AS Monaco vs Bayer Leverkusen Preview: A tough test awaits for the Werkself

AS Monaco vs Bayer Leverkusen Preview: A tough test awaits for the Werkself

Roger Schmidt's side have a poor record against Monaco, but the hosts will be without Radamel Falcao.

James Rees

AS Monaco will be looking to build on their opening UEFA Champions League Group E win against Tottenham Hotspur as they welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Stade Louis-II.

The Germans are looking for the first-ever win against Monaco, and only their second win against French opposition. Their opening game draw with CSKA Moscow was not ideal, especially as this looks to be a tough test for Roger Schmidt’s side.

They do though have Javier Hernández fresh from a hat-trick at the weekend, whilst Monaco will be without their leading striker Radamel Falcao.

Monaco unbeaten against Leverkusen

The two sides have met in two previous Champions League campaigns, with Monaco winning three of the four matches. They won both games 1-0 when the two sides met in the competition two seasons ago, however three wins and a draw from their games against SL Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg meant Leverkusen still finished second behind Monaco in the group.

João Moutinho, still with Monaco, scored the goal in the principality in the opening group game, whilst Lucas Ocampos got the only goal at the BayArena just over two months later.

Going further back, they were also in the same group in the 1997-98 season. A certain Thierry Henry and future Borussia Dortmund striker Victor Ikpeba scored doubles as Monaco won their home match 4-0.

They then came from 2-0 to draw 2-2 in Germany. Stefan Beinlich and Erik Meijer had scored for Leverkusen, with Christophe Pignol getting one back before Henry was again on the scoresheet with the equaliser. Again though, Leverkusen finished second behind Monaco, winning all four of their matches against Sporting Clube de Portugal and Lierse S.K. to finish as best runners-up.

Overall, Monaco have won four of their seven games at home to German opposition, whilst Leverkusen have only won once, and lost four times, in their seven visits to France. Their only victory came at Olympique Lyonnais in 2001/02, when they went all the way to the final.

Has Hernández found his form?

Monaco have started the season in blistering style, and currently sit just behind OGC Nice in second place in Ligue 1. They have won five of their seven leagues games, with their only blemish being a 4-0 defeat to Nice last week.

They recovered from that loss on Saturday with a 2-1 victory against Angers. They had fallen behind but Kamil Glik equalised before winning thanks to a Dickson Nwakaeme own goal.

After making it through the qualifiers, they started their group stage campaign with a 2-1 win at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur. Bernardo Silva and substitute Thomas Lemar scored their goals, with a Toby Alderweireld goal just before the break proving to be just a consolation.

Leverkusen haven't start the season quite as impressively, and if it hadn't been for other big clubs like Schalke 04 suffering even worse starts, there might have been much more scrutiny in Germany on Schmidt's side.

They had looked in danger of a third defeat in just five games against 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday, falling behind twice, however Hernández scored a hat-trick, including a 92nd minute winner, to save their blushes. After a hand injury kept him out early in the season, has he finally started to get going?

In their opening game in Group E, they had led 2-0 against CSKA Moscow with early goals from Admir Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu, but the Russians scored twice in three minutes, with the game finishing 2-2.

Monaco to take a cautious approach

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim is keen for the side to play to their strengths. “We have small and technical players so we'll try to avoid aerial and physical battles with their defence,” he said. “We'll use the speed and technique of our players.”

After dropping points in their first game, Schmidt accepts qualification from the group will not be easy. "If in the end we have it all in our own hands at home to Monaco on the final day, that would be good," he admits.

He is wary that Monaco are a side that takes few risks, and makes the most of their chances. "The two games against us [two years' ago] were good examples, as we had the game under control, having a lot of opportunities that we didn't exploit,” he said. “And Monaco had us with one good attack twice - 1-0, beaten."

Falcao ruled out for Monaco

Monaco will be without their most recognisable player, Falcao, with Jardim confirming he is still recovering from the concussion picked up against Nice. Valère Germain will therefore most likely play up front, although depending on the system Jardim goes with, he could be joined up front by Guido Carrillo.

Jardim had made several changes for the game against Angers, and he could revert to a line-up closer to the one that played against Tottenham two weeks’ ago. One man who should keep his place is Benjamin Mendy, who returned at the weekend after injury, but Andrea Raggi, Tiemoué Bakayoko, Fabinho and Lemar should return.

Leverkusen left out Calhanoglu (ankle) and Lars Bender (shin) as a precautionary measure against Mainz, but both have travelled to Monaco. Schmidt was confident Calhaoglu would return, but was more cautious about Bender.

Jonathan Tah could also return to the starting line-up after replacing Aleksandar Dragovic at half-time in that game, whilst Stefan Kießling could be in line for a first start of the season after making a positive impact from the bench in that, in place of Joel Pohjanpalo who was less effectual from the start as he has been from the bench.

Predicted line-ups

AS Monaco: (4-2-3-1) Subasic, Raggi, Jemerson, Glik, Mendy; Bakayoko, Fabinho; Lemar, Moutinho, Silva; Germain.

Bayer Leverkusen: (4-4-2) Leno; Henrichs, Toprak, Tah, Wendell; Brandt, Aránguiz, Bender, Calhanoglu; Hernández, Kießling.

Quotes via Kicker and UEFA.