AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps insists team spirit can help his side upset Real Madrid CF.
By Matthew Spiro in Monaco
AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps is looking to his side's "extraordinary spirit and togetherness" to help pull off a major upset against Real Madrid CF at the Stade Louis II this evening.
The Ligue 1 leaders have surprised many in the UEFA Champions League this season, but few will be expecting them to eliminate Madrid following a 4-2 first-leg defeat in the Santiago Bernabéu a fortnight ago. Deschamps, though, was in ebullient mood on Monday, insisting that the tie was far from over. "If I thought that I'd be better off staying at home tomorrow night," he said.
"Madrid are an outstanding team, but we have talent too," the Monaco coach continued. "We also have a team spirit that makes us very hard to beat and if we give absolutely everything I believe we can do it." However, their task has been made harder by the absence of three important players: Sébastien Squillaci is injured, while regular central midfield pairing Akis Zikos and Lucas Bernardi miss out through injury and suspension respectively.
Edouard Cissé will have to assume much of the defensive work in midfield, with Czech Republic international Jaroslav Plašil moving into the centre. "It's a big blow to lose Zikos and Bernardi because they have experience of playing in big international matches," Deschamps admitted. "I wouldn't say that it puts us in a delicate situation, however. We have other good players and, against Madrid, it's not only about individuals. It's about finding the right balance between attack and defence."
While Monaco need to score at least two goals to qualify for a semi-final against Arsenal FC or Chelsea FC, captain Ludovic Giuly insisted their approach would not be too offensive. "If we push forward too much it will play into their hands," Giuly said. "The crowd will be urging us forward but we have to avoid leaving gaps that they can exploit. To beat Madrid we have to play a perfect game in defence, then when we get the chance to go forward we have to play a perfect game in attack. It can't be that difficult!"
If the Monaco camp were hinting at adopting a cautious approach, Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz left no doubt as to how his side would play. "We are 4-2 up but we will not simply try to defend our lead," said the Portuguese coach. "We'll play offensively because that is what Real Madrid do best. It would be foolish to change now."
Queiroz is optimistic that winger Luís Figo will recover from a foot injury while he definitely welcomes back defender Iván Helguera, ruled out by a groin problem from the weekend win against Albacete Balompié. The Spanish champions are without David Beckham, who is suspended, but Roberto Carlos returns after missing the first leg. "I'm not sure if that is good news for us or not," Deschamps mused. "Losing Beckham is a blow for them because he contributes so much in midfield, both defensively and offensively, but Roberto Carlos is also a major weapon."
One player refusing to be lulled into a false sense of security by Deschamps' compliments is his former France team-mate Zinedine Zidane. "I wouldn't be surprised if Didier springs a few tactical surprises," said the Madrid playmaker. "He has a great football mind and he knows our players very well. That is not usually enough to beat Madrid, however, and if we play at 100 per cent I am confident we will go through."