Monaco vs. Montpellier: Key Battles to Watch

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2013

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Radamel Falcao of Monaco in action during the the pre season friendly match between Leicester City and Monaco at The King Power Stadium on July 27, 2013 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Monaco have reason to celebrate after Ligue 1’s opening weekend. Despite Charles Perrin of the Express claiming Radamel Falcao could be sold due to the club’s ongoing tax worries, the newly promoted team posted an excellent 2-0 away win over Bordeaux.

Similarly, Montpellier’s 1-1 home draw with champions Paris Saint-Germain is an excellent way for Jean Fernandez’s side to begin their campaign. Monaco now host La Paillade in what should be a fascinating encounter at the Stade Louis II.

Can the rich principality continue their 100 percent start with a win over their confident visitors? Which battles have the potential to define the match? Read on to find out.


Can Montpellier halt Falcao?

Despite the lingering notion that Falcao may be transfer-listed soon, the Colombian forward has already helped Monaco to victory this season. Claudio Ranieri’s men needed late goals to overcome Bordeaux, and it was Falcao who nabbed the second. While Emmanuel Riviere’s 82nd-minute opener gave Monaco the initiative, it was Falcao’s clever finish that rounded the game off.

If Monaco’s owners are weighing up the sale of Falcao, the prolific striker may feel he needs to keep scoring in order to maintain his shirt. Although it seems unlikely the French side would cash in on its main asset—even with financial difficulties looming—it’s important Falcao continues to justify his cost.

The powerful forward will come up against a tough defensive lineup of Daniel Congre, Vitorino Hilton and Siaka Tiene. Abdelhamid El Kaoutari’s red card in Montpellier’s opening match sees him suspended, meaning early-season irritation has broken up the starting XI. Falcao needs to be shadowed across the box and cannot be afforded time to leap in the area.

As his goal against Bordeaux showed, Falcao is the type of player who can make something out of nothing. Montpellier will be hoping his mind is elsewhere, but in front of his home crowd, it seems unlikely.


Will lofted expectations pressure Monaco into defeat?

With great money comes great responsibility. Monaco fans have witnessed a delirious summer of major signings and lavish spending. Adding the likes of Falcao, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez to the squad, many fans will still be pinching themselves over the new talent.

The opening-day win suggests Monaco can compete with the league’s best. Montpellier pose a real threat, but many will expect the home side to produce a second victory in as many games. Big-spending Dmitry Rybolovlev has changed the entire perception of the club, their goals and realistic rate of progression.

Such realisations has the potential to cripple the players in front of a bouncing crowd.


Is it time for "The Tinkerman" to return?

With so many new players to choose from, Claudio Ranieri’s old moniker might reappear. "The Tinkerman" will be without Moutinho once again, as reported by Yahoo! Eurosport, but has plenty of options to fill the void.

At this stage, it's important for Ranieri to show some consistency. Although Lucas Ocampos didn't have the best of games against Bordeaux, the 19-year-old deserves a second chance in Moutinho's absence. He may have completed just 58 percent of his passes during the aforementioned game, but he showed good willingness to win the ball and shouldn't be punished too harshly.

As such, the battle becomes Ranieri against himself. He will be tempted to start Riviere this time round, especially after his winning goal in the last match. While it's important the Italian boss shows decent performances will be rewarded, Monaco musn't get bogged down with making continuous tactical changes, as this will kill the flow of their play.

Throwing together a new group of players is difficult enough as it is.