Monaco and PSG meet in French clash with German accent
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Paris (AFP) –
Thomas Tuchel's Paris Saint-Germain are top of Ligue 1 and chasing a ninth straight win on Friday but standing in their way are an ambitious Monaco side with a German-born coach of their own in Niko Kovac.
The 49-year-old Kovac, who was brought up in West Berlin and spent most of his playing career in Germany but played internationally for Croatia, took over in the principality during the summer.
That followed a spell out of the game after his sacking by Bayern Munich in November 2019.
At the Stade Louis II, Kovac's remit is to revive the fortunes of a club who have struggled in the last two campaigns and are trying to return to the upper echelons of the French game.
Kovac was brought in by Monaco's new sporting director Paul Mitchell, the Englishman who previously headed football operations at Red Bull and was formerly head of recruitment at RB Leipzig.
Among the new signings made for this season was Germany striker Kevin Volland, who joined from Bayer Leverkusen.
The new-look Monaco have had an inconsistent start and come into the weekend in sixth place. They have won their last two games but are without French internationals Wissam Ben Yedder and Ruben Aguilar because of coronavirus and suspension respectively.
Nevertheless, Tuchel expressed his admiration for a man he faced during his time at Borussia Dortmund, when Kovac was coach of Eintracht Frankfurt.
"He did an amazing job in Frankfurt and was very successful at Bayern Munich and in general I have liked Monaco for many years," Tuchel told PSG TV.
"They are known as a club who produce a lot of talents and in combination with Niko's experience and skills as a coach, and his mentality as a hard-working guy who plays a very disciplined style of football but also very attractive, we were very curious to see him there."
PSG are five points clear of Lille at the top and could be forgiven for having one eye on next week's crucial Champions League clash with Leipzig.
Tuchel may again be without Neymar, who has been absent in recent weeks, as he looks to relieve the pressure placed on him due to PSG's European form.
Defending his counterpart, Kovac said: "I know Thomas, he's a very good person and a good coach. What more do you want from him than winning four titles and playing a Champions League final? Maybe win five with Bayern Munich?"
Player to watch: Eduardo Camavinga
The teenage sensation is back for Rennes after missing his club's last four matches due to injury.
Possibly the most exciting young talent in European football, midfielder Camavinga's return is timely ahead of next Tuesday's Champions League encounter with Chelsea.
Camavinga made his full France debut in September and scored his first goal for his country in a friendly win over Ukraine last month.
While recovering from injury he celebrated his 18th birthday last week, and marked the occasion by passing his driving test.
"For the moment, my parents don't let me drive too much," Camavinga said. "I'm waiting to have my own car, we'll see if they let me."
49 - Neymar and Angel di Maria have both scored 49 Ligue 1 goals for PSG.
5 - PSG have won each of their last five Ligue 1 games by a margin of three or more goals. According to Opta it is the first time they have achieved such a run.
9 - Lyon have picked up nine points from losing positions this season, the joint most in Europe's big five leagues alongside Manchester United and Liverpool according to Opta.
Fixtures (Kick-offs GMT)
Rennes v Bordeaux (1800), Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain (2000)
Brest v Saint-Etienne (1600)
Nantes v Metz (1200), Dijon v Lens, Montpellier v Strasbourg, Reims v Nimes (all 1400), Angers v Lyon (1600), Lille v Lorient (2000)
Postponed due to coronavirus cases
Marseille v Nice
© 2020 AFP