Hotshots Monaco stand in Pep's way

French teenager Kylian Mbappe has given defences big headaches, and Monaco will turn to him should Radamel Falcao not be fit to start, as they seek to overhaul a two-goal deficit to Manchester City.
French teenager Kylian Mbappe has given defences big headaches, and Monaco will turn to him should Radamel Falcao not be fit to start, as they seek to overhaul a two-goal deficit to Manchester City.PHOTO: REUTERS

City are in the driving seat but remain wary of Europe's top-scoring team ahead of 2nd leg

MONACO • Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne is targeting another Champions League run, although Pep Guardiola's side must first negotiate a tricky last-16 second leg against Monaco today.

City recovered from twice falling behind to outgun the French league leaders 5-3 in the opening leg in Manchester, but Monaco's formidable attacking threat could still shatter the English Premier League club's aspirations.

Under ex-manager Manuel Pellegrini last season, City reached the semi-finals for the first time, losing to eventual champions Real Madrid 1-0 on aggregate, and de Bruyne is confident they can go further with Guardiola.

"I think we can reach the final, but of course the other teams will think the same and that doesn't make it easier," the Belgium international told Uefa.com.

"It will be very tough against Monaco. They're doing extremely well at the moment, but we are very positive and if we beat them we are through to the quarter-finals.

"After that, the final isn't that far away."

Guardiola has won all seven previous last-16 ties with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but City's recent away form is mediocre at best, with just one victory in their last six games in Europe.

"We'd like to go through, but we cannot forget the team we are going to play. Their attack is the best, by far," Guardiola said.

"It will be tough but we'll try to play our game and try to be one of the best eight teams in Europe."

Radamel Falcao, who scored twice at the Etihad Stadium, is facing a fitness battle to return to the starting line-up after suffering a hip injury in Saturday's 2-1 win over Bordeaux that kept Monaco three points clear at the top.

The Colombian forward, who has scored 16 goals in Ligue 1 this season and four in the Champions League after two near-barren loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea, attributed his form to confidence.

"With confidence, the rest comes naturally," he said.

"I don't think players forget how to play football. I just needed playing time and continuity. You don't forget how to score goals."

Monaco are not short on attacking options should Falcao be deemed unfit to start, with 18-year-old starlet Kylian Mbappe having scored nine goals in his last eight appearances and 16 in 30 appearances for the Ligue 1 leaders this season.

The French teenager is already turning heads around Europe after tormenting defences throughout France and also scoring against City in the first leg.

He is dubbed "the next Thierry Henry" and even Henry himself has said that Mbappe has "something special".

Falcao added that Monaco will need to show more focus to retain any hope of going through to the quarter-finals.

"We're at a crucial stage in the season. In the Champions League, one mistake in a game can be fatal," he said.

"We need to raise our level of concentration."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

MONACO V MANCHESTER CITY

Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, tomorrow, 3.40am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Hotshots Monaco stand in Pep's way'. Print Edition | Subscribe