PARIS, April 20, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim challenged his players to swiftly bury the embarrassment of last week’s 7-1 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain to stay on course for automatic Champions League qualification.
PSG reclaimed the Ligue 1 title — their fifth in six seasons — after thrashing last year’s champions Monaco at the Parc des Princes, but Jardim is confident it won’t derail their season.
Monaco hold a four-point cushion over Lyon and Marseille in the race for second place with five matches remaining, starting with Saturday’s trip to Guingamp.
“It’s a difficult match to digest,” Jardim said of the rout that ended Monaco’s 17-match unbeaten league run.
“We’re not used to conceding seven goals. We’re aware that we didn’t give our all. We should have done better. We got our message across.
“I’m going to cite Confucius: ‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,'” he added, invoking the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher.
“We have five finals to play now. The fight for second place is going to be a battle until the finish.”
Lyon could close to within a point of Monaco on Friday if Bruno Genesio’s side register a sixth win in a row at Dijon.
Their push for a Champions League berth was boosted by the return last of captain Nabil Fekir last time out following a seven-week absence due to a knee injury.
– ‘Nothing is achieved yet’ –
“We’re worried about the battle with Marseille for third,” Genesio said. “We don’t control anything with Monaco, they’re a very experienced side capable of getting back on the right track.
“It’s very important to keep hold of third place. Nothing is achieved yet. There are 15 points to play for and that’s a lot. It’s going to be very tight right up until the end.”
Marseille host Lille on Saturday with the visitors scrapping for top-flight survival following a 10-match winless run that has left the 2011 champions mired in the relegation play-off place.
Rudi Garcia has a delicate juggling act to manage ahead of Marseille’s first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Salzburg at the Velodrome next Thursday.
Champions PSG continue the quest to break their record 96-point tally from the 2015/16 campaign away to Bordeaux, while Saint-Etienne will look to extend their 11-match unbeaten run amid a tense Europa League race.
Player to watch: Mathieu Debuchy
Largely frozen out at Arsenal for 18 months, the extraordinary rebirth of Mathieu Debuchy at Saint-Etienne has thrust the right-back into contention for a place in France’s World Cup squad.
After just 16 minutes of first-team action in the 2016-17 campaign, Debuchy was limited to a handful of Europa League and domestic cup matches this season before joining Saint-Etienne on a free transfer in January.
But a haul of four goals in 10 games in Ligue 1 has forced Didier Deschamps to take notice, with Debuchy’s case for inclusion in Russia growing further after an injury to Djibril Sidibe of Monaco.
“He’s the type of player used to playing matches at a high level,” Saint- Etienne coach Jean-Louis Gasset said recently of the 32-year-old Debuchy, who played at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup.
“It’s always been my goal to get back into the France team ever since I was no longer part of it. There was a time where I couldn’t hope of it because I wasn’t playing. Now that I’m playing, yes, I’m hoping for it,” Debuchy said earlier this month.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Nantes v Rennes (1730), Dijon v Lyon (1900)
Marseille v Lille (1500), Amiens v Strasbourg, Guingamp v Monaco, Metz v Caen, Toulouse v Angers
Nice v Montpellier (1300), Saint-Etienne (1500) v Troyes, Bordeaux v Paris Saint-Germain (1900)