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Fearless Monaco aim for the skies in Champions League

Monaco might be a minnow compared to the other teams in the Champions League semi-final, but Leonardo Jardim’s have wreaked too much havoc to leave them unnoticed.

After watching the principality side cruise past an understandably distraught Borussia Dortmund side 6-3 over two-legs in the last round, it is easy to think they are one of the favorites in the competition.

They were not. Far from it. But now, they are in the last four along with holders Real Madrid, runners-up Atletico Madrid and defensive masters Juventus, who toyed with the high-powered Barcelona and held them scoreless in two legs.

THROUGH THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE

After finishing third in last season’s Ligue 1, Monaco did not get an outright ticket to the group stages – they had to go through two play-off stages first.

In the 3rd qualifying round, Monaco relied on their high-octane offense to outlast Turkish giants Fenerbahce and outlast them 4-3 over two games. Then, they outclassed Villarreal 3-1 in the playoffs to seal their place in the group stages.

Pitted against Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, England’s Tottenham Hotspur, and Russia’s CSKA Moscow, nobody thought Monaco will advance. But they stunned Spurs 2-1 at White Hart Lane to start the group stages, and went on to top the group with 11 points.

MBAPPE MAGIC

In the round of 16, Monaco were again expected to crumble against the mighty Manchester City, who boasted a lineup with Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne and are managed by the great Pep Guardiola.

But instead, Monaco defied the odds, knocking out City on aggregate 6-6 over two-legs full of heart-thumping, nail-biting attacking football. In the center of it all was 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe, who scored in both legs and was the spear point that kept the City defense on its toes. Radamel Falcao provided the veteran smarts needed to stabilize Monaco’s pacey attack, with the Colombian bagging a brace in the first leg.

Mbappe brought his fiery form on to the next round, completing a double in their 3-2 win at Dortmund and opening their 3-1 rout of the Germans at Stade Louis II in just three minutes after kickoff.

DNA

Jardim called his side’s relentless and efficient attack as the club’s DNA, a game plan ingrained deep enough they can do it anywhere, against anyone in any competition.

Monaco, who are sitting atop Ligue 1 and are in the semi-final of the French Cup, will find out their opponents in the next round of the Champions League but Jardim doesn’t think much of which team it will be.

“Now, regardless of who we will take on next, we will be facing a very experienced team,” said Jardim after their win over Dortmund. “Our rivals will want to draw us but our ambition is to enjoy it and play with our attacking qualities like we always do.”