger in Leverkusen’s line-up.
This one could be a tough one to predict, given that both teams cannot change their fates and with domestic fixtures coming thick and fast. The positive for Monaco is that they can rest so many key players, whereas Leverkusen have not been afforded such a luxury due to injuries.
That will likely be the defining factor and while the Monaco youngsters will show glimpses of quality, they will eventually buckle under a more experienced side. It will be a great learning experience for those out there and if they do seize an early goal, this could be an interesting contest with pride at stake.
Result: Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 AS Monaco