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‘No one better than me’ as Jardim aims to halt PSG

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Monaco’s Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim (L) and Monaco’s Russian president Dmitriy Rybolovlev (R) attend a training session on March 29, 2018 at training camp in La Turbie near Monaco. / AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim insists he is a match for any manager in the game as his side attempt to deny Paris Saint-Germain a fifth successive French League Cup title in Saturday’s final.

Monaco were thrashed 4-1 in last year’s final by PSG, although the principality club avenged that defeat as they pipped their rivals to the Ligue 1 crown to end a 17-year wait.

This season Jardim has overseen an impressive rebuilding project at Monaco, guiding the club on a 15-match unbeaten run in the league despite an injury to top striker Radamel Falcao.

“Status, recognition, titles, salary have changed, but not my way of being. I’m still the same man I was,” Jardim, who left Sporting Lisbon to take charge of Monaco in June 2014, told AFP.

“The club gives me a good salary and working conditions. Some bigger clubs exist but for the moment, at 43 years old, I’m happy here.

“The salary and product of your work aren’t everything. I turned down a very big offer from China this summer because I’m still ambitious and aiming for the highest European level.”

“Everyone has his methods, his qualities, but I never think someone is better than me,” Jardim added. “I don’t feel inferior to anyone.”

The Portuguese has had to cope with the departures of key attacking duo Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva, and Jardim deserves considerable credit for the emergence of compatriot Rony Lopes.

The Portugal winger spent the 2016-17 campaign on loan at Lille but has developed into a central figure since returning to Monaco, scoring in each of the club’s last five matches.

No revenge mission
Lopes, who started his career at Manchester City, said “revenge” is not the driving force going into Saturday’s showdown against PSG in Bordeaux.

“There’s no sense of revenge. We want to win the final and we think we have the ability to do that,” said the 22-year-old Lopes.

“We’ll have to defend very well against them. Then we’ll have to capitalise on mistakes to launch our counter-attacks.

“We have the quality to get a good result. We can’t show any fear. We must make our presence felt and prove that we are a good side, that we are here to win, and that we’re not afraid of anyone.”

Falcao is now back in action and was on target in Colombia’s 3-2 win over France in Paris last week as his country fought back from two goals behind, although he last scored for Monaco on February 4.

As for PSG, the holders remain without the sidelined Neymar as the Brazilian continues his recovery following surgery on a broken bone in his foot.

Unai Emery is hoping Angel Di Maria, scorer of 14 goals since the turn of the year, will be fit to feature after returning from international duty with Argentina nursing a thigh strain.

While PSG are virtually guaranteed to reclaim the league title, even a clean sweep of the domestic trophies — they face Caen in the French Cup semi-finals next month — is unlikely to save Emery come the end of the season.

The match at Bordeaux’s Matmut Atlantique ground will be preceded by a tribute in memory of the four people killed in last Friday’s jihadist attack in southwest France.

Security around the stadium and in the city is also being reinforced with close to 800 police officers on patrol amid the ongoing terror threat, as well as over fears of clashes between rival supporters.


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