The UEFA Champions League qualifiers get interesting on Tuesday with AS Monaco vs. PSV Eindhoven arguably the pick of the third qualifying round matches. Stade Louis II hosts the first of two legs between Les Monegasques and the Dutch giants which will decide who advance to face either Union Saint Gilloise or Rangers later this month.
For Monaco, it is a chance to right the wrong of 12 months ago which saw the Ligue 1 outfit crash out in painful fashion against in the play-off round. Funnily enough, PSV will be equally motivated by their own painful memories of going down 2-1 to eventual quarterfinalists SL , but the manner was arguably less agonizing.
A freakish Ruben Aguilar own goal six minutes from the end of extra time was all that stood between Niko Kovac's men and the UCL group stage. Philippe Clement leads ASM now, and oversaw an impressive late burst of nine wins from 10 to reach the qualifiers when Champions League soccer had looked unlikely for this season.
???? Last training session before the match ?? @PSV!
?? #ASMPSV pic.twitter.com/k5QAE8pOQA
- AS Monaco EN (@AS_Monaco_EN) August 1, 2022
Aurelien Tchouameni, who moved to Real Madrid this summer, was key in that surge of form which created a healthy price rise just as Monaco youth academy graduate Kylian Mbappe rejected the Spanish giants. The defending UCL titleholders went big on the France international midfielder after their Paris success and the principality side landed a sizable transfer fee which has since gone towards targets like Takumi Minamino and Breel Embolo.
Added to the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder, Benoit Badiashile and Youssouf Fofana, it is a solid squad and one which should be able to navigate PSV and potential opponents Union or Rangers to reach the group stage. However, as is their custom, several Monegasque talents are wanted across Europe and the challenge for sporting director Paul Mitchell is resisting the temptation to cash in further.
Legendary Ruud van Nistelrooy leads PSV
On the Dutch side, PSV will be an interesting watch this season regardless of how they fare in the Champions League as none other than Ruud van Nistelrooy is making his debut as head coach at Philips Stadion. The Dutchman started in fine fashion with a Johan Cruyff Shield success against AFC Ajax and now he will make his second European debut on the bench.
Xavi Simons, Walter Benitez, Luuk de Jong, and Guus Til have come in while Mario Gotze, Ritsu Doan and Eran Zahavi have moved on which leaves the Boeren in a strong position. Captain Marco van Ginkel and Cody Gakpo are part of a strong Dutch core while Philipp Max and Noni Madueke are part of an underrated group who could cause a few surprises.
Monaco will be familiar with the likes of Simons, Benitez, Ibrahim Sangare, and principality-born Olivier Boscagli given their French links, but both sides should be evenly matched. Clement will be familiar with many of PSV's Belgian talents from his days and his group should shade Van Nistelrooy's for experience.
Stade Louis II ™?#MONPSV #UCL pic.twitter.com/vHKoQysDEv
- PSV (@PSV) August 1, 2022
However, coming up against such a high-profile newcomer on the coaching circuit can often prove tricky. There is not much senior material to analyze and a big step up from youth levels where the former and Real Madrid man was leading Jong PSV to a midtable finish in the Dutch second tier.
That could be to the 24-time Dutch champions' advantage and especially with the second leg to come at home with some memorable European nights in North Brabant over the years and one of their own now in charge. It promises to be a fascinating two-legged affair with one team of significant pedigree falling away at this early stage.