Monaco '04 vs '17: How the two sets of UCL semi-finalists compare

Past and present: Monaco stars.

The last time Monaco made it through to the Champions League semi-finals was way back in 2004.

Under the management of France legend Didier Deschamps, the Monegasques beat Chelsea in the last four en-route to the final where they were thrashed 3-0 by Porto.

Despite losing in Gelsenkirchen 14 years ago, it remains Monaco's best showing in Europe's premier competition and this season, they again have another chance to replicate or even better that feat.

Ahead of Monaco's first leg semi-final against Juventus this week, we cast our minds back to five key players that played under Deschamps in 2004 and five men who are vital to Monaco in 2017 and manager Leonardo Jardim.

What is for sure is that the French side haven't been devoid of talent down the years but have more often than not failed to deceive. That could change this season though - they are currently in the mix for a domestic league and European double.

To kick things off, here's Monaco's best men from the Class of 2004.

CLASS OF 2004

PATRICE EVRA

Amazingly, Monaco managed to hold off intense interest from both Manchester United and Juventus during the summer of 2004 and Evra stayed for two more seasons at the Stade Louis II.

The left-back was a key performer in the club's run through to the Champions League final, with his lung-busting runs up and down the flank being a real asset for Deschamps' men.

Evra eventually moved to Old Trafford in January 2006 but his three-and-a-half-year spell at the French Riviera club will certainly always be remembered.

LUDOVIC GIULY

He may have been diminutive in stature (5ft 4in) but he was a towering presence on the pitch as Monaco captain.

The Frenchman hit four goals in 10 appearances in the club's European campaign, including a crucial goal in Monaco's Champions League quarter-final second leg win over Real Madrid.

Giuly earned a big-money switch to Barcelona at the end of that season - a clear indication that a successful side was quickly going to be broken up.

JEROME ROTHEN

The Frenchman was at the heart of Monaco's creative drive throughout their European march, recording six assists - the highest for his team.

With the ability to operate effectively on either flank, Rothen was integral and often the man Monaco turned to if they needed some magic.

Like with Giuly, the former France international earned a move straight off the back of an impressive campaign and penned a deal with Paris-Saint Germain that summer.

AKIS ZIKOS

The defensive midfielder's inclusion on the list may surprise some people but the Greece star went about his business in industrious fashion.

Zikos was often the man protecting the Monaco back-line and was the Monegasques' very own Claude Makelele.

He was actually sent off in the first leg of the club's semi-final clash against Chelsea, but luckily was just handed a one-match ban - meaning he was eligible for the final in Germany.

When you look back to that year, it's quite staggering he was overlooked from the Greece squad that ended up winning Euro 2004.

FERNANDO MORIENTES

He may have only spent one season on loan at the club, but boy, what a campaign it was.

Having found himself surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, Los Blancos were happy to let the towering forward leave the club and a loan deal was the only viable option to acquire his services.

Morientes finished the season as the top goalscorer in the Champions League with nine goals, and amazingly (again), Los Blancos allowed the forward to play against his employers in both legs of their quarter-final match-up.

Normally, he would have been cup-tied but such was Madrid's misplaced Galactico confidence that they let Morientes feature.

And it came back to bite them...hard.

He scored a vital, late away goal in their 4-2 first leg defeat at the Bernabeu and then wrecked havoc on a beleaguered Real in the second-leg - scoring Monaco's second goal in a 3-1 home win on the night.

That meant the French club advanced, courtesy of the away goals rule, 5-5 on aggregate.

CLASS OF 2017

TIEMOUE BAKAYOKO

The midfield powerhouse has been a key man in Monaco's incredible domestic and European campaign.

Despite being just 22, he is now a full France international and attracting interest from many of the biggest clubs in Europe.

Jardim's men have relied heavily on Bakayoko's engine in the middle of the park and they will need him to be on top of his game in both legs against the Old Lady.

He is very much the modern-day Zikos.

THOMAS LEMAR

The midfielder's form has caught the eye of both Real Madrid and semi-final opponents Juventus.

The 22-year-old's energy in the Monaco midfield has been vital this season, and along with Bakayoko, he has been at the heartbeat of everything. Indeed, his drive is similar to the force Giuly used to have on the current Ligue 1 leaders.

Whether or not Monaco can hold onto the France international beyond this season is anyone's guess, but fans should rest assured that he'll be doing all he can to ensure the club have the best possible chance of doing the double this term.

