Monaco needs another big Champions League comeback vs. City
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 13, 2017 09:58 AM
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 file photo, Monaco's Kylian Mbappe Lottin celebrates scoring the third goal against Troyes during their French League One soccer match, in Monaco. Les Monegasques will need top scorer Radamel Falcao and teen star Kylian Mbappe at their brilliant best to topple Manchester City in their return leg Champions League match. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
PARIS (AP) — Leonardo Jardim's Monaco squad would rather not just be remembered as this season's great entertainers.
Monaco showcased its forward play with a dazzling display against Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match.
But the attacking football came at a cost as Monaco surrendered a 3-2 lead to trail 5-3 heading into Wednesday's return leg. Les Monegasques will need top scorer Radamel Falcao and teen star Kylian Mbappe at their brilliant best to topple City.
With both teams packed with attacking talent, and not renowned for solid defending, another goal feast could be on the cards at Stade Louis II.
The odds are on City to advance, but Monaco has been in this position before. When it reached the final in 2004, Monaco overcame a 4-2 away loss to knock out Real Madrid in the quarterfinals.
Jardim is adamant his team can compete for four trophies this season, and the manager's message is backed by the players.
"We've got a good team and we want to show the rest of Europe," Brazilian midfielder Fabinho said.
That is also Manchester City's aim.
"When we play like we did against Monaco, we come close to the great teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern," Munich, veteran City midfielder Yaya Toure said. "We cannot dream about anything yet because we still have a second leg to play. But if you ask the fans, they believe it."
Toure won the Champions League playing for Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, who is in his first season in charge of City.
He believes Guardiola is building "something big" at City.
"The fans feel it, everyone feels it," the 33-year-old Toure said. "We are getting a winning mentality in Europe."
Meanwhile, things look fairly straightforward for Juventus on Tuesday and Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, while Leicester will be hopeful of continuing its mini-revival since Claudio Ranieri was firing.
All three clubs have home games.
Juventus, the beaten finalist in 2015, leads Porto 2-0 from the first leg, Atletico faces Bayer Leverkusen with a 4-2 lead, and Leicester trails Sevilla 2-1 after scoring a precious away goal through revitalized striker Jamie Vardy. Leicester will be counting on Vardy again at home.
Here's a look at the other games:
JUVENTUS vs. PORTO
With Juventus playing on three fronts, the matches are coming thick and fast — which is just fine for the Italian club.
"There's no time for us to rest ... and we don't want to," Juventus defender Dani Alves said. "We want this match to come."
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is up against Porto counterpart Iker Casillas for the 18th time.
Casillas, who made his name with Real Madrid, will need to be at his best for Porto to stand a chance.
Buffon hopes Casillas has a great game — in a losing cause.
"Tuesday will end with Juventus going through" Buffon said. "Casillas will be the best on the pitch, and I'll have a good performance."
Buffon, however, will need to keep a close watch on Soares.
The Brazilian striker has been in prolific form since signing from Vitoria de Guimaraes in January, scoring nine goals in six Portuguese league games.
ATLETICO MADRID vs. BAYER LEVERKUSEN
Antoine Griezmann is back among the goal scorers at the right time for Atletico Madrid.
The livewire forward has four goals in three games and 12 in 17 since the start of the year. That is three more than he managed in the first half of the season, when he struggled to replicate his form as the European Championship's top scorer with France.
Leverkusen's difficult task is made tougher by Atletico's impressive home record in European competitions, which includes just two losses in its last 33 matches at the Vicente Calderon.
Leverkusen showed little in Tayfun Korkut's first game in charge on Friday to suggest it can produce something special this week. The Bundesliga club displayed the same lack of conviction in a 1-1 draw against Werder Bremen that was evident in three preceding defeats.
LEICESTER vs. SEVILLA
Had it not been for the Champions League run, this season would have been a complete fiasco at Leicester.
Even a narrow 2-1 loss in the first leg against Sevilla wasn't enough to save the job of the man who delivered last season's astonishing Premier League title triumph: Claudio Ranieri.
The Italian manager has been replaced by his former assistant, Craig Shakespeare, until the end of the season. His position was confirmed on Sunday, removing some uncertainty before Tuesday's game.
Although staying in the Premier League is Shakespeare's absolute priority, a place in the quarterfinals of the European competition will give his squad a confidence boost.
Leicester defender Christian Fuchs is confident the difficult season has brought the players closer together, especially after Shakespeare organized a recent bonding trip to Dubai.
"Trips like this are very, very important," Fuchs said. "We've been through a lot of highs and lows."
Leicester would reach new heights by reaching the quarterfinals. Sevilla is aiming to make the last eight for the first time since 1958.
AP Sports Writers Rob Harris in London, Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Ciaran Fahey in Berlin and Daniella Matar in Milan contributed to this report.