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Monaco look to revive title challenge

Paris, Thursday @PeopleSports11

Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco head to Saint-Etienne on Friday hoping to put a recent slump in form firmly behind them with a third straight Ligue 1 victory. The reigning French champions sit nine points adrift of league leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who visit Rennes on Saturday, after following back-to-back defeats with successive wins over lowly Angers and Troyes.

They should face a tougher test against Saint-Etienne, although Les Verts are also struggling at the wrong end of the table after an eight-match winless streak. “Saint-Etienne are going through a difficult time but they’re a big club,” said Monaco coach Jardim.

“They have been at the top of the table in recent years. We have to respect them and play at 100 percent to get the three points.” It has been a difficult season for the principality club after losing Kylian Mbappe, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy during the transfer window, while Djibril Sidibe and Thomas Lemar have struggled with injuries.

There was more bad news for Jardim on Wednesday, as Brazil midfielder Fabinho said he expects to leave Monaco at the end of the season. But with their European campaign brought to an abrupt end by a string of poor performances and a bottom-placed finish in their Champions League group, Monaco’s depleted squad can now turn their attentions solely to domestic matters.

Colombian Radamel Falcao has led from the front with 18 goals in all competitions, including a remarkable 50-yard strike in Tuesday’s League Cup win over Caen and Monaco will be hoping for more of the same from their captain.

PSG have already ensured they will head into the winter break top of the table, but have shown signs of weakness this month with losses to Strasbourg and Bayern Munich.

But they brushed aside Strasbourg in the French League Cup on Wednesday without Neymar and Mbappe, who are both expected to return to the starting line-up at the weekend.

Neymar will return to training on Thursday after a trip to his native Brazil for a ‘family problem’, having also been suspended for last week’s win over Lille. -AFP

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