United have done us a solid in Europe

After several years of tough draws — including Bayern Munich in the last two — we might be forgiven for celebrating a bit when this year's draw pits us against AS Monaco, arguably the weakest team we might have faced after Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Porto.

Not only are Monaco the least intimidating of the group winners, their group was itself one of the weakest - and the Monaco squad that earned an appearance in the group stage is hardly the one that we'll face off against.

This is not to suggest that they'll roll over and play dead, nor can we underestimate them. There's nothing wrong in admitting, however, that our chance at advancing is just a bit better than it would be against Bayern.


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain


It's well worth remembering that, for as inconsistent as we've been in the Premier League, we've done pretty darn well in Europe. A season ago, we almost won the ‘Group of Death’, which included Dortmund, Napoli and Marseille.

We couldn't quite replicate our performance from the season before when we very nearly toppled Bayern but we did show that there's more fight in us than we'd been showing in England. My point here is that, if we had drawn Bayern again, I fancied our chances. But I like them a little bit more against Monaco.

Gone is Radamel Falcao, scorer of nine goals in 16 appearances last season - and two in two this time around. His season-long loan to Manchester United might end up as a gift of sorts to us, as it deprives Monaco of their most potent scorer.


Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao


We might point to his goal in the Emirates Cup last summer as evidence of how dangerous he is, but I think we all understand the stakes there, not to mention the broader body of work Falcao has produced when healthy.

Perhaps even more damaging to Monaco has been James Rodriguez’s £70m transfer to Real Madrid - who tallied seven goals and eleven assists - and Emmanuel Riviere’s £6m transfer to Newcastle after his ten goals and two assists. For what it's worth, we saw Rivière on Saturday after he came on for Papiss Cisse but I can't say he made much of an impression.

Speaking of impressions, there's one out there that derives from Monaco’s five clean sheets in the group stage having only conceded once: impressive.

However, only 17 goals were scored by Group C teams in total. Elsewhere, there were seven teams that scored 15 or more goals on their own. In other words, to concede just one goal may say less about Monaco's impregnability and more about the group's overall ineptitude in front of goal.

Best of the Blogs

This first appeared on Woolwich 1886 on December 15

Woolwich 1886

In Ligue 1, Monaco have kept three clean sheets in row, including one this weekend over league-leading Marseille. Overall, they've conceded 18 goals in 18 Ligue 1 matches, nothing to sniff at but enough to shake a stick at. As implied above, Monaco may have quite a bit of trouble scoring. They've gone for three goals just once, against relegation-dwelling Bastia, and were held scoreless three times in the group-stage.

Playing mostly in a 4-3-3, Monaco draw strength from defensive organisation led by Jeremy Toulalan, Geofrrey Kondogbia - currently injured but due back in a few weeks - and Joao Moutinho.

Most of their attack seems to come down the flanks,with Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco the most lively on the left, while an old friend in Dimitir Berbatov will likely lead the line.

Never known for pace even in his younger days, he's crafty and skilled enough to cause problems and has had a few moments against us in the past. He currently leads Monaco with five goals but he may pose more of a threat creating chances for others. Assuming that we're back to full strength in our back-line, it's not idle boasting to think that we have enough to contribute to Monaco's goal-scoring woes.


Dimitar Berbatov playing for Fulham

Dimitar Berbatov playing for Fulham


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