By Matthew Spiro in Monaco
AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps insists his side will adopt a defensive approach to their UEFA Champions League first knockout round match against FC Lokomotiv Moskva, despite trailing 2-1 from the first leg.
Lokomotiv steam ahead
The Ligue 1 leaders were outplayed for long periods in Moscow a fortnight ago, with goals from Marat Izmailov and Vladimir Maminov putting the Russian team in a strong position before a Fernando Morientes strike for the visitors. Deschamps was understandably concerned by his side's lack of defensive stability in that match and admitted that he is hoping to see an improvement at the Stade Louis II.
"It doesn't matter what the score is from the first leg," said the former French international. "If you want to win a football match you have to start off by having a solid foundation at the back.
We have to try to keep a clean sheet. If we can do that we only need to score once, but as soon as we concede a goal it gets more complicated."
Right-back Gaël Givet will once again fill in for the injured Sébastien Squillaci in central defence, while captain Ludovic Giuly has failed to recover from a broken toe. Givet's defensive partner Julien Rodriguez, however, dismissed the suggestion that Monaco's defence was lacking confidence. "We had some problems in Russia, but since then we have rediscovered our stability in our last two league matches," he told uefa.com. "It is a big game but we don't feel tense."
But while Monaco have been consistently excellent on the domestic front, their Champions League form is wavering; the principality club have managed just two draws and a defeat since their sensational 8-3 win against RC Deportivo La Coruña on Matchday 4. Deschamps, though, is not surprised by the downturn, saying: "It's understandable that we've found the going more difficult since that game. Images of that match will have been beamed all around Europe, so other teams are now wary of us and know our game better."
Deschamps attempted to take the pressure off his players by insisting he would be proud of them whatever the outcome against Lokomotiv. "
What we have achieved in Europe this season is already extraordinary," he said. "A lot of my players are playing two-legged European ties for the first time, so it is still a learning experience. Lokomotiv always represented a difficult hurdle for us to get over."
Lokomotiv, meanwhile, have been boosted by the news that midfield player Izmailov, whose high-class strike opened the scoring in the first leg, has recovered from a leg muscle strain and will start. Coach Yuri Semin said: "We didn't play him in our last domestic match because we did not want to take any risks, but he has been training with us and he is ready."
Lokomotiv defender Dmitri Sennikov is likely to play in a mask to protect his broken nose, although midfield player Dmitri Khokhlov will miss out due to a back injury and Semin is taking nothing for granted ahead of "the most important game in Lokomotiv's history".
'Play to win'
"I don't think we have an advantage because of the first-leg score," said the Lokomotiv coach. "It's just another match that starts at 0-0 and that we must try to win. Playing for a 0-0 draw is always dangerous, even though that would be good enough for us. Frankly
I don't care what the score is as long as we get through."
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