PARIS - The Monaco myth is unravelling as
quickly as a Formula One car speeds round its streets as the
2004 European Cup finalists flirt dangerously with relegation
from Ligue 1.
Seven years ago football pundits were amazed how a club who
played on a "car park" in front of a few thousand fans could
achieve such success but now the club face a similar heartbreak
to the gambler who loses his chips in Monte Carlo's casinos.
What should be one of the most glamorous sides in Europe is
lying third from bottom and Saturday's trip to mid-table
Valenciennes is a key test of whether they can clamber out of
the drop zone.
Only 13 games remain and after last weekend's
soul-destroying 2-2 home draw with Caen, where the hosts had
been 2-0 up and cruising, Monaco's plight is severe.
"The task is becoming more and more complicated," coach
Laurent Banide (pictured), who replaced the sacked Guy Lacombe in January,
"We no longer have a choice, there is nothing left to
calculate. We just have to work really hard to find a way of
The Stade Louis II, home to the European Super Cup thanks to
UEFA's love of the partying principality, has also been home to
some top players over the years such as Glenn Hoddle, George
Weah and Fernando Morientes despite its tiny 18,500 capacity.
Opposing managers have always criticised the standard of the
pitch given a car park lies directly beneath but now it is the
standard of their playing staff under scrutiny.
The seven-times French champions boast much more modest
talent than in the past with South Korea striker Park Chu-young
among the bigger names as low crowds limit the club's reach.
Auxerre, a point above Monaco just outside the drop zone,
were third in Ligue 1 last season but the club which helped
produce the likes of Eric Cantona have suffered this term.
Last weekend's opponents Girondins Bordeaux came into the
game in crisis but ran out 3-0 winners and Saturday's visit of
in-form title challengers Paris Saint-Germain hardly appeals.
"Psychologically, the team is lacking confidence," president
Alain Dujon told the Journal du Centre newspaper.
"We are in a downward spiral. We need a boost to restart."
While Monaco and Auxerre fret at the bottom, leaders Lille
go to champions and third-placed Olympique Marseille on Sunday
bidding to end a streak of two league games without a win in one
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