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Ligue 1: Monaco’s title win the result of Jardim’s transformation

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PARIS (AP) Leonardo Jardim turned an inexperienced Monaco squad into one of Europe’s most entertaining teams, doing so while competing on four fronts.

The soft-spoken Portuguese coach with the unflinching stare was under pressure to keep his job. Now he’s one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe after wresting the French league trophy from Paris Saint-Germain and reaching the semifinals of the Champions League with a hedonistic brand of attacking football that produced 155 goals in all competitions.

“Winning the title with a team that is not the favorite is a great trophy,” Jardim said after securing the title late Wednesday. “Monaco as champion is worth four times PSG as champion. When PSG wins, it’s normal, but Monaco …”

PSG had won the previous four titles, clinching last season’s by 31 points.

Such is the huge popularity of this Monaco side that even opposing fans have applauded the team.

Monaco’s feel-good factor was reflected in the way Jardim escaped reproach when making the kind of decision only the most single-minded managers dare to make. It was up there with Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho for its unapologetic boldness.

At the end of April, with Monaco preparing to face mighty Juventus in the Champions League semifinals, Monaco travelled to play PSG in the French Cup semifinals. Victory would put Monaco within touching distance of a league and cup double, but Jardim calculated differently.

He wanted to rest his players before facing Toulouse and Juventus in quick succession, so fielded mainly reserves and lost 5-0.

Even though Jardim arguably devalued France’s national cup on its 100th anniversary, there was scant criticism because neutral fans wanted Monaco to do well in Europe. Even the league president understood.

The 42-year-old Jardim met his match only once this season; tactically outmaneuvered by Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

In the knockout rounds against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, there was no talk about it being 50-50 or other such soccer cliches. Instead, he specifically explained how Monaco was going to get through.

It is this firm confidence that defines an articulate man whose interests stretch far beyond football.

Last month, he met with French philosopher Edgar Morin, whose books have been translated into 28 languages. Jardim stumbled upon one when he was a physical education student in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira.

“My approach is very much influenced by Edgar Morin, who talks about seeing things through different perspectives that can interlock,” Jardim told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “I made the link between football and the complexity it entails.”

That’s not exactly your average coaching talk.

But Jardim has been different from the time he arrived from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2014, and caught the eye in his first match at home to Lorient.

He left out star striker Radamel Falcao, played midfielder Joao Moutinho out of position, and handed an unexpected start to young midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko – then hauled him off after 32 minutes.

The ruthless kind of behavior synonymous with his countryman Mourinho, perhaps. But Jardim’s decisions are rooted in an obsession with balance.

“A manager is permanently dealing with contradictions between the individual and the collective,” he said. “Sometimes, an approach that is too collective stops the quality of the individual from emerging.”

A year into his job, Jardim had to completely rebuild.

In the summer of 2015, because of former Financial Fair Play rules designed to control club finances, Monaco sold forward Anthony Martial to Manchester United. Midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, center half Aymen Abdenour and left back Layvin Kurzawa were all sold. Falcao was loaned out again, this time to Chelsea. The previous summer, forward James Rodriguez went to Real Madrid.

Still, in difficult circumstances, Jardim redesigned Monaco from a cautious team into a flair side packed with young talent and built around the verve of attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva.

He gambled correctly on Falcao this season, too, giving him another chance after two miserable years in England.

His other masterstroke was promoting teen forward Kylian Mbappe from the reserves in October.

Falcao scored 30 goals and the 18-year-old Mbappe netted 26, with one game remaining at Rennes on Saturday.

Jardim was named coach of the year with six of his players in the team of the season.

The ultimate compliment.

Man City into League Cup final (video)

Nick Potts/PA via AP
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  • City outshoots Bristol 28-5
  • Sane, Aguero put MCFC up 2-0
  • Pack, Kent pulls two back for Bristol
  • De Bruyne answers in stoppage
  • City wins 5-3 on aggregate

A pair of late goals put a scare into Man City, but the Premier League leaders scored just before and right after halftime to insure its first leg lead en route to a 3-2 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

City wins 5-3 on aggregate in the League Cup semifinal, with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, and Kevin De Bruyne scoring in the second leg.

Pep Guardiola moves to within 90 minutes of his first significant title as Man City boss, and will face either Chelsea or Arsenal on Feb. 25 at Wembley Stadium.

