Niko Kovac: "Metz are one of the best teams on the counter"
They are back in action at the Stade Louis-II. Two days before hosting Metz in the Principality, AS Monaco are preparing for one of their final home games in Ligue 1, with a duel this Saturday against the men of Frédéric Antoneti (1pm). The reverse fixture had seen a sending-off for the Rouge et Blanc, but the team still came back with three points at the end of their trip to Moselle (0-1). 48 hours before the 31st round of Ligue 1 kicks off, Niko Kovac spoke to the media to discuss this match as well as the upcoming fixtures.
Hello Niko. Do you have the feeling that you are entering a decisive weekend?
Yes, it will be interesting. The teams at the top of the table are playing this Saturday, and there are some great fixtures. It will be an important match for the future. We still have eight matches to play. There are points to be won. Even in the event of a slip-up, we will not necessarily be out of the race.
You’ve been in this “hunter” position for a while, it must be less exhausting emotionally. Can this help come the end of the season?
It depends on the situation, sometimes it’s better to be ahead. We need to take as many points as possible to secure fourth place. We will then see what is possible to do. There are eight games left and we’ll see where we stand in the table come the end of the season. We must first reach the first step, and secure the position we currently occupy.
Stevan Jovetić and Wissam Ben Yedder traveled quite a bit during the break, will this be a game-changer for Metz?
This is a factor that I will take into account. They haven’t played the same amount, but they’re not the only ones. Golo ‘, Krépin, Fodé and Benoît also have played. We will take stock today or tomorrow. We have to see if they are tired or not. We will not take unnecessary risks. We will see how they are and take into account everyone’s state of fatigue.
Do you give certain indications to their trainers?
No, I just called the Russian coach Stanislav Cherchessov. We talked about Golo’s situation ‘because he has been injured this season. Everyone needs points, it’s not easy. The matches follow one another, but you have to be careful.
Can you give an update on the injured players?
Gelson has been back for a few weeks with the group and he will be available against Metz. Aurélien is suspended but we will see, we do not yet know the severity of his injury. We’ll know more by tomorrow. Fatigue will be checked on a case-by-case basis before Saturday’s match. If the game goes well, we will not hesitate to rest these players. For Sofiane, it’s a complicated part of the body (hand), we want to take care of it. He will not be available, we have been advised to rest him. I hope to see him back against Dijon but nothing is set yet. We have no other injured players.
Do you have the feeling of things coming good with Stevan Jovetić?
This is his fourth season in Monaco, he has had ups and downs. Since the start of the season, he has shown great things. When his health is not an issue, that changes a lot of things. He had his way of playing at the beginning, he had to understand our playing philosophy. I’m very happy for him, he has great abilities. He scored three goals with his country. I hope he will continue like this. There are still eight games to play, there is still time to decide on his situation
Joli coup-franc direct de Stevan Jovetic face à Gibraltar 👀#lequipeFOOT pic.twitter.com/NFvkyE3vGU
— L'ÉQUIPE (@lequipe) March 27, 2021
The U-21 Euros have been favorable to the Monegasque youngsters…
France and Portugal have qualified for the quarterfinals, I am very happy for them. Benoît played well yesterday against Iceland. Aurélien also played a little less than a game and a half, he is improving and helping this young team. It’s great for them. One could make two high-level teams with the French U-21s. Tino has had some some playing time, he is giving his all in training. The youngsters are doing a very good job, they will help us during the run-in.
With a win, AS Monaco can provisionally be in second place…
It would be good, but above all it is important to win this match. If we win, we can widen the gap or at least keep the same distance with the team in fifth. They’re a very strong team, I remember our first game. The coach does a very good job. Metz are one of the best teams on the counter. The next match is the most important for us, especially after an international break.
AS Monaco is considered an international club, with many different nationalities. What are the benefits you can see from this?
Football is a universal language. This is not a problem. In Frankfurt, there were also 17/18 countries represented in the squad. Everyone learns from each other, and the different cultures improve the collective. There are no problems on the pitch, you can use your body language when playing. We speak French and English, it is not easy for me but I am working on this in order to improve.
Krépin scored against Saint-Etienne. What do you think of his development?
Krépin has great potential. He plays for Senegal, in the national team, it’s a team where there are some very good players. It was an honor for him to be called up. He needs time to adapt, he only arrived this winter. He’s progressing, and I am very happy for him. He hadn’t had the opportunity to score before. He’s learning very quickly, he adapts, he has great qualities. In the coming seasons, he will show his level.
🎦⚽️ Le 𝟭𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝘂𝘁 de Krépin Diatta en 🔴⚪️👏 #RISE
𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲… 👊#ASSEASM pic.twitter.com/sAzH6jQ3RF
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) March 22, 2021
Will Eliot Matazo start against Metz?
Indeed it is a possibility that he plays, we will see tomorrow. He played very well against Nice in the Coupe de France, he is quite capable of starting a match. He works hard even though he doesn’t play a lot. He has a very professional attitude for a young player. I’m not afraid to start him despite his age.