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Monaco braced for battle as Ligue 1 title race hots up

Paris (AFP) – Following a bruising League Cup final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco resume their battle against the capital club for the Ligue 1 title with a trip to face the physical might of Angers on Saturday.

The principality club’s 4-1 loss to PSG in Lyon ended their prospects of a domestic treble but they maintain a three-point lead over the reigning champions in the league with seven games left.

The clubs will also meet in the last four of the French Cup later this month after both came through quarter-final ties in midweek, but it is the league that matters the most and that is where Monaco maintain the upper hand.

“Right now we are three points clear but they remain the favourites, as they already were at the start of the season,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, whose side also boast a far superior goal difference.

“We know that seven victories in eight matches should be enough,” he added.

Monaco could be forgiven for having one eye on their Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund, with the first leg in Germany set for next Tuesday.

But they cannot afford to let their guard down against Angers, an unfancied outfit but a powerful team on a fine run of form.

They beat Bordeaux 2-1 on Wednesday to qualify for the French Cup semi-finals and they are now unbeaten in their eight home matches in 2017, form that has all but secured their top-flight survival.

And with home fixtures against Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain to come in the next 10 days at their newly rechristened Stade Raymond Kopa, they could have a big say in where the Ligue 1 trophy goes.

“Angers are very strong and very physical. They have surprised a lot of people but not me,” Jardim added. 

“Their players are very aggressive and they play a very intense kind of football. It is not by chance that Angers are having a good season for the second year in a row and are in the French Cup semi-finals.”

– Falcao doubt –

With the nature of the opposition in mind, Jardim may choose to preserve fragile leading scorer Radamel Falcao.

“He is progressing. I don’t know if he will be completely ready. We will look at his condition. The problem is his physical condition but also the pain that he sometimes has in his hip,” said Jardim, who should keep faith in Valere Germain, scorer of a brace in the French Cup win over Lille.

PSG no longer have any European commitments to worry about after their crushing loss to Barcelona last month but they are still on course to sweep the domestic honours for the third year running.

On Sunday Unai Emery’s side host Guingamp, the other French Cup semi-finalists and the last team to beat PSG domestically when they won 2-1 in Brittany in December.

However, PSG could start that game in third place if Nice win away at Lille on Friday. 

The south-coast side are unbeaten in eight games despite a lengthy injury list and were boosted this week when coach Lucien Favre shot down rumours suggesting he could leave the club in the summer.

“Everywhere I have been I have stayed for several seasons. The figures are there,” said the Swiss, who was in charge at his last club Borussia Moenchengladbach for almost five years.

Lyon in fourth host Lorient while bottom club Bastia visit Dijon in a huge game at the foot of the table.



Lille v Nice (1845 GMT)


Angers v Monaco (1500 GMT), Bordeaux v Metz, Caen v Montpellier, Dijon v Bastia, Lyon v Lorient, Nancy v Rennes (all 1800 GMT) 


Toulouse v Marseille (1300 GMT), Saint-Etienne v Nantes (1500 GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Guingamp (1900 GMT) 

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