Marlon Pack and Aden Flint scored for Bristol City.

[ MORE: Full stats, box score ]

Sane scored in the 43rd minute and Sergio Aguero struck less than four minutes after the teams returned from the halftime break.

An errant John Stones clearance helped Bristol to the scoreboard in the 64th minute, with Pack scoring the goal.

Flint then nodded home in stoppage time to give the Robins hope for a miracle win, but new contract hero De Bruyne scored within a minute to burn those hopes to the ground.

Bristol would be in the Football League Championship playoffs if the season ended now, sitting in fifth place.

Midfielder Lassana Diarra joins PSG on short-term deal

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain has made its first signing of the winter transfer window by hiring midfielder Lassana Diarra on a short-term deal until June 2019.

The 32-year-old holding midfielder will once again try to revive his career in the French league after a successful stint at PSG’s bitter rival, Marseille, that ended last year.

The much-traveled Diarra, who was born in Paris, then played for a few months with United Arab Emirates club Al Jazira.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Diarra, a former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid player, won English and Spanish league titles in 2006 and 2012. He has 34 caps for France and featured at the European Championship in 2008.

His strong performances with Marseille earned him a recall from France, but he eventually pulled out of Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2016 because of a left knee injury.

“I am very happy to have signed for my hometown club,” Diarra said. “Paris Saint-Germain represents a lot to me and, with the international dimension the club has taken in recent seasons, it is every player’s dream to play here. I am lucky enough to make this dream come true.”

Diarra joined on a free transfer and his signing won’t affect PSG’s bank accounts, which are under UEFA’s scrutiny.

PSG is under pressure to sell players to balance the books after splashing out 402 million euros ($473 million) on forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last year. That led to Qatari-owned PSG being placed under investigation by UEFA for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.

Palace adds again with towering Polish center back

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Crystal Palace is delivering on Roy Hodgson‘s depth demands at injury-hit Selhurst Park.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

A day after signing Erdal Rakip on loan from Benfica, the South London set has added big Polish center back Jaroslaw Jach on a permanent deal.

Jach, 23, comes from Zagłębie Lubin and has played 17 matches, scoring a goal for the fifth place side in Poland’s Ekstraklasa. Like Palace, he’s risen through the lower leagues to reach Poland’s top flight and now the Premier League.

Jach was capped twice by Poland in November, going 180 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Mexico and a scoreless draw with Uruguay

Here’s Jach, from CPFC.co.uk:

“I know it is the club from south London and has an outstanding manager, Roy Hodgson, who led team England in the past,” he added. “Every game is a sell-out which is one of the greatest things, and I have also heard that even though there are many clubs in London, the biggest derby games for fans are those with Brighton, which makes it one of the biggest games in the season. I hope one day I will be able to win such a game.”

LIVE, League Cup semi: Bristol City host Man City

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Bristol City host Manchester City in the second leg of their League Cup semifinal on Tuesday, with the Robins 2-1 down from the first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The winner will play either Arsenal or Chelsea in the final at Wembley, with the London rivals locked at 0-0 as they play their second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Follow Bristol City-Man City ]

Lee Johnson’s Bristol City are the heavy underdogs, once again, but their fairytale run in the League Cup has seen them oust four Premier League opponents previously in Watford, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Manchester United. Surely the runaway Premier League leaders won’t be Bristol City’s next scalp…

Pep Guardiola has named a strong starting lineup as he aims to reach his first domestic cup final as Man City boss, with Claudio Bravo replacing Ederson in goal the only major change.

Bristol City, who sit in fifth place in England’s second-tier, five points off the automatic promotion spots, have two absentees with goalkeeper Frank Fielding missing out, while defender Nathan Baker is only on the bench after late fitness tests.

We are all just waiting (and hoping) for Bristol City to score so they can put up an awesome goal GIF…

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while below are the starting lineups for both teams. We will have analysis and reaction on the semifinal second leg right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

LINEUPS

Bristol City: Steele, Wright, Flint, Magnusson, Brownhill, Pack, Smith, Walsh, Bryan, Paterson, Reid. Subs: Wollacott, Baker, Eliasson, Kent, Engvall, Taylor, Diedhiou

Manchester City: Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Fernandinho; Bernardo, Silva, De Bruyne, Sane; Aguero. Subs: Ederson, Danilo, Kompany, Sterling, Gundogan, Mangala, Yaya Toure