Season preview: AS Monaco

Season preview: AS Monaco
© AP Photos
Sports Mole previews AS Monaco's chances of wresting the Ligue 1 title away from Paris Saint-Germain.

With the Ligue 1 season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole has cast its eye over big-spending Monaco's summer and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign.

In:

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid), Joao Mountinho (Porto), James Rodriguez (Porto), Jeremy Toulalan (Malaga), Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (Valenciennes), Ricardo Carvalho (Real Madrid), Anthony Martial (Lyon), Fabinho (Rio Ave), Borja Lopez (Sporting Gijon)

Out:

Tristan Dingome (Harve AC, Loan), Carl Medjani (Olympiacos), Pandor (Stade Brestois, Loan), Nampalys Mendy (Nice), Jerome Phojo (Bastia, Loan), Salli (Lens), Dennis Appiah (Caen), Mendes (Arles Avignon), Adriano (retired), Gaetano Monachello (Cercle Brugge, Loan), Emir Bajrami (Panathinaikos), Martin Sourzac (FC Brussels, Loan), Alexandros Tziolis (PAOK), Stephane Dumont (Released), Jeremy Labor (FC Brussels, Loan)

Last Season: First, Ligue 2.

Manager: Claudio Ranieri

Three key players:


Eric Abidal© PA Photos
Eric Abidal - The fact that Abidal has overcome liver cancer to continue his career as a footballer says a lot about his character. On the pitch, the 33-year-old possesses a wealth of knowledge, having won three league titles in France with Lyon and a further four in Spain during his stint with Barcelona. It's that type of experience that is likely to prove crucial if new look Monaco are to contend for the title with Paris Saint-Germain. The defender is also returning to the club that gave him his chance in senior football.


Joao Moutinho scores for FC Porto on November 21, 2012© AP Photos
Joao Moutinho - Speculation earlier this year claimed that a host of Premier League clubs were eager to sign the Portugal international this summer. However, he eventually plumped for life in France. At the age of 26, the creative midfielder is just about to enter into his peak years as a footballer. He is likely to operate at the hub of the Monaco midfield, with the task of creating chances for his more attacking teammates. Moutinho is also a threat from free kicks, but he may very well have competition to take those from the player below.


New Monaco signing Radamel Falcao with his shirt on July 9, 2013© AP Photos
Radamel Falcao - Having scored 142 goals in the last five seasons for Porto and Atletico Madrid, the Colombian striker was wanted by a number of Europe's biggest clubs during the ongoing transfer window. They were all blown out of the water by Monaco though, who paid a reported £50m for his services. Such a fee means that there is a lot of pressure on the 27-year-old (or however old he is) to hit the ground running. If he can replicate his form from recent campaigns, Monaco could push PSG close.

First game: Bordeaux (A)

Sports Mole says: The Stade Louis II has been more like an airport terminal than football stadium this summer, such has been the number of players that have arrived and departed. Some of the talent that has been recruited was high on the wishlists of numerous clubs, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will instantly form an understanding. The bookmakers have priced Ranieri's men as the second favourites behind PSG to win the title and that seems fair. Perhaps the season after is when Monaco should be expected to emerge victorious.

Predicted finish: Second

Porto's James Rodriguez in action against Sporting Lisbon on March 2, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Paris Saint-GermainPSG76102131819
2MonacoMonaco76012181318
3Bordeaux7430137615
4Saint-EtienneSt Etienne742196314
5Marseille74121110113
6NantesNantes741255013
7Lyon73311410412
8Caen740364212
9Nice7313108210
10GuingampGuingamp7304811-39
11Angers71519818
12Troyes722356-18
13Montpellier HSCMontpellier722345-18
14Toulouse7214814-67
15Rennes71331112-16
16AmiensAmiens7205410-66
17Dijon7124916-75
18Lille7124411-75
19StrasbourgStrasbourg7115513-84
20Metz7106313-103
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