Monaco's young guns show Europe's elite how it's done in UCL again
And the run continues... For the fifth time in a row, Monaco have knocked out an English club in a European competition.
After Newcastle United (1997), Manchester United (1998), Chelsea (2004) and Arsenal (2015), it was Manchester City's turn to be eliminated on Wednesday at the Stade Louis II. And let's not forget that Tottenham Hotspur were also beaten twice in the group stages by the team from the Principality.
City were left bruised by this incredible young side, the best offensive armada in Europe this season with 126 goals scored already in all competitions. Leicester City will know who to avoid in the draw on Friday.
L'ASM are in the Champions League quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons under Leonardo Jardim, who we can definitely called a magician now, and they totally deserve it. Is it a surprise though?
Over the two legs, the best team won. And if Jardim had been a bit more astute tactically in the first leg when his team was 3-2 up, the final aggregate score could have looked far more embarrassing for Pep Guardiola and his side.
In any case, the Monaco curse struck again this week. Since 2012, Ligue 1 has had seven Champions League quarterfinalists. The Premier League? Only five.
Which takes us back to when the draw was made. Voices in France tried to warn the over-confident City fans that Monaco was not an easy draw, not even a good draw. It was a tough draw and it proved too tough actually.
Like in 2004 against Real Madrid and their true "Galacticos" side, Monaco turned everything around. They were outstanding in the first half, all over City like a rash. They were brave after the break, rode their luck a bit when City got better but punished them and their (far too) high defensive line at a set piece.
They are top of the Ligue 1 table, three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain, they are still in the two domestic cups and they have lost only six times all season in 47 matches in all competitions -- at Toulouse, at Nice and against Lyon in the league, at Fenerbahce in the third qualifying round, at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League group stages with a weakened team as they were already qualified and in the first leg at Manchester City where they were 3-2 up after 70 minutes. Their season has been perfect so far.
They have the best teenager in the world, Kylian Mbappe, who turned 18 in December and has just scored 11 goals in his last 11 matches and eight in his last five starts.
They have the best full-backs in Europe in Djibril Sidibe (24) and Benjamin Mendy (22), who are not always the best at defending but who are so impressive physically and going forward. They have one of the most clever defensive midfielders in Europe in Fabinho, still only 23 years old, who L'Equipe newspaper gave a nine out of 10 in their match ratings. He was everywhere, did everything, scored, tackled, passed, organised. Very much the modern midfielder.
Lemar and Bernardo Silva, 21 and 22 respectively, are some of the most gifted attacking midfielders of their generation. And there is Tiemoue Bakayoko and Radamel Falcao and Kamil Glik and more talented youngsters behind like Abdou Diallo, Almamy Toure or Irvin Cardona.
The team's average age on Wednesday at kick off was 24 years old and one month. If you take out Danijel Subasic and Andrea Raggi (both 32), the rest of team averages 22 years old and four months. This is incredible. The last team so young to have taken Europe by storm like Monaco are doing at the moment was Ajax's 1995 Champions League-winning side.
Monaco might be young but not much can faze them. They made history on Wednesday by becoming the first team to qualify after conceding five goals in the first leg of a European tie. And it was against one of Pep Guardiola's teams.
What's next? They won't fear anyone but no one will fancy facing them in the quarterfinals. The big question is how they will cope with being still in four competitions. The games will come fast and furious. Jardim has been rotating his starting XI regularly but in the meantime he will need his best players -- the XI from Wednesday with Glik, who was suspended, and Falcao, injured, instead of Raggi and Valere Germain. But the momentum, the talent and the confidence are so huge that it could carry them far. For this Monaco team, the sky really is the limit...
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.