AS Monaco (+15) vs. FC Zenit (+180) (Draw +225)
Tomorrow, FC Zenit (of the Russian Premier League) and AS Monaco (of the French Ligue 1) will meet in a do-or-die battle in Group C of the UEFA Champions League (2:45 p.m. Eastern at Louis II Stadium in Monaco). The winner of tomorrow’s match will advance to the next stage of the competition, and the loser will be eliminated. (In case of a draw, Monaco will move through.)
Monaco is the slight favorite to win, listed at +150 in the moneyline; the Russian squad is at +180 and the draw +225.
Monaco is currently second in the group with eight points and a goal difference of +1. Zenit is on seven points with zero in the differential. Depending on what happens in the other match in the group, both Monaco and Zenit can still catch Bayer Leverkusen (of the German Bundesliga), who are on nine points, for first in Group C.
(Bayer Leverkusen will matchup with Benfica (of the Portuguese Premeira Liga), who are on four points and have already been eliminated from second-round contention.)
The import of tomorrow’s match is not lost on either Monaco or Zenit.
“The most important thing is to qualify and on Tuesday we have that opportunity. The game is very important. Qualifying would be a great thing for the club, for the staff, for our supporters, for Monaco and also for French football – it is not often we have two French clubs through to the knockout stage”, Monaco’s coach Leonardo Jardim said, alluding to the fact that Paris Saint-Germain has already advanced to the next round.
Zenit and Monaco have only met once previously in the UEFA Champions League, and that was earlier this year when the teams drew (0-0) in St. Petersburg during the second fixture of the season. However, a draw will only help Monaco this time around, forcing Zenit to be the aggressor from the opening kick.
“We saw after the Benfica match that we had to win. We have no choice, this game is a must win. Monaco are a good team, very clever, they proved that they can handle these kind of games. As for us, we have to know when to attack and find space in order to score goals,” said André Villas-Boas, the Zenit coach.
Goals have been hard to come by for Zenit this season. The squad has only mustered four through five matches, and three of those came against Benfica. Meanwhile, Monaco has been incredibly stingy on defense, conceding just one goal in their five games. Zenit being forced to attack will play right into Monaco’s defensive, counter-attacking style of play. Look for the Monacans to advance.
(Photo credit: Viatcheslav Evdokimov (fc-zenit.ru) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)
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