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Jardim again in firing line at middling Monaco

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Paris (AFP)

Leonardo Jardim finds himself again facing mounting scrutiny in his second spell as Monaco boss after a humbling home defeat by Lille in the French League Cup in midweek.

Jardim, the mastermind of Monaco's run to the 2017 Ligue 1 title, heads into the final game of the year with his side six points adrift of the Champions League places.

Monaco host Lille, who occupy that third European spot, for the second time in five days this weekend having suffered a deflating 3-0 loss at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday.

"We weren't up to scratch. We expect more of ourselves and we must give a response Saturday," Jardim said following his side's last 16 exit.

The Portuguese landed himself in the spotlight in September as Monaco picked up just three points from their opening six games despite a summer outlay of 135 million euros ($150 million).

Five wins in six helped douse the flames but this week's abject display against Lille stoked fresh concerns about the direction the club is heading.

"Do I feel in danger? Like all coaches. We've progressed since (September). It's not up to me to make an assessment," Jardim told reporters Thursday.

The 45-year-old was reappointed in January, just three months after he was sacked and replaced by Thierry Henry.

"The boss asked me to come back. I'm serving the club. We're building a new team," said Jardim.

"Being on the frontline is the life of a coach. I prefer the criticism is directed at me rather than my players.

"Let them do their job and show their qualities. I prefer to be the target."

Reports in France suggest another limp display at home, where a smattering of Monaco fans voiced their displeasure midweek, could place Jardim's future in serious jeopardy.

One bonus for Monaco, who in contrast could begin 2020 just three points back of third place with victory Saturday, will be the absence of Lille striker Victor Osimhen.

The Nigerian will not be risked after complaining of pain and dizziness while celebrating his first-half goal in the cup encounter.

League leaders Paris Saint-Germain host Amiens while second-placed Marseille, who trail their bitter rivals by seven points, conclude 2019 against Nimes at the Velodrome.

One to watch: Nemanja Radonjic

The Serbia international has turned into a real weapon off the bench for Marseille after bagging four goals in his past five outings, all of which have come as a substitute.

Radonjic failed to score a single time last season following his move from Red Star Belgrade but struck a late winner against Brest on November 29 and salvaged a point a week ago at Metz.

"Radonjic is doing everything to deserve a chance," said OM coach Andre Villas-Boas, who has limited the winger to just three Ligue 1 starts this campaign.

"We both agree at the moment we have a super-sub who is doing well, and we have to take advantage of it. If I start him I don't want him to miss his opportunity because of the expectations on him."

Key stats

4 - the number of league starts made by Edinson Cavani this season. The Uruguayan is unlikely to play for PSG this weekend after suffering another injury setback.

6 - the number of consecutive games in which Kylian Mbappe has scored across all competitions. It is the best run of the France forward's career at club level.

37 - the combined age of Saint-Etienne's two goalscorers in their League Cup win at Nimes. Bilal Benkhedim (18) and Edmilson Indjai Correia (19) both scored on their first senior starts.

Fixtures (all kick-offs 1945 GMT)

Saturday

Dijon v Metz, Marseille v Nimes, Monaco v Lille, Montpellier v Brest, Nantes v Angers, Nice v Toulouse, Paris Saint-Germain v Amiens, Reims v Lyon, Rennes v Bordeaux, Strasbourg v Saint-Etienne

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