Montpellier v Monaco – La Mosson at 19:00
AS Monaco head coach Leonardo Jardim was delighted as his side qualified for the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue in midweek, ousting Côte d’Azur rivals Nice 2-1 on enemy turf.
The principality arrived at the Allianz Riviera with unhappy memories of previous visits under Jardim – including a 4-0 thrashing already this season – but the defending Ligue 1 champions altered their approach to combat Nice’s counter-attack qualities.
Monaco defended deeper to avoid the quick breaks of their hosts and utilised the flanks as they searched for a way past their stubborn opposition. And Les Rouges et Blanc didn’t have to wait too long for a breakthrough, which turned the tie in their favour.
The sought-after Thomas Lemar took just three minutes to show why he’s been attracting admiring glances from around Europe in recent weeks when heading home a Keita Balde cross before Adama Diakhaby gave Monaco a 2-1 advantage before the interval, getting the end of another Balde ball after Nice had levelled.
If Monaco were the better side in a competitive first 45 minutes, Nice certainly turned up the pressure after the interval. Guest goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was forced into numerous saves and the hosts spurned a number of opportunities to grab an equalising goal with Jardim’s charges sealing progression.
Tough task awaits
Having entered the winter break on the back of four successive Ligue 1 triumphs, Monaco had already climbed back into the second spot and now have a cup semi-final to look ahead to. However, the Les Rouges et Blanc will need to be on top of their game if they’re to extend their impressive recent run on Saturday.
The visitors face a tricky test at Montpellier and having pocketed maximum points in only three of their last seven away league games, it would be no surprise to see the high-flyers stumble at the Stade de la Mosson.
Montpellier have enjoyed a full week to prepare for the encounter and the division’s best defence will relish taking on one of France’s most exciting attacks. With Marseille and runaway league leaders PSG already being held to draws here, there’s no guarantee Monaco will triumph.
The betting angle
Sitting back, remaining compact and supremely organised, Montpellier are no easy meat at the best of times and Nantes is the only top-six club to squeeze out a success here this season, and even that came by the narrowest of margins (1-0).
Nice were beaten 2-0 at the Stade de la Mosson but with odds on Montpellier with a +0.50 start a little skinny, it may pay to back another cagey affair. Michel Der Zakarian is renowned for his defensive approach and with La Paillade’s matches averaging just 1.58 goals-per-game, opposing goals suits.
Only three of Montpellier’s outings under Der Zakarian has surpassed the two-goals line so I’m comfortable supporting a repeat on Saturday night where Under 2.5 Goals is available at 1.751. The home side will look to stifle Monaco’s exciting attacking flair, just as they did when PSG came to town.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.5 Goals at 1.751