The last 16 of the Champions League had a record number of goals with 62 (SIXTY TWO. Wow). Outside of the usual European heavyweights Monaco stood out as one of the most exciting young teams in their victory over big spending Manchester City. How good are Monaco and how far can get they get in this year’s competition?
The biggest story of their success this season has been the explosion on the scene of Kylian Mbappé. Since December he has scored 17 goals across four competitions and arisen has the hottest young striker in world football. Inevitably he has drawn comparisons with fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry but he is broader, more physical and more direct. He reminds me of Ronaldo – not the prissy Portuguese one, the Brazilian legend. It’s worth noting that Thierry Henry was never very good in the air where as Mbappé is more than capable.
Lost in the hype over Mbappé has been the player many considered Monaco’s best at the beginning of the season: Thomas Lemar. He has made then number 10 spot his own with 11 goals and 8 assists. If Monaco are to stand a chance against the Champions League superpowers it will be through Lemar controlling the game rather than Mbappé’s raw power.
Their list of exciting young stars doesn’t end with Lemar and Mbappé. Impressive against Manchester City were Fabinho, Bakayoko, Mendy and Bernardo Silva. All of which belied their young ages to best City’s established Premier League stars. There is obviously the question of whether these rising stars are ready. However, they are not without experience in their ranks.
Club captain Radamel Falcao has had European success winning the Europa League with both Porto and Atletico Madrid. Also at Porto for that victory was Portugese midfielder João Moutinho who is a natural leader amongst the young heads of the dressing room. Additionally their defense in marshaled by Italian journeyman Andrea Raggi who at 32 has all the calmed headed nous you’d expect in a wily old Italian center back.
The draw has fallen favorably for the French side as they pair up against Borussia Dortmund. The titans of Barca, Real, Bayern & Juve have all been avoided for now. With the second leg at home they will fancy their chances of making it through to the semi-finals. They will then be praying to face the winner of Atletico v Leicester – another winnable matchup for them.
If the draw falls their way they could make the final and then anything could happen. What is certain is that there is not a team in the Champions League that will under-estimate their goal scoring threat and energetic approach.