PARIS, France, Nov 28 – Claudio Ranieri admits he has “fantastic memories” of coaching Monaco as his Nantes side prepare to host the faltering reigning champions in a midweek round of games in Ligue 1.
The Italian was appointed by Monaco in 2012 and lasted two seasons in the principalty, winning Ligue 2 and leading them to promotion in his first campaign before taking them to second place on their return to Ligue 1.
The disappointment of his departure was soon forgotten as he led Leicester City to their historic Premier League title triumph in 2016 before returning to the French game with Nantes in the summer.
“I have fantastic memories. We were Ligue 2 champions then second in Ligue 1. I often went to see them in the Champions League last year and their project has not changed,” said the Italian, who still has a home in the principality.
Monaco head to the Stade de la Beaujoire in need of a boost after a week which saw them eliminated from Europe following a 4-1 home defeat to RB Leipzig and then lose 2-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.
That result left Leonardo Jardim’s side nine points behind the unbeaten leaders.
“We know it’s very difficult against Paris,” said Ranieri, whose team lost 4-1 at PSG recently.
“They (Monaco) are rebuilding after selling a lot of players. But I am convinced that they will fight for second place with Lyon and Marseille.”
Nantes are currently fifth having lost three of their last four matches, while Lyon have moved above Monaco into second on a run of eight league games without defeat.
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Bruno Genesio’s Lyon have won 5-0 in each of their last three away games and haven’t conceded a league goal in nearly eight-and-a-half hours, and next up they host crisis club Lille, in the relegation zone and without a coach after Marcelo Bielsa was suspended by the club.
Nobody can keep up with Neymar’s PSG, who are still unbeaten this season and would have won by a far greater margin in Monaco if they had taken half the chances that fell their way.
Coach Unai Emery may be tempted to rotate his squad for Wednesday’s home meeting with Troyes and again at Strasbourg at the weekend with a Champions League trip to Bayern Munich to follow.
The likes of Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, Thomas Meunier and Presnel Kimpembe can hope to get a run-out against Troyes, who sit in mid-table with the South Korean Suk Hyun-Jun impressing on loan from FC Porto.
There will be a strange atmosphere at the Parc des Princes as the end of the stadium where the club’s most boisterous fans gather will be closed.
That is as a punishment for the use of flares during a match against Nice last month.
Man to watch: Memphis Depay
Heavily criticised for his performances at the start of the season, Dutch winger Depay has found some stunning form in recent weeks to help a prolific Lyon side climb up to second in the table. The former Manchester United man, 23, scored twice in Sunday’s 5-0 romp at Nice, as Lyon coped admirably in the absence of ill skipper Nabil Fekir and the injured Bertrand Traore. He has scored seven times in Lyon’s last seven outings in all competitions and now has his sights set on struggling Lille.
Fixtures (1800 GMT kick-offs unless stated)
Amiens v Dijon, Strasbourg v Caen, Bordeaux v Saint-Etienne (2000 GMT)
Angers v Rennes, Guingamp v Montpellier, Lyon v Lille, Metz v Marseille, Nantes v Monaco, Toulouse v Nice, Paris Saint-Germain v Troyes (2000 GMT)