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This has been a low-scoring group up to now and the stakes will be high on Thursday, which could result in a game of few goals.
Back under 2.5 goals when Monaco take on Real Sociedad (-182)
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Monaco only just fell short in the Ligue 1 title race last season, finishing third behind Lille and Paris Saint-Germain. Had they picked up six more points throughout the campaign, the club from the principality would have won the championship for the ninth time in their history. The manager Niko Kovac reminded soccer fans of his acumen after a disappointing stint at Bayern Munich, as Monaco reclaimed a top-four spot.
Competing for the title this season was always going to be difficult given the strength of PSG, but Monaco has been underwhelming domestically in the early months of 2021/22. Consistency has eluded them and they currently occupy a place in mid-table. There is considerable work to do if Kovac’s side are to climb up the table and ultimately qualify for the Champions League.
Results have been better in the Europa League, though, and Monaco have their fate in their own hands with two games remaining. A return of eight points from the first 12 available means they go into Thursday’s contest as the Group B leaders. Monaco may have only scored four goals up to now (they have endured similar struggles in attack in Ligue 1) but a solid defense has helped them into top spot.
In Aurelien Tchouameni Monaco have one of the most talented and sought-after young players in world soccer on their books. The 21-year-old is said to be on the shopping list of several major clubs across Europe, including Real Madrid and Manchester United. There is talent elsewhere in this squad, as well as a healthy blend of youth and experience, a deep run in the Europa League should not be beyond Monaco this season.
Whereas Monaco have struggled to keep up with the Ligue 1 pace-setters, Real Sociedad have emerged as potential title challengers over in Spain. La Real lost 4-2 to Barcelona on the opening weekend of the campaign but have gone unbeaten since then. It is they – not Barca or Atletico Madrid – who are hottest on Real Madrid’s heels as we approach December.
No one at the Estadio de Anoeta will be getting carried away just yet. Real Sociedad were top of the La Liga table at the equivalent point of last season. Their form then proceeded to tank shortly before Christmas, and they ultimately missed out on the Champions League by finishing fifth. Barcelona, Madrid and Atletico will all be expected to come on strong in the second half of the campaign. It is for good reason that Real Sociedad are still only the fourth-favorites to win the title.
Yet there are reasons for optimism right now. As a pair, Barcelona and Madrid are weaker than they have been for some time. That gives an opportunity to the likes of Sevilla and Real Sociedad, two well-run clubs with excellent managers.
Imanol Alguacil, the head coach at the Estadio de Anoeta since 2018, will also be targeting a place in the knockout phase of the Europa League, even though La Liga is his priority. Real Sociedad will move into first place in Group B if they beat Monaco on Thursday. Three of their four matches up to now have been draws, though, so a little more decisiveness is required if the Spanish side are to advance as group winners.
Monaco have shifted between 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 formations this season, with Kovac opting for the latter when his side drew 1-1 with Real Sociedad in September. It will be interesting to see how he approaches this match, given that a draw would keep Monaco in first place with one match left to play. Kovac’s side have not exactly been free-scoring this term, so we will probably see him look to keep things tight at the back throughout.
Real Sociedad realistically need to win here to finish top, but they will not go gung-ho in search of victory. They will apply their usual pressure when out of possession, but they are a measured, controlled side. La Real, for instance, have scored two goals or fewer in 17 of their 18 matches in all competitions this season.
All of which suggests we could be in for a relatively low-scoring game on Thursday. It would not be a surprise if the first goal did not arrive until the second half, with the opening 45 minutes likely to feature two teams feeling each other out. Back under 2.5 goals when Monaco host Real Sociedad this week.
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|Monaco vs Real Sociedad Information|
|Teams||Monaco vs Real Sociedad|
|Location||Stade Louis II, Monaco, France|
|Time||Thursday, 25 November 2021, 15.00 PM EST|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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