France: Brazilian Nene key to Monaco revival
Monaco have turned their fate around after a couple of below-par seasons and they would not have done it without Brazilian midfielder Nene.
Having finished 11th and 12th in 2009 and 2008, Monaco lie second in the Ligue 1 standings and will hope Nene can maintain his excellent form as they travel to leaders Girondins Bordeaux on Saturday.
The Brazilian, who failed to make an impact in his first season at Monaco in 2007/08, was loaned to Espanyol last term and came back strong to top the scoring charts in France with nine goals from 10 matches.
"Everybody likes him in the squad and not only because of what he brings to the team on the pitch," coach Guy Lacombe told L'Equipe on Thursday. "Of course, he has his temper and I watch him very closely, but he is a good lad and he works very hard."
The left-footed Nene, who netted a last-gasp double to give Monaco a 3-1 win at Boulogne last weekend, joined Monaco from Celta Vigo in 2007.
"He has always been very strong," former Monaco manager Ricardo said. "Technically, he can do outstanding things, he is a great player. I am not surprised that he burst into the limelight in Ligue 1.
"In his first season (at Monaco), his problem was that he failed to adapt because he was coming from Spain, where defences are less rigorous. He just thought his talent would do the trick."
Nene, however, could have to make do with the absence of one of his favourite attacking partners, South Korean Park Chu-young, who is a doubt with a foot injury.
Olympique Lyon, who trail Bordeaux by two points and Monaco by one, will be at arch-rivals St Etienne on Saturday hoping to bounce back from back-to-back league defeats against Sochaux and at lowly Nice.
"We must stick together. That is what we failed to do against Sochaux and at Nice," France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan told his club's website.
Paris st Germain, who had three players diagnosed with H1N1 virus last weekend, travel to Sochaux on Sunday with Ludovic Giuly, Jeremy Clement and Mamadou Sakho cleared to play.
After their game at Olympique Marseille was postponed, PSG are 13th and have one game in hand. OM lie fifth five points off the pace and take on Toulouse on Saturday, wary of the Andre-Pierre Gignac threat.
"He is Toulouse's number one striker. He is a permanent danger to a defence," said Marseille defender Laurent Bonnart of the France striker.