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Henry given helping hand as Ligue 1 returns to full strength

Paris (AFP) – Thierry Henry has been sent reinforcements as he continues his faltering bid to save Monaco from relegation in a Ligue 1 weekend which returns to a full programme of fixtures after weeks of disruption brought on by nationwide protests and a terrorist attack.

Henry’s Monaco are 19th, three points away from safety heading into the last round of matches before the winter break, and host bottom-club Guingamp on Saturday as they look for just their fourth win of a miserable campaign.

On Thursday they recruited veteran coach Franck Passi to flank the decorated former Arsenal and France striker and his inexperienced staff, who came to Ligue 1 from youth football at Arsenal and Benfica.

Henry called the appointment “added value” and claimed that he and the club “wanted to have this band (together) for a little while” as they look to escape the drop less than two years after beating all-conquering Paris Saint-Germain to the league title and getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

“It did not happen quickly, we were looking for a deputy to complete the staff,” said Henry. 

“I had the opportunity to meet Franck about three weeks ago, we had a good discussion and we immediately hooked up.”

Passi comes to Monaco with knowledge of the French league and experience in his new role after working as assistant to Marcelo Bielsa at Marseille and Lille.

He has also held caretaker head coach positions at both clubs.

“After the discussion with Thierry, I felt ready as we have the same football values,” Passi told reporters on Thursday. 

“I think the project is very interesting, that we could get something out of each other and that I could work here as a number two.”

– Huge gap –

Monaco’s match is one of 10 fixtures in France, the first time a full round is being played for two weeks following demonstrations from “yellow vest” protesters and a terrorist attack in Strasbourg that left three dead.

In total 11 of the matches postponed are still to be played, with some teams having two games in hand coming into the weekend’s matches.

One of those involves Champions League-chasing Montpellier and Lyon, whose game has been targeted by police for special security measures — including a ban on travelling fans — thanks to previous trouble between both sets of supporters and further demostrations in the southern city.

They both lag way behind runaway leaders PSG, who have not played a league fixture since drawing at Strasbourg on December 5. In the meantime Thomas Tuchel’s side have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League and advanced into the League Cup quarter-finals.

However, the reigning champions’ absence from league football has not put a dent in their march to a almost certain fifth title in six years.

Closest challengers Lille managed to play both their scheduled matches amid the postponements and protests but are still a whopping 10 points behind the capital city club, and with PSG hosting mid-table Nantes on Saturday, that gap is unlikely to be closed before players head off to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Fixtures (2000 GMT unless stated)

Playing Saturday

Angers v Marseille, Monaco v Guingamp, Montpellier v Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain v Nantes, Strasbourg v Nice, Reims v Caen, Saint-Etienne v Dijon, Lille v Toulouse, Rennes v Nimes


Bordeaux v Amiens (1600)

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