Monaco coach Jardim in spotlight amid awful start to season
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim insists he is unfazed by the speculation over his future as the 2017 French champions go into a midweek derby against Patrick Vieira’s Nice still without a win this season.
The principality club battled to a 0-0 draw in Reims at the weekend but have a meagre three points after six games and sit in the Ligue 1 relegation zone.
After only just avoiding the drop last season, Monaco had been hoping to return to challenging for Champions League qualification this time around.
A reported 133 million euros ($146.1 million) has been invested in new signings, but they are already 12 points adrift of leaders Paris Saint-Germain and nine behind Nice in third.
They have won only once in 15 games since March and supporters called for the head of Jardim during Saturday’s match.
“It is nothing personal. The coach is always responsible for bad results,” said Jardim, who masterminded that run to the title in 2017 before being sacked in October last year, only to return three months later after Thierry Henry’s ill-fated spell in charge.
“Now we have two matches, against Nice and then against Brest on Saturday, but there is always pressure in football.”
Monaco’s main problem this season has been their defence, while summer recruits Wissam Ben Yedder and Islam Slimani have quickly forged a promising partnership in attack.
However, they kept a welcome clean sheet in Reims while Ben Yedder and Slimani were out injured. Both hope to return against Nice at the Stade Louis II.
It also remains to be seen if Cesc Fabregas will be recalled after being dropped at the weekend, and Jardim is convinced his squad now is far stronger than a year ago, when he first left the club.
“I am sure of it. It is the first time that I have had so many negative results and these cycles are difficult to change,” he said.
“But we have more quality in the squad to be able to change quickly.”
Meanwhile, Nice make the short trip along the stunning Cote d’Azur fresh from winning four of their opening six games.
Danish striker Kasper Dolberg scored his first goal in French football in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Dijon following his 20.5 million-euro move from Ajax, and Nice can go provisionally level with PSG if they win.
One to watch: Neymar
Because you cannot take your eyes off him just now. The world’s most expensive player has played just twice for PSG this season and on each occasion has popped up with a spectacular late winner.
After his injury-time overhead kick to beat Strasbourg, on Sunday the Brazilian’s clinical finish sank Lyon 1-0 to put his team clear at the top again.
That win was achieved without the injured Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Mauro Icardi, and it remains to be seen if any of them will return to face Reims in Paris on Wednesday.
Neymar does seem set to play, though, and could once again be welcomed with a chorus of jeers from home fans at the Parc des Princes, despite his match-winning form.
4 – Monaco have not won any of their last four derby clashes with Nice.
7 – Lyon may be France’s richest club behind PSG but Sunday’s defeat at home to the capital side means they are already seven points adrift of the league leaders after six games. Sylvinho’s team visit Brest on Wednesday.
10 – With just six points from their first six games, Saint-Etienne are enduring their worst start to a season in 10 years, since the 2009-10 campaign.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1700 GMT unless stated)
Dijon v Marseille, Monaco v Nice (1900 GMT)
Amiens v Bordeaux, Brest v Lyon, Lille v Strasbourg, Montpellier v Nimes, Nantes v Rennes, Saint-Etienne v Metz, Toulouse v Angers, Paris Saint-Germain v Reims (1900 GMT)