In this season’s Champions League, Monaco have taken haymaker after haymaker but are still on their feet.
Stumbling around like a drunken fool, but conscious.
However, they are stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire as they jet off to Turkey to face Besiktas at the Vodafone Arena. A place with a reputation for being intimidating, vociferous and loud, it will be quite the contrast to the usual matchday experience they face weekly at the Stade Louis II.
But with a desperate team on the brink, do Monaco spring a surprise? Or are they crushed under the sheer weight of Besiktas’ Champions League juggernaut?
Monaco will be without the services of their main striker Radamel Falcao, who also sat out the team’s 2-0 win over Bordeaux at the weekend. The Colombian is in training but is yet to recover from a knock suffered last week in training.
Djibril Sidibe also misses out as he receives treatment for pelvis pain, while Soualiho Meite and Terence Kongolo remain in the principality with minor injuries. Guid Carrillo and Rachid Ghezzal have returned to full training this week and make the trip to Istanbul.
The Black Eagles continue to have a fully-fit squad to choose from and come into the game on the back of a 2-1 win over Alanyaspor at the weekend. The winner came from Alvaro Negredo, who ended his scoring duck for Besiktas by declaring it was his time to “let the goalkeepers worry a little.”
The Monegasque cannot be officially eliminated at this stage but a win in the other game for RB Leipzig would make it almost a formality. As for the Turks, a win will guarantee qualification to the next round and should the fixture in Portugal be a draw, they will finish top after just four games.
Keita Balde (AS Monaco) – The former Lazio man had to bide his time a little but he’s finally finding his niche within the Monaco starting line-up. Two goals in two games, while also notching an assist in his last Champions League appearance, that form he showed in Italy is starting to show now in France as well.
His tight ball control, pace to burn and solid finishing, he’s adding the Mbappe dimension many thought that the team would miss. As a lone front-man in the absence of Radamel Falcao, Balde needs to become their talisman in the biggest game of their season so far.
Anderson Talisca (Besiktas) – While Besiktas are blessed with hungry attacking players, it’s the Brazilian that tends to stand out. The former Benfica man has been a revelation since his move to Turkey and he can be such a livewire.
Quick, creative and a goal-scorer, he adds that extra cutting edge to a cast of forward players all looking to get themselves on the score sheet. If he can turn on the flair, as he has twice in the Champions League already, he could put this game beyond doubt.
It might be the night after Halloween but it still sounds like a nightmare for Monaco. Needing a win away from home is not a situation any team wants to be in but to make it a place like Besiktas makes it all the more problematic.
While Leonardo Jardim’s men have recovered a little from their awful October, this will be by far their biggest test of their mettle. If they aren’t careful and go behind early, it would be quite easy to see the team’s head drop and the crowd envelope them.
Expect Monaco to be cautious to start off with, trying to quieten the crowd but a lapse in concentration in such a hostile atmosphere seals their fate. Chasing the game, they’ll concede a second before grabbing a consolation late on, leaving them not quite eliminated but certainly staring at the abyss.
Result: Besiktas 2-1 AS Monaco