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Preview: AS Monaco vs. Juventus

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg between AS Monaco and Juventus.

AS Monaco will look to continue their incredible 2016-17 campaign when they welcome Italian champions Juventus to Stade Louis II for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night.

Monaco have lost their two previous Champions League knockout ties with Juventus, but the Ligue 1 leaders will be confident of progressing to the final after an impressive season to date.

AS Monaco

AS Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim watches on during his side's Champions League last 16 first leg with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017© SilverHub

Monaco have made the semi-finals of the European Cup for the fourth time this season, although it is their first appearance at this stage of the competition since the 2003-04 campaign, when they beat Chelsea 5-3 on aggregate.

A remarkable 2016-17 season has seen Leonardo Jardim's side rise to the top of Ligue 1, and they currently hold a three-point advantage over second-placed Paris Saint-Germain, still with a game in hand.

It is their performances in the Champions League that have brought the biggest interest, however, with the principality side expected to face a tough task to keep hold of a number of their first-team players in this summer's transfer window.

With that in mind, this might well be Monaco's best chance to land Europe's biggest prize for some time. The free-scoring outfit have netted in all but one of their 14 games in this season's competition, only drawing a blank when they lost 3-0 away to Bayer Leverkusen on matchday six in the group stage.

Jardim's side have also won six of their seven home games in the 2016-17 Champions League – managing 16 goals in those seven fixtures.

Their spot in the competition looked in doubt when they lost 5-3 at Manchester City in the first leg of their last-16 affair, but a 3-1 victory in the reverse saw the Ligue 1 outfit advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.

Monaco's last-eight tie with Borussia Dortmund was largely overshadowed by the terrorist attack on the Bundesliga side's bus, but two impressive performances from Jardim's side saw them advance 6-3 on aggregate.

Monaco's record in two-legged ties with Italian teams is won one and lost five, but they have only lost one of their six matches at home to Serie A opposition, and that came against Inter Milan in the 1963-64 European Champion Clubs' Cup.

Recent form: WLLWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWLW


Massimiliano Allegri watches on during the Serie A game between Milan and Juventus on April 9, 2016© AFP

Juventus, meanwhile, are in the semi-finals of the Champions League for the second time in the last three years. They overcame Real Madrid to reach the 2014-15 conclusion, but suffered a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Berlin final.

Juventus are 32-time winners of Serie A, but they have only lifted the European Cup on two previous occasions. The first of those arrived in 1985, before beating Ajax in the 1996 final to triumph once again.

Domestic success has not been a problem for the Old Lady, and they are heading for a 33rd Italian title this season. The Champions League is the one that they really want, however, and many believe that this could be the season where Juventus land Europe's biggest prize.

Incredibly, the Italian giants have not conceded a single goal in the Champions League since a 3-1 win over Sevilla on November 22. They beat Porto 3-0 on aggregate in the round of 16, before recording a 3-0 aggregate success over Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Juventus are also unbeaten in their last six meetings with French opposition, with that run stretching back to the group stage of the 2009-10 Champions League, when they lost to Bordeaux. What's more, the Italians have won all 11 of their two-legged contests against Ligue 1 opposition.

Unbeaten in their last 22 European matches on home soil, Juventus will fancy their chances of making the final if they can pick up a positive result in the first leg. In addition to excellent home form, the Serie A outfit have won four and drawn one of their five away fixtures in this season's competition.

Eleven different players have found the target for Juventus in the Champions League this season, which is an indication of their strength all over the park. Gonzalo Higuain has missed some excellent chances in recent matches, but Paulo Dybala scored two brilliant goals against Barcelona in the last round.

Recent form: WWWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDWD

Team News

Paulo Dybala celebrates scoring during the Champions League game between Juventus and Bayern Munich on February 22, 2016© AFP

Monaco will once again be without the services of first-choice right-back Djibril Sidibe, who has not featured since the start of April due to appendicitis.

As a result, experienced Moroccan Nabil Dirar is expected to start on the right of the home side's back four, with in-demand Frenchman Benjamin Mendy operating on the left.

Exciting teenager Kylian Mbappe will again be joined in the final third by Radamel Falcao, while Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva – another two that have been the subject of speculation in recent weeks – will start in the wide areas.

As for Juventus, head coach Massimiliano Allegri has no fresh injury concerns from Saturday's 2-2 draw with Atalanta, but Sami Khedira is suspended for the first leg, which could see Claudio Marchisio come into the XI.

A 4-2-3-1 formation will see Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado operate either side of Higuain and Dybala, while Miralem Pjanic is once again expected to get the nod in central midfield.

AS Monaco possible starting lineup:
Subasic; Dirar, Glik, Jemerson, Mendy; Lemar, Fabinho, Moutinho, Silva; Mbappe, Falcao

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Buffon; Alves, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Pjanic, Marchisio; Mandzukic, Dybala, Cuadrado; Higuain

Head To Head

Monaco and Juventus have previously met four times in the Champions League, with their two most recent fixtures occurring during the 2014-15 campaign.

Indeed, that particular two-legged affair took place in the quarter-finals of the competition, and it was Juventus that progressed to the final four courtesy of a 1-0 aggregate success.

The pair also met in the semi-finals of the 1997-98 Champions League, with Juventus triumphing 6-4 on aggregate despite losing the second leg 3-2 in Monaco.

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We say: AS Monaco 1-1 Juventus

It is the free-flowing attack of Monaco against the defensive brilliance of Juventus. It is a difficult game to call due to the contrast in styles, but we are backing a low-scoring draw in the first leg, which would leave the tie delicately poised ahead of the return in Turin next week.

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AS Monaco
Germany captain Lothar Matthaus lifts the World Cup trophy on July 08, 1990.
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