FABINHO

The right-back turned defensive midfielder this season has been in incredible form - scoring 11 goals as the team's penalty-taker and setting-up numerous more for his team-mates in all competitions.

Fabinho, who previously had a spell at Real Madrid, is seriously under-rated.

Monaco rely massively on the Brazilian to contribute both goals and assists. He really is one of Jardim's key men.

Fabinho's impact on the pitch has been similar to that of Rothen all those years ago, with both players possessing the ability to create goals at will.

KYLIAN MBAPPE

This man needs little introduction.

The Frenchman has netted five times in seven Champions League outings, and at the age of just 18, is one of football's most promising talents.

Expect the teen striker to make his mark on the semi-final tie and watch his name get drawn into end of season transfer gossip, with Real, of course, being one of the clubs linked reportedly coveting in his signature.

RADAMEL FALCAO

The Colombian hitman has really rediscovered his best form and looks like the player who was banging in goal after goal for Atletico Madrid all those years ago.

Falcao's scored five Champions League goals this term and his experience will be crucial to Monaco in the latter stages of the competition.

On his day, and in-form, the 31-year-old would make most managers' XI.

Built similarly to Morientes, inclusive of a certain know-how when combating defenders, Falcao will remain the man they rely on for goals.

CONCLUSION

The Monaco side of 2004 boasted genuine talent and experience but this season's team has more energy, dynamism and goals about it - especially in the midfield engine room and with the presence of Mbappe and Falcao at the top. Jardim's top five stars edge it, but now it's up to them to deliver the goods.

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Five tactical talking points for Real vs Atletico

Andy West 1/05/2017
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Ahead of the first-leg at the Bernabeu, Spanish football correspondent Andy West breaks down the dilemmas facing Zinedine Zidane and Diego Simeone…

WHO REPLACES GARETH BALE?

Unless Zinedine Zidane decides that Alvaro Morata has finally done enough to displace the struggling Karim Benzema – which seems unlikely – the identity of ten of Real’s starting line-up is more or less set in stone.

The only doubt is who replaces the injured Gareth Bale. Marco Asensio got the nod in El Clasico and James Rodriguez started against Valencia at the weekend, but there’s a huge popular clamour for Isco to get his chance tonight.

The former Malaga man has been in superb form recently and Zidane would face a big backlash if he leaves Isco out and the team struggles.

4-4-2 OR 4-4-3 FOR REAL?

What formation will Zinedine Zidane adopt?

What formation will Zinedine Zidane adopt?

There’s a great deal of flexibility within Zidane’s attacking ranks, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and James all capable of filling more than one role while Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez are more conventional wingers.

This gives Zidane the opportunity to vary his formations, and the big question tonight is whether he will play with traditional wide men or, more likely, opt for a narrow midfield diamond with Isco at the tip.

The latter requires full-backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo to provide the width, which they can do superbly, but that approach also leaves Real exposed in defence against rapid counter-attacks.

DO ATLETICO HAVE ANY RIGHT-BACKS?

Sime Vrsaljko might start for Atletico.

Sime Vrsaljko might start for Atletico.

With regular right-back Juanfran injured, deputy Sime Vrsaljko in a race against time to recover fitness and now converted centre-back Jose Maria Gimenez also ruled out through injury, Atletico boss Diego Simeone has a major selection problem.

Inexperienced midfielder Thomas Partey finished Saturday’s win at Las Palmas at right-back, while another dubious option comes from left-footed central defender Lucas Hernandez, who yesterday signed a new contract until 2022.

With the task of defending against Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo, right-back is a key position and Vrsaljko being declared fit would be an enormous boost.

WHO STARTS ALONGSIDE GRIEZMANN?

Fernando Torres might start alongside Griezmann.

Fernando Torres might start alongside Griezmann.

Simeone has a straight choice when deciding the identity of Antoine Griezmann’s strike partner: does he go for power with Fernando Torres (above), or pace with Kevin Gameiro?

Gameiro is back to full fitness and showed his value in away games with a magnificent counterattacking display in the last 16 at Bayer Leverkusen, where he had an assist, won a penalty, scored and hit the woodwork, but for big occasions Simeone often prefers to tire out the opposition defence by starting with Torres’s greater physicality before introducing Gameiro’s pace from the bench.

CAN REAL STRIKE THE RIGHT BALANCE?

