Derby on the Riviera between Henry’s Monaco and Vieira’s Nice will be special for the former Arsenal and France teammatesWhen Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira met in London over Christmas, using a short break in the Ligue 1 schedule to take coffee in the

Henry and Vieira put aside friendship for first meeting as managers | Nick Ames

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  • 2019-01-29 02:30:15 10 months ago
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When Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira met in London over Christmas, using a short break in the Ligue 1 schedule to take coffee in the way they always have, both men knew they have to pick their moments carefully nowadays. One of modern football’s powerhouse friendships, an awesome concentration of sheer accomplishment, must be put on hold twice a year from now on and on Wednesday they will discover how that feels. The 108th Derby de la Côte d’Azur is a significant staging post in their careers and, while their bond is rooted in years of success on the pitch, a sense of mutual adversity colours their first encounter as managers of Monaco and Nice.

“We’re both really excited about it,” Vieira said on Tuesday, capturing the sentiment of last month’s chit-chat. But he allowed himself a smile when the notion of feeling sympathy with Henry, whose Monaco side sit second from bottom, was offered. Vieira’s spell at Nice has begun in stately fashion but his feeling of serenity was interrupted last week when Jean-Pierre Rivère and Julien Fournier – the club’s president and general manager respectively, both credited with his appointment – announced their impending departures. The reason given was “divergences” with Nice’s Sino-American owners and, with the team looking to push on from eighth place, the timing could hardly have been worse.

Vieira said the difficulties at both clubs made life “really quite interesting” for two such callow coaches. “All the big issues he can find at Monaco, or I can find here at Nice, make us grow and create experience that we will use for the future,” he said. “You have some up and downs, and it’s about how you learn from those situations and improve yourself. It’s a tough situation here for me, knowing in the last couple of days that the chairman and [general manager] will leave, because they were the ones that brought me here. But I’ve been in the game long enough to understand things can sometimes go in a different way to what you’ve planned.

“I would say Thierry, on the other side, has had different issues. But I believe he will find a way to get the best from his players and be successful.”

There was no avoiding the fact that he sounded worried. Nice are likely to appoint the Barnsley chief executive, Gauthier Ganaye, to a senior role and Vieira hopes the matter is clarified quickly enough to allow him leeway in the transfer market. That is something Henry, who has made scant difference to a team racked with injuries and feeling the bite of summer departures, has been granted recently. Monaco have fallen far since Leonardo Jardim, whom Henry replaced in October, led a buccaneering side to the Champions League semi-finals in 2017 but the cavalry are arriving.

Cesc Fàbregas made an impressive debut in Sunday’s encouraging draw with Marseille, recovering from a slow start to pull the strings. Henry cooed over his new recruit on Monday, recalling the day a 16-year-old Fàbregas first trained against Vieira and Gilberto Silva at Arsenal. “They didn’t see the ball, and they didn’t see him either,” he said.

Fàbregas will escape Vieira’s view again on Wednesday, but not for the reasons Henry would wish. This match had been scheduled for 7 December, only to be postponed because of the Gilets Jaunes protests that took place across France. Ligue 1 clubs are barred from fielding players who were not registered for the original game; Fàbregas will join fellow newcomers Naldo and Fodé Ballo-Touré in the stands and Henry, whose team are yet to win at home this season, will have to get a tune out of the players that have flailed so far.

This part of the world has never seemed the most obvious school of hard knocks but the pair’s formative years, Henry at Monaco and Vieira to the west at Cannes, taught them well. The derby’s idyllic setting, the clubs separated by a 20km stretch of coastline that has seduced dreamers and romantics for centuries, belies the gravity of the task but both managers appreciated the joy of marvelling at life’s circularity.

“For a little bit we’re not going to like each other, because we’re not supposed to like each other in that type of game,” Henry joked. “It’s strange because we’ve spent so much time together,” Vieira said. “We’ve always been really close to each other. It never crossed my mind that we’d both be coaching here and playing against each other so soon.”

It is reality now and, the next time they sit down together in the city that became their adoptive home, that 20-year relationship will have long since entered uncharted territory neither could have imagined.

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Henry and Vieira put aside friendship for first meeting as managers | Nick Ames

Thierry Henry sees Monaco hope amid VAR drama of draw with Vieira’s Nice

Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira occupied their own intensely involved worlds for almost two hours but, when their first taste of temporary enmity was done, they could look one another in the eye. Both men have influenced far better matches than this Derby de La Côte d’Azur, which conjured up a steady enough stream of flashpoints but laid bare the dearth of quality they must attempt to correct. In the end a draw between two winners kept everyone broadly happy and, in the case of Henry and Monaco, ensured the pressure of a relegation battle gets no graver for now.

“It was bizarre,” said Henry of coming up against his ally of so many battles with Arsenal and France. “When I saw him coming out of the dressing room, it was bizarre. We went up the steps together; we used to play together and here we were, about to play against each other. So we gave a nod to that but then we got lost in the match.”

That was presumably what Henry was talking about behind a nowadays obligatory shielding hand during that walk, which continued as they entered the pitch behind their teams. Vieira could not suppress a grin; the two looked more like convivial dog-walking companions than dear friends about to redefine brieflythe terms of their relationship. Soon the dugouts loomed into view; a hug and a flurry of camera flashes later it was time to put frivolities on hold.

