Faltering Monaco need to show backbone, says coach Jardim
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Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said his faltering French champions need players "with character" after slipping 12 points behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
The principality side made a strong start to the domestic season despite seeing their title-winning side decimated in the transfer window, with Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Kylian Mbappe and Tiemoue Bakayoko all leaving the club.
But back-to-back defeats by PSG and Nantes have left Monaco languishing in fourth place, while last season's Champions League semi-finalists were also dumped out of Europe with a 4-1 home loss to RB Leipzig last week.
"At this difficult moment, we need players with character, with experience," Jardim said Thursday ahead of Saturday's match against lowly Angers.
"They are important to bring us a little more desire and tranquility."
Without teenage sensation Mbappe, who left on loan to title rivals PSG ahead of a 180-million-euro ($214.3 million) move next year, Radamel Falcao has shouldered the goalscoring burden, while close-season signing Stevan Jovetic has struggled with form and fitness.
Colombian Falcao has managed 13 goals in just 12 league games this term, but has not scored in his last two outings, and Jardim knows his other forwards have to step up.
"It's completely different when he plays with another striker," said the Portuguese coach.
"That gives more space to Falcao, as we did last season and at the beginning of this season.
"When he's alone, our midfielders like Rony Lopes (Rachid) Ghezzal and Joao (Moutinho) are not used to going into the area, dribbling and scoring.
"Even if they play well, it's more difficult for Falcao."
Monaco suffered another setback on Wednesday, with the news that Belgium international midfielder Youri Tielemans would need knee surgery.
- PSG motor on -
PSG's front line of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Mbappe have looked unstoppable for much of this season, although the league leaders had to wait until the 73rd minute to break down a stubborn Troyes in midweek.
But world-record signing Neymar and Cavani both scored late on, despite the Uruguayan's first-half penalty miss, to continue their unbeaten start to the campaign with a 2-0 win that pulled them 10 points clear of second-placed Marseille.
The three are unlikely to start together for Saturday's game at newly-promoted Strasbourg, though, with coach Unai Emery set to ring the changes ahead of their final Champions League group-stage game at Bayern Munich.
PSG only need to avoid a four-goal loss at the Allianz Arena to finish top of Group B, but youngsters Presnel Kimpembe and Giovani Lo Celso could be given starts again at the weekend.
Elsewhere, Marseille visit Montpellier on Sunday bidding to extend a 10-match unbeaten streak in the league, while Lyon will look to bounce back from a shock home defeat by Lille at Caen.
Man to watch: Keita Balde
Monaco's close-season signing from Lazio has struggled to impress consistently since leaving Italy, but has still scored three league goals in only six starts. The 22-year-old Senegal international netted 16 times in Serie A last season, and with former Inter Milan striker Jovetic injured, Balde may prove the perfect foil for Falcao in the weeks before the winter break.
Ligue 1 fixtures (all times GMT)
Dijon v Bordeaux (1945)
Strasbourg v Paris Saint-Germain (1600), Lille v Toulouse, Monaco v Angers, Nice v Metz, Rennes v Amiens, Troyes v Guingamp (all 1900)
Saint-Etienne v Nantes (1400), Caen v Lyon (1600), Montpellier v Marseille (2000)
© 2017 AFP