Real Madrid's main man: Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid’s main man: Cristiano Ronaldo

As Leicester and Barcelona discovered to their cost in the previous round, it’s unlikely that you’ll progress through a Champions League knock-out tie without scoring an away goal. Atletico, therefore, need to score, while Real should prioritise defence.

A 0-0 would be a vastly better result for Real than for Atletico, but showing the kind of patient restraint required to keep a clean sheet is not generally a strength of Zinedine Zidane’s men.

The recent Clasico defeat against Barcelona was a prime example of Real being unnecessarily reckless in attack, and they must be more balanced to counter Atletico’s counter-attacking threat.

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COMMENT: Attacking aggression meets defensive diligence in UCL

James Piercy 22/04/2017
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Diego Simeone.

Diego Simeone was at pains Friday to insist meeting Real Madrid for a fourth successive season in the Champions League is not about “revenge”.

And while that may be true, justice may be the more apt motivation as Los Rojiblancos have come up short in each of those four previous encounters – two finals and one quarter-final tie – despite outplaying their richer neighbours in at least three of the matches.

While that is a matter of opinion, the significant fact is that Real Madrid swelled their European Cup haul from nine to 11 while Atletico are still waiting for their first.

Real have become their bete noir on the continent as Diego Simeone has transformed Atletico into a genuine European superpower yet just as they look poised to be rewarded for their growth with club football’s greatest prize, up pops a shirtless Cristiano Ronaldo to hammer home the fundamental difference between the two clubs.

It was only a small margin but in an online poll conducted by Madrid daily AS ahead of Friday’s semi-final draw, just over 53 per cent of Atleti fans wanted them in the last four as opposed to the final.

In facing a technically-superior side, the nominated underdog would usually choose the latter but in this case the dynamic is flipped.

While Real have arguably the more gifted individuals – Antoine Griezmann and Koke aside – Atleti’s defensive discipline makes them a devilishly difficult side to beat over 180 minutes.

In one game, anything can happen… a last minute Sergio Ramos equaliser for example. But over two legs at the Bernabeu and Vicente Calderon, Zinedine Zidane needs a gameplan to counter-act Simeone.

Despite his successful first season in charge of Los Blancos, and a sophomore campaign which is likely to yield the La Liga trophy, this will undoubtedly be the biggest test of his coaching career.

Atletico under Simeone have, more or less, honed a strategy to restrict Cristiano Ronaldo. This season’s hat-trick in the league meeting in November was something of a freak as the Portuguese had gone six frustrating games without a goal against Atleti. For a goalscorer of Ronaldo’s calibre, that classifies as a drought.

And outside of Ronaldo, goals haven’t been consistently forthcoming from Karim Benzema (seven in 20 matches in 2017) or Gareth Bale (goalless in six matches since his return from injury).

Zidane is yet to admit it but he clearly doubts Alvaro Morata’s quality, the Spanish international is restricted to minutes mainly against the minnows with just one start in Europe all season, which leaves options somewhat limited.

Madrid are still scoring goals – you have to go back to April 6 last year against Wolfsburg to the last time they failed to find the net – but Zidane needs to find a nuance to reinforce Ronaldo.

Just like in boxing, with styles making fights, the other semi-final provides an intriguing attack v defence narrative as a vibrant Monaco meet the Fort Knox-like fortifications of Juventus and their ‘BBC’ of Buffon, Bonucci and Chiellini.

Juve repelled the finest and most prolific attacking trio in modern football over two matches, which, in a performance sense has to be up there with all that the Bianconeri have achieved this decade.

That being said, the first leg against Barcelona showcased another side to Juve – a willingness to attack with purpose. An aspect of their play they have increasingly used when faced with teams who play a free-flowing and attacking game, allowing space to open up.

And Monaco are exactly that side as they’ve swept past Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.

But while Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva and a born-again Falcao have dazzled, Juve represent a significantly more cerebral challenge.

City and Dortmund presented significant weaknesses in defence, all which were brutally exposed by Monaco’s liquid counter-attacking.

Allegri will simply not play that way as he doesn’t need to, with the security of Bonucci and Chiellini, and the ingenuity of Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic at the other end of the field, another task for Leonardo Jardim with his side’s defensive acumen a concern.

Monaco will need to find a way to pick a lock few have been able to find the combination for.

And, right now, the semi-finals which, at base level, pit attack v defence, it’s the latter discipline which looks more likely to triumph.

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