AS Monaco FC coach Claudio Ranieri said his team can be relied upon to be French champions should Paris Saint-Germain "turn down the offer" of back-to-back Ligue 1 crowns, after the pair drew 1-1 on Sunday night.
A win for Paris would have sent them eight points clear at the summit, and it looked like Laurent Blanc's charges were well on their way when Javier Pastore turned in Alex's back-post header in the eighth minute.
However, Ranieri's tactical tweak at half-time, bringing on Geoffrey Kondogbia for Lucas Ocampos in a reshuffled diamond midfield, turned the tables. With 74 minutes on the clock, Paris defender Thiago Silva inadvertently directed Fabinho's low cross past his own keeper to earn Monaco a share of the spoils and keep them five points behind the leaders.
The result contradicted Ranieri's pre-match message, where the 62-year-old had said Monaco would approach the game as a friendly. His reasoning? "Paris are a class apart and we cannot expect anything from this tie. They are like aliens to us."
But a second draw in as many games against the title holders led to the Italian tactician's views evolving slightly, with a subtle warning for Blanc. "It's important to tell the truth to our fans," Ranieri said. "We are ambitious, it's true, but we are still a promoted side and ambitions of thwarting big champions are not entirely realistic. We should carry on calmly playing for second place. If Paris turn down an offered title, though, we can be relied upon to take it."
If the mind games employed by the former Chelsea FC and Valencia CF coach affected his counterpart, Blanc did not show it. "I know Mr Ranieri very well," he said. "All I can say is that both our teams are doing very well in the league this season and should we carry on we will be hard to catch."
While that statement is rooted in fact – third-placed LOSC Lille are six points adrift – "doing very well" is somewhat understating the standard that the capital side are setting in the league this term. Having collected 55 points in 24 games, Paris have the highest recorded tally at this stage of the campaign since the introduction of the three-point win, 20 years ago.
Monaco are still involved in the French Cup, playing at neighbours OGC Nice in the last 16 on Wednesday. Paris, meanwhile, have reached the French league Cup final (vs Olympique Lyonnais on 19 April) and the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League – the prize that their Riviera rivals have in their sights.
"Our main aim is second place which means a Champions League berth," said Monaco midfielder Jérémy Toulalan after Sunday's encounter, echoing Ranieri's sentiments. Toulalan was quick to add, however: "If Paris lose pace, we'll be there to get them."
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