Two games in and it already feels like last chance saloon for Monaco. A heart-pulsating run in the Champions League last season has been followed by a cardiac arrest, with their 3-0 defeat to Porto leading to a Ligue 1 hangover that could knock them out of the title race.
So, it’s probably not the best of times to be facing a side on the brink of being uncatchable. With other teams beating each other out, Besiktas have established themselves as the front-runners and are ready to force their way into the knockout rounds.
They are not to be messed with and one false move this evening could put the Monegasque in a world of trouble.
Strikers Guido Carrillo and Stevan Jovetic are still missing from the group as both recover from injuries. The Argentine is recovering from a knock to his right foot while the Montenegrin is back running but is still requiring treatment before being match-ready.
Radamel Falcao does return having missed the weekend recovering from his international exploits with Colombia, as does Brazilian midfielder Fabinho, while Adam Traore makes way despite scoring in the 3-2 defeat to Lyon on Friday.
The Black Eagles have a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of the clash at the Stade Louis II. The Turkish champions haven’t won in three games in the Turkish Lig but come into this one with an 100% record so far in Europe.
Rony Lopes (AS Monaco) – Slowly but surely, the Portuguese man is showing his worth. Lopes had the toughest shoes to fill in Bernardo Silva and it’s taken a little time but he’s finally beginning to carve out his own niche at the principality club.
Two goals and three assists so far this season shows his growing influence, both as a creative force on the right and drifting inside to score himself. If he’s allowed to continue growing in confidence in this one, he could become a real force for Leonardo Jardim.
Cenk Tosun (Besiktas) – One of the brightest lights in Turkey at the moment, Tosun has transformed himself into a lethal weapon for Besiktas. 20 goals and five assists last season domestically, four goals and two assists so far in all competitions in this campaign, the 26-year-old is a real threat in the opposition box.
Not only that, the service from the likes of Ricardo Quaresma, Ryan Babel and Talisca must be striker’s dream. Monaco will need to keep the Turkish international in check, otherwise he will punish them without hesitation.
This is a tough one for Jardim. Do you go for it, risking a loss at home when you know a visit to the Vodafone Arena lies on the horizon? Or do you stay solid, not lose and hope for the best in Turkey and from results elsewhere?
It doesn’t feel like it’s in Monaco’s nature to hold back but with wounds still tender, they might just play within themselves a little too much. That is a recipe for punishment against an opportunistic Besiktas side.
Their inconsistencies might just mean Monaco keep their heads above water and earn a draw, but that only makes the mountain bigger. They can already hear the roar of the Besiktas fans waiting in a few weeks’ time and it should already be sending shivers down their spine.
Result: AS Monaco 1-1 Besiktas