By Matthew Spiro in Monaco
AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps is confident his side will consolidate their excellent start to the UEFA Champions League by sealing a second successive victory when they welcome visitors AEK Athens FC.
All doubts gone
The principality club marked their return to Europe with a hard-earned 2-1 win at PSV Eindhoven two weeks ago, and Deschamps thinks that result will have given his players the conviction that they can succeed in the competition. "They have seen they can do it now," he explained. "Any doubts they may have had before the Champions League will have disappeared. But they know they haven't proved anything yet and on Tuesday they will have to do it all again."
'Always in danger'
Monaco have chalked up two victories in the league since the PSV game, consolidating their position at the top of the table, but Deschamps dismissed the suggestion that his side might be complacent. "We know that a team that is on a good run like we are is always in danger," continued the former French international. "
Every run comes to an end at some point - though, of course, we hope it will go on for as long as possible."
Warning for Monaco
Deschamps admitted he is wary Monaco could be caught out by the Greek side if they play too offensively. "I have told them to be careful," he said. "We are a side that likes to play and likes to attack, but they have some dangerous and pacy forwards and if we are not careful they will punish us. The most important thing for us is to establish a solid defensive platform from which to build."
Meanwhile, winger Ludovic Giuly, who is likely to be employed in a more central role behind striker Fernando Morientes, insisted the team was relishing the chance to pit their wits against Europe's élite. "The players are all excited to be in the Champions League and we will not need any extra motivating tomorrow," Giuly said. "We know what to expect.
AEK are a good, aggressive team and I think we will have to really concentrate to get a result."
The French club are without long-term injury victim Shabani Nonda, but Deschamps confirmed that former AEK midfield player Akis Zikos would start despite suffering a minor reaction to his knee operation. "Don't worry about Zikos, he will be out there," the Monaco coach confirmed. "He is desperate to play against his old team-mates."
However, AEK coach Dusan Bajevic's concerns over the fitness of captain Mihalis Kasapis are more serious. "I don't think he will play from the start," said Bajevic of the defender. "He has not trained for six days because of his foot injury and we will see how he goes in training tonight [Monday] before making any decision."
The Greek side go into the game on a run of seven straight Champions League draws following the 1-1 stalemate against RC Deportivo La Coruña a fortnight ago, and Bajevic admitted that he was struggling to put his finger on how to find that elusive win.
I don't think there is one sole reason why we keep getting draws," he said. "We will of course try to keep it very tight defensively because Monaco are technically superb and have lots of pace in attack. But we also have weapons of our own and we need to play in such a way that we can make use of our attacking strengths."
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