Ahead of Man City v Monaco, we spoke to French football expert Jonathan Johnson to get the inside track on the Ligue 1 leaders.
Welcome back, Jonathan. Give me the latest on Monaco. What have you made of them this season?
Up until the game against Bastia on Friday night [a 1-1 draw], they’ve been very impressive but I think they showed Manchester City that there is a chink in their amour just in the nick of time. They weren’t as fluent as they have been in recent weeks.
Leonardo Jardim has been trying to rotate his squad as best he can - to give some of his best players a rest - and it hasn’t really affected them up until this game.
They took their eye off the ball slightly and prioritised the Champions League over Ligue 1, which they were able to do because of their lead at the top of the table. They won’t be able to do that ahead of the second leg. So if City get a positive result on Tuesday, they know there will be pressure on Monaco ahead of the second game.
Radamel Falcao appears to be in fine form – he’s got 19 goals already this season. Is he back to his best?
Overall, so far this season he’s been very clinical in front of goal, scoring some very varied finishes, which is largely down to the chances being created for him by his teammates. Falcao is the beneficiary of a very creative Monaco side.
He is finally the striker we saw at Atletico Madrid because he’s found his confidence again. He’s been in good physical shape for quite a while but while he was at Manchester United and Chelsea, he didn’t really enjoy that run of games he’s getting now.
We’re now seeing the striker that was so feared across Europe when he was at Atletico.
Kylian Mbappe has been grabbing some headlines. He’s only 18 and he’s scored two hat-tricks already for Monaco. Arsene Wenger rates him highly and it seems a lot of Europe’s top clubs want him. What’s your assessment?
A very talented player! A player making PSG look like fools at the moment considering he grew up in Paris but was poached by Monaco and came through their youth academy.
He’s looking like he could go on to be one of France’s biggest stars for the next decade or so. He’s very talented. Some are already drawing comparisons to Thierry Henry. I should point out he has better statistics at 18 than Henry did at the same age.
He’s a very talented player, one to watch and one who could cause City a few problems. Although, I’m not sure he’ll start the game but I think he’ll be a threat from the bench, and with his pace and technique could prove a real handful.
Monaco have scored more league goal (76) than any other team in Europe. What’s the key to that?
Jardim had to play defensive football when he first took over because he didn’t have the finishers at his disposal that he has now. Now that he has Falcao, Valere Germain and Mbappe coming through, he now has players who can put the ball in the back of the net and that’s making a big difference.
Jardim’s Monaco would have scored more in previous seasons had they had that quality. Someone like Dimitar Berbatov was always a mercurial figure and he didn’t put the ball in the back of the net regularly, and then you had Anthony Martial who was only just finding his feet, really, when Manchester United picked him up, so he wasn’t around to score consistently.
So it’s always been a problem for them: who is going to score goals week in, week out – and it’s only really this season they’ve found that. Although, I don’t think anyone expected them to be as prolific as they have been so far!
Who’s Monaco’s best player?
The most influential player would have to be Bernardo Silva. He’s a very gifted player.
Bernardo Silva is a little bit like David Silva is to Manchester City – someone who can create chances in the blink of eye and produce something out of nothing.
There are so many talented players in this Monaco side at present, though.
A draw would be a good result for Monaco. Will they see it like that?
They will know they are more than capable of winning but I think Jardim would take a draw right now.
If they manage a draw in Manchester, I can see them being able to finish City off over the two legs.
Are there any obvious weaknesses City can exploit?
Although Danijel Subasic is not a poor goalkeeper, I think there are better in Europe and I think he can be gotten at occasionally. There have been a few errors in judgement during this campaign.
The fact the full-backs like to go forward so often is something City could potentially exploit by getting in behind.
But Monaco’s biggest strength is their attack and it’s going to be interesting to see how Jardim sets them up for the away leg. Whether he plays on the counter and tries to soak up pressure, or whether he goes for the jugular straight away.
City 1-1 Monaco
(4-2-2-2): Subasic - Sidibe, Glik, Raggi, Mendy - Fabinho, Bakayoko, Silva, Lemar - Germain, Falcao (c)
Jonathan Johnson is ESPN FC &beIN Sports USA's French football specialist. You can follow him on Twitter @Jon_LeGossip