By Luke Nicoli
AS Monaco FC may have already booked their place in the knockout stages of this season's UEFA Champions League, but striker Fernando Morientes insists there will be no let-up as the Ligue 1 leaders face AEK Athens FC on Wednesday night.
Didier Deschamps's side, who famously beat RC Deportivo La Coruña 8-3 on their way to qualification, still need three points to be certain of finishing top of Group C which, according to the Spain forward, is imperative if Monaco hope to draw less difficult opposition in the knockout stages.
No weak teams
"It goes without saying that we are delighted to have already qualified but we are level on points with Deportivo and it would be better to finish top as we look ahead to the draw on Friday," Morientes told uefa.com. "We know we cannot hope to draw any weak teams at this stage of the competition but it might help our chances to finish top. That means we will be taking our final game in Athens very seriously."
Monaco are currently level on ten points with Deportivo but whoever they draw in the next phase, Morientes believes the team will need to show the same attacking instincts which saw them overpower Depor on 5 November. "
If somebody had told you we would win that game 8-3, you would think it was a joke, but it was an amazing performance and one we should draw inspiration from," said the 27-year-old loan signing from Real Madrid CF. "We didn't really let Deportivo into the game until we scored our fourth goal and it's that kind of high-tempo performance that will be needed if we want to keep progressing in the competition.
"Our finishing on the night was exceptional and when Deportivo scored their goals we could have lost our confidence, but we maintained our shape and showed the quality we have in the side," Morientes added. "This game will continue to give them nightmares but we must give them credit for the way they have fought back. They are still one of the best teams in Europe."
Morientes is hoping to become acquainted with Deportivo again next season but in the colours of Madrid as opposed to the red and white of Monaco. It is his intention to return to the Primera División in the summer, although he admits that his future still remains in some doubt.
"I am enjoying my time at Monaco and although the language was a bit of a problem when I first arrived, I have overcome this now," he said. "As for next year
I am hoping to return to Madrid after my loan period has finished but this decision does not only depend on me and there will be other factors to consider."
In the meantime Morientes aims to score the goals to help Monaco to Champions League glory and, hopefully, a place in the Spanish team for next summer's UEFA European Championship in Portugal. "We have a pretty difficult group as Portugal will be playing at home, Greece have beaten us in the qualifying stages and let us not forget Russia are a very strong team," said Morientes. "I am working very hard to return to the Spanish side and if things continue to go well at Monaco, then I will have given myself the best possible chance."
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