All their hard work over the qualifiers has now come down to this. Monaco are back in the Champions League group stages after a year’s hiatus and a familiar foe from the Europa League adventure last season awaits them in Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
The English side had the upper hand then, winning 4-1 at White Hart Lane while taking a 1-1 draw from the Stade Louis II. However, with the principality club high off a strong start to the season and Spurs looking to have hit their stride against Stoke City at the weekend, we could be in for an intriguing tactical battle between two highly-rated managers.
AS Monaco have been lifted by the returns of both Danjiel Subasic and Thomas Lemar to the squad after missing out at the weekend, with both travelling with the squad to London. The Croatian international has recovered from an injury sustained on international duty while Lemar may be a game-time decision.
Benjamin Mendy has failed to recover from a thigh injury in time so will remain in France but Leonardo Jardim does have Radamel Falcao back in the fold after the Colombian returned to action in the club’s 4-1 win over Lille on Saturday.
Mauricio Pochettino has almost a full squad to call upon for Tottenham’s first foray into the Champions League since 2011, with Danny Rose still nursing a hamstring injury during England’s 1-0 win over Slovakia last week.
Spurs will also be hosting their first European fixture at Wembley Stadium, in an agreement with the FA. This comes after the North London club began work on a new stadium, which has restricted some access to White Hart Lane and also reduced its capacity to such a degree that it does not meet UEFA guidelines.
Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco) – It almost seems like this name won’t change all season but if you need reminding, the little Portuguese maestro is Monaco’s most important player. Creative, able to play out wide and in central areas, Silva has such a big influence on a game that his form can sway the outcome.
If he can find the holes between the defence and midfield as well as instigate devastating counter-attacks, he will be a nightmare for Tottenham all afternoon. The onus will be on holding midfielder Eric Dier to keep him as quiet as possible to nullify the Ligue 1 side’s most potent threat.
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) – After a terrific season last time out, Alli’s star has risen more than any other young footballer in European football. From League One to the European Championships in the span of a year, his meteoric rise has been no coincidence as he seems unfazed at any level of football presented to him so far.
Expect the Champions League to be no different and if he can start linking Spurs’ attacks with their other gifted forward players, they can be an irresistible force. Clever with a great strike and a little mean streak in their too, Monaco need to frustrate him early to throw him off his stellar game.
Despite scoring four at the weekend, Monaco will likely revert to a more defensive formation that shouldn’t look too dissimilar to what worked so well against Paris Saint-Germain in the league. Flooding those central areas with three centre-backs and two defensive midfielder in order to restrict the likes of Alli, Cristian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Harry Kane.
The worry may come from how well Tottenham’s full-backs perform and especially if they can pin back Nabil Dirar and Djibril Sidibé. If they do, they’ll find success and simply put, Spurs are much more comfortable in the 4-2-3-1 set up than PSG were, despite the Ligue 1 champions’ superior individual quality.
This will be a tight one. Monaco will do their best to earn what could be a crucial point but holding off a team like Tottenham for that long looks to be a tall order. Monaco to be caught a little tired towards the end and to go home with nothing to show for their efforts.
Result: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 AS Monaco