AS Monaco travel to the French capital to face titleholders Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes on Sunday as the form team in this box office Ligue 1 clash that would not look out of place in the UEFA Champions League.
Les Monegasques, fourth in Le Championnat and five points behind Les Parisiens, are unbeaten in 10 matches with eight wins and two draws while their recent run of seven consecutive victories was a best streak since 1997 for the eight-time French champions.
PSG thumped Barcelona 4-1 at Camp Nou in the UCL in midweek, but domestically they have lost once away at FC Lorient and twice dropped further points in draws against AS Saint-Etienne and Lille OSC while Monaco steadily improved behind them.
Speaking exclusively with CBS Sports, ASM vice president Oleg Petrov spoke of his hope for a repeat of the 3-2 Ligue 1 home win over PSG back in November to complete a double and the pride of going up against famed youth academy graduate Kylian Mbappe.
“Obviously, we all saw PSG’s outstanding performance against Barcelona,” Petrov said. “When they play at that level, few European teams can stop them. We go to Parc des Princes with humility, but also determination, as we did in our first meeting where we managed to come back from 2-0 down. We must show the same spirit and we hope to bring back a result.
“Everyone saw Kylian’s great performance, and it made us proud in Monaco as we know that he was trained right here.”
Monaco’s recent strong form was slowed slightly by a draw at home to the same Lorient side that beat PSG but Niko Kovac’s men did thrash Les Merlus 5-2 away at the start of the year and their young team is maturing all the time.
“We are on a good run and improving,” veteran presence Cesc Fabregas said during a Ligue 1 press conference. “Our start was a bit shaky, but we have grown a lot. We have many youngsters with little experience.
“We are getting there slowly, climbing the table, and hoping to fight with the three top monsters. Hopefully, the Champions League happens. Being on the podium is the club’s objective and we are not far off. We need to stay consistent between now and the end of the season to achieve that.”
“We are very happy with the positive results and good atmosphere,” added Petrov exclusively to CBS Sports. “Ligue 1 is very competitive and the domestic league of the world champions. Competing with teams like PSG and Lyon, Champions League finalists and semi-finalists, as well as a consistently performing Lille, is very difficult.
“We have one of Europe’s youngest squads and our style of play is attractive and intense. It will take time to reach where we want to be, but we are going the right way.”
Monaco have undergone major transformation since last summer with a staggering 48 players on professional contracts moved on as new sporting director Paul Mitchell slashed numbers from 77 to the 29 at present.
The Englishman moved quickly to bring in Kovac as first team coach and added James Bunce as performance director as work continued on a state-of-the-art performance center that was first unveiled at the start of 2019.
“A new chapter and constructing a solid project in order to achieve long-term success was our priority,” explained Petrov of last season’s finish in ninth. “With this in mind, we appointed Paul as sporting director.
“He has learned from and brought a lot to clubs like RB Leipzig, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton. His expertise is an important asset for us. The choice to appoint Niko as coach and his ability to manage and develop this young group is key in our good season.
“President (Dmitry) Rybolovlev is ambitious and his vision for Monaco is clear: to bring the club back to French football’s top spots as well as regularly competing and performing well in Europe. We can count on the president’s daily investment and full support.”
On Kovac, Petrov has been impressed with the German-born former Croatia international’s work with such a young squad and emphasized the importance of staying true to Monaco’s reputation for youth development.
“Niko is doing a great job so far,” he said. “His squad has experience with Cesc (Fabregas), Wissam (Ben Yedder) and Kevin (Volland), but also many talented youngsters like Aleksandr (Golovin), Benoit (Badiashile), Youssouf (Fofana) and Aurelien (Tchouameni).
“We rely on them as the club did in the past with Thierry (Henry) and David (Trezeguet). Birthing young players has always been in the club’s DNA and it is a tradition that we want to maintain.”
“The coach has matured this young team in just a few months,” added Fabregas on Kovac. “He has introduced discipline, determination and attitude at all levels. He is tactically knowledgeable, was a player — a midfielder like me — and has a lot of experience. He is fantastic for young players.
“I have been lucky enough to be coached by some of the best in history. I always take little things from each — positive and not so positive. What I like about him is that he speaks with me and explains his philosophy. He was a top player and I like speaking to share similar knowledge.”
Ben Yedder and Volland have 25 goals and 11 assists between them this season while Golovin has swiftly notched four goals and four more assists in a very small amount of game time to make the Monegasque attack highly potent.
“They bring goals and quality — two of the most important things in soccer,” said Fabregas. “Sticking 10 men behind the ball is easy. To score goals, you need technical ability and to be smart with your movement in different areas.
“Only strikers can explain it as I only see a bit of it from behind. I always felt that we had a good team but that we needed a bit of power up front. Wissam and Kevin have brought a lot of goals to the side and those goals are important as they win games.”
Fabregas, now 33, scored in the 3-2 win over PSG at Stade Louis II earlier in the season and will be hoping to contribute again on Sunday as Monaco continue to close the gap on Ligue 1’s three title contenders.