Twelve matches. It’s been twelve matches now since the Rouge et Blanc have tasted defeat. It’s an incredible run, which was extended last Sunday with a prestigious victory obtained at the Parc des Princes against Paris Saint-Germain (2-0). At the end of an excellent performance, the teammates of Guillermo Maripán, who was voted MVP of the match by the Monegasque fans, confirmed that they were in top form. Before a tricky match against Stade Brestois, Niko Kovac rightly spoke about the form of his players.
Hello Niko. Doesn’t this match, played at 1 p.m. in Brest, after a great victory in Paris, have all the ingredients for a trap match?
Every match after a great victory like that of Paris is difficult. I repeat that 1 p.m. is a challenging time at which to play football. But it’s the same for both teams, so we’ll try to do our best to prepare the players for this and put our best foot forward. We’ve changed the training schedule slightly compared to the match schedule, because we saw against Lorient that it was difficult for us.
Did you receive any messages from Germany or elsewhere after this prestigious win?
Yes I received a lot of congratulatory messages and it was difficult to answer everyone the day after the game. I think we had a very strong performance defensively. A little less so offensively, because Paris were keeping the ball, and it was the type of game where you had to work to manage their attacks. So I would like to thank everyone for these messages of encouragement.
Did you get a message from the President as well?
Yes, indeed — we received congratulations from President Dmitry Rybolovlev and from HSH Prince Albert II via Oleg Petrov. I have already had the opportunity to meet with the President, but it was Paul Mitchell and Oleg Petrov who sent us messages from him.
Is Lille’s elimination from the Europa League bad news for you?
Their elimination is good news for Paris, but not for us. They have done a very good job in the league as well as in the Europa League. They are developing a very effective style of football and have only lost against this great Ajax side, who have a history in European play. They are a very big contender for the title along with Lyon and PSG, and we will have to battle them until the end.
When you arrived, you gave yourself six months to establish your way of playing. What conclusions do you draw from these first few months?
From day one, I have been happy to work in these conditions. That’s the reason why I joined AS Monaco. With Paul Mitchell and Oleg Petrov, we had very good contacts from our first meeting. I knew we were going to work to pull together in the same direction. They see what we’re doing, they realize that you can’t win every game. But they know that we are putting the ingredients together to get the results and move towards the top of the table.
Are you going to line up in a less defensive formation than in Paris, against Brest on Sunday?
Yes, this is our ambition. We wanted to play more offensively against Paris, but as an opponent they were very solid. Brest is also a team that play very well on the ball. We saw this in the reverse fixture against us, and when they played against Lyon as well, it was a very close game. So indeed we want to try to play more offensively against Brest. But it also depends on our opponent, so I will give you a clearer answer after the match.
Tell us about Axel Disasi. Could you start him on the right in a four-man defense?
I was very happy with his performance against Paris. Especially since he hadn’t played much lately, with Guillermo’s good performances. He’s a center-back, but we saw that in a 4-4-2, I’m quite comfortable playing him at full-back, in a hybrid system.
Do you plan to rotate some players over the next few matches?
The amount of rotation will depend on what we see during the matches. I’m very happy with the players who have been coming off the bench and supporting the team. They have been involved since the start of the season. But we are in good form now. If I think there is a need to make changes in this run of matches, I will.
Tell us about Guillermo Maripán, who scored again against Paris…
He is an experienced defender who helps the young players a lot to stabilize the defense. And then you saw him, he’s also a top goalscorer (smiles). So there is no reason to change things. He never complained again when he was playing less, he always worked hard to come back and to take his chance. I am very happy with his involvement.
Can the current results also be explained by the commitments being made in training?
I am very happy with the situation. We are successful, and it’s not just because of eleven players, but because of the hard work of the whole squad — we have a good level of chemistry. With the dedication that comes in training, that’s also why we get results. The players all want to take their chances, and that’s a good thing. I hope that will be the case until the end of the season in Ligue 1.