Champions League-chasing Monaco make the short journey across to the island of Corsica to take on struggling Ajaccio in Ligue 1 action this weekend, with the match one of seven French top-flight games taking place this Sunday.
With just 11 games of the season left to go, Monaco need all the points they can possibly pick up to ensure that they finish in the top two to achieve automatic Champions League qualification and once again play in the competition that they haven’t played in since the 2018/19 season.
Monaco currently sit fourth in the table, behind surprise package Lens in third, and Marseille who are in second place behind leaders PSG - Monaco are just three points behind Lens, and just five behind Marseille. It is therefore very feasible, that by picking up some results of their own combined with their competitors faltering and dropping points themselves, that Monaco can secure a place within the top two and therefore make their return to Europe’s premier footballing competition.
In Ajaccio, ‘Les Monegasques’ face a side who have struggled all season and who they should be able to take three points from this weekend. Back in the top flight for the first time since 2014, Ajaccio currently sit in 18th place having lost 18 of their 27 league matches so far this season. They are well in the relegation dogfight, and every point they now pick up in their remaining fixtures will be crucial in ensuring their survival status in Ligue 1.
Monaco currently sits fourth in Ligue 1, so they are not far off from securing their target of automatic Champions League qualification for this season. But ideally, they would like to be at least one place higher. A fourth-place finish only guarantees qualification for the Europa League, whereas third place at least guarantees a place in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League, with a spot in the top two being the only route to automatic qualification.
However, the two teams currently ahead of Monaco in Lens and Marseille have both performed outstandingly this season, and so Monaco know that they themselves can’t afford to slip up at all while also hoping that both Lens and Marseille drop points as the season edges closer to a finish.
The financial reward of securing Champions League qualification is vital for any club, and especially so for Monaco, who haven’t done so since the 2018/19 campaign. They failed to qualify at all in both 2019/20 and 2020/21. They did go a step better in both 2021/22 and this season, making it to the preliminary qualifying rounds both times but ultimately being knocked out by Shakhtar Donetsk and PSV respectively, meaning that they have instead spent the past two seasons in the Europa League.
Monaco now faces a relatively easy run of games in the final few months of the season, with six of the 11 teams they are set to play currently residing in the bottom half of the table - if they can secure wins against those sides in combination with results elsewhere going their way, then they look well set to achieve Champions League football for next season, and this weekend’s clash with lowly Ajaccio is a good place to start building up some momentum.
Philippe Clement’s side will have to sort out their inconsistent form, however – despite picking up three wins from their last six league matches, they did suffer defeats to both Stade Reims and Nice recently, and also drew with 19th-place Troyes, the team below Ajaccio. So although they have the superior squad and better form going into this game, Monaco will need to be careful and ensure that they do not drop any more points unnecessarily.
Ajaccio are currently 18th in the table, a precarious position that means they could very well be relegated back to Ligue 2 in just a few weeks’ time. After breaking an 8-year absence by securing promotion back to the top flight for this season, the Corsican side have struggled.
ACA have picked up only six league wins and have lost the second-most amount of games (18) out of any side in the division, with only bottom-side Angers losing more (21). Ajaccio need points desperately, but face a tough test in Monaco this weekend, who they have beaten just twice in all of their 13 meetings with the principality side stretching back to 2002.
While a win looks very unlikely for Ajaccio here due to the superiority of their opponents and Ajaccio’s own poor form (winning just two of their last ten outings), Ajaccio can take hope from Monaco’s recent inconsistent form that they could potentially cause an upset. However, even if they were to taste defeat this weekend, Ajaccio do have some winnable fixtures in the weeks after this clash, with four matches against sides who are just above them in the table and who they have already beaten this season.
Olivier Pantaloni’s men play Strasbourg and Stade Brest in April, two sides who they have already beaten, with those two matches coming after matches against 12th-place Clermont and fellow relegation-rivals Auxerre in 17th. So despite a defeat this weekend looking likely, Ajaccio do have a favourable run of fixtures afterwards, and so despite the odds being stacked against them at the Stade Francois Coty this weekend, their fight for survival is not over yet.
Monaco should really emerge from this match with the win though, with their superior squad and strong previous record against Ajaccio working in their favour. Monaco did also thrash L’ours 7-1 in the reverse fixture back in January, with Wissam Ben Yedder scoring a hat-trick and Breel Embolo bagging a brace. Monaco are priced at 7/10 odds to win here, while the island side are priced at 17/4 odds to pick up 3 points.
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