For Henry the fixture was stacked with significance beyond high-profile reunions and the imperative to defeat a local rival. The rancour surrounding his 19th-placed side has hardly abated since he arrived, in contrast to the quietly satisfying progress Nice have made in the top half under Vieira, and the situation was begging for a performance in the image of his playing days.

French forward Allan Saint-Maximin dribbles past Monaco’s Jemerson before giving Nice the lead.

“It’s maybe too early to say that – you will have a better idea later,” a reasonably content Vieira said when asked if the sides had reflected their coaches. It would be a stretch to say Monaco did that to the letter but there were glimpses of a team designed to play with speed and ambition, even if they were dealt a hand by the dismissal of Nice’s Ihsan Sacko in first-half added time. They deserved the equaliser headed just over the line by Benoît Badiashile five minutes after the interval, puncturing the resolve of a Nice side that, moulded from the back by Vieira, finds goals at either end to be a rarity.

“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do before with the team I had,” Henry said. “You saw in the past three games [including 1-1 draws with Rennes and Marseille] how I like to play: wingers high and wide, passing the ball on the ground, putting pressure up front.”

It is little secret that he has been working with a hand tied behind his back, cajoling a team stripped of the tyros that buccaneered around Europe two seasons ago. Eight of his starting outfielders here were 23 or below, a situation exacerbated by an injury crisis that is slowly easing, and the balance has been all wrong.

Cesc Fàbregas is among four new signings intended to correct that but, two hours before the start, he could be found in the labyrinthine depths of this arena giving an introductory press conference rather than heeding pre-match instructions. Players who had not been signed by 7 December, the date from which this fixture was postponed, were not eligible and the youngsters would have to be enlisted again.

All the same, they emerged admirably from a game that threatened to encapsulate their troubles. When Allan Saint-Maximin ran through to score on the half-hour, capitalising on sloppy play from Youssef Aït Bennasser and drawing a frustrated reaction from Henry, the script looked wearily familiar. It seemed an even crueller twist had been added 15 minutes from time when, with the game poised at 1-1 and Monaco now asking constant questions, Nice were awarded a penalty via the game’s third VAR review. Diego Benaglio saved Saint-Maximin’s kick and, while the substitute Radamel Falcao struck a post later, by the close it appeared some fortune had come Henry’s way at last.

He may need it, and it is an unfamiliar thing to say of someone who has traditionally ruled through excellence. “One thing about Thierry is that he is a winner, a competitor, and that’s one thing you will never be able to take away from him,” Fàbregas had said before taking his seat upstairs. “That’s why I know we are in safe hands.” Henry has always possessed the capacity to set onlookers agog; maintaining that aura in Monaco might be his greatest feat yet.

European roundup: PSG win 9-0, new low for Henry and Dortmund march on

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders, Paris Saint-Germain, avenged their League Cup loss to Guingamp by demolishing the Brittany side 9-0.

PSG prevailed following hat-tricks from Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé, a Neymar double and one from Thomas Meunier. PSG’s only downside was the loss of the influential Marco Verratti to an ankle injury after 13 minutes.

Nine days after being knocked out of the League Cup quarter-finals by Guingamp at the Parc des Princes PSG were keen to exact revenge. Neymar opened the scoring in the 12th minute after collecting a superb through-ball by Dani Alves and beating Marc-Aurèle Caillard.

Mbappé made it 2-0 eight minutes before the break following a one-two with Neymar. The France striker then doubled his tally on the stroke of half-time after Cavani dispossessed Félix Eboa Eboa.

The Uruguay striker made it 4-0 in the 59th minute when he tapped in Juan Bernat’s pass and added another eight minutes later following Ángel Di María’s cross. Two minutes after that Neymar, set up by Mbappé, found the net again.

Guingamp’s ordeal was far from over, though. Cavani beat Caillard from Layvin Kurzawa’s cross in the 76th, five minutes before Mbappé also secured a hat-trick after collecting Cavani’s through-ball. The defender Meunier rounded off the humiliation with a shot from inside the box. Mbappé, Neymar and Cavani have now scored a total of 44 goals in Ligue 1, with Mbappé leading the scoring charts with 17.

Thierry Henry’s Monaco fell to a disastrous 5-1 home defeat against Strasbourg. The hosts, who have not won at home this season, were looking to build on the draw they managed against Patrick Vieira’s Nice in midweek but had defender Naldo sent off after seven minutes.

Ludovic Ajorque and Adrien Thomasson put the visitors two up after 17 minutes. Radamel Falcao pulled one back on 22 but Ibrahima Sissoko (63 minutes) and Ajorque with his second (68) sealed it.

Strasbourg were reduced to 10 men a minute later with the dismissal of Stefan Mitrovic but still Youssouf Fofana still added a fifth in added time. Monaco are second-bottom of Ligue 1.

Luka Modric celebrates sealing Real Madrid’s La Liga victory over Sevilla.

Real Madrid breathed new life into their stuttering season as they secured a 2-0 La Liga victory at home to Sevilla. Having wasted any number of chances, they were on course to drop further points and leave their manager, Santiago Solari, under increasing pressure, until Casemiro brilliantly curled in from long range in the 78th minute and then Luka Modric added a late second.

While they are still truly to join the title race led by Barcelona, the three points maintained the pressure on Atlético Madrid, who later won 3-0 at Huesca. Real’s victory moved them ahead of Sevilla