It’s been 24 years since Marseille became the first (and only) French club to lift the European Cup in the first season of the Champions League. Their triumph came against Fabio Capello’s now legendary AC Milan side, which included the likes of Van Basten, Baresi, Rijkaard, and Maldini. It was the night when the dreams of the people’s club became a reality, but within days that dream had turned into a nightmare as the club became embroiled in an investigation into alleged match-fixing in a domestic league fixture.
The authorities found the club guilty, and they subsequently lost their league title. Although UEFA allowed them to keep their European crown, the win was tainted with the shame of the match-fixing scandal. And ever since it has been a bone of contention for French teams, that the only team from Ligue 1 to win the European Cup was the one that was also brought the most shame to French football.
For a time, it looked as though perennial quarter-finalists PSG would be the ones to drag French football out of the depths of that Marseille-instituted shame, following their 4-0 destruction of Barcelona. But a remarkable comeback at the Nou Camp put an end to such fanciful notions.
So now Monaco are left to fly the Tricolore and thus far have done so with a flair that suggests they just might succeed where PSG (and their many millions) have failed.
A look at the odds on BetStars shows us that the principality is the current outsider to lift the cup in Cardiff, but don’t let those odds fool you. No one gave Leicester a chance and look how far they went. Of course, Monaco is by no means a terrible team; no team that gets this far is. They had a pretty good campaign so far, and although the win over Dortmund was somewhat tainted by the explosions in Germany, this is a team that is entirely capable of going all the way.
However, before contemplating the trip to Cardiff, they first have the small matter of a semi-final against Juventus. The Old Lady will no doubt prove a much tougher test than Dortmund and, while their fans may assert otherwise, it’s hard to imagine Monaco brushing aside a team on course for its sixth straight Serie A title.
For Monaco to stand any chance of progressing they need to shut out the potent Juventus front line and keep Dybala and Higuain quiet. Stop the Bianconeri scoring that all important away goal and the second leg in Juventus Stadium looks all the more winnable.
The incredible talents of Kylian Mbappé and the rediscovered form of Radamel Falcao will not worry the experienced Juventus backline who have conceded just two goals in the competition so far this year. But they will certainly be wary of the teenager that has garnered the interest of just about every club with the money to bid for him this summer.
It’s a classic attack vs. defence scenario with Monaco’s season thus far heavily reliant on the blistering speed and ingenuity of their teenage attacker while Juventus have enjoyed an incredible campaign thanks to the rock solid BBC defence.
Should Monaco put Juventus to the sword, they will then face one of the Madrid teams, and while they are both formidable opponents in their own right, a team that just beat the Old Lady will have no fear of either.
If they make it to Cardiff, then it would be only the second time (Monaco also did it in 2004) since Marseille’s win that a French team made it to the final. Hopefully though, this year they’ll do themselves and French football a favour by becoming only the second team from France to lift the European Cup but this time without the shadow of suspicion that tainted the cup final in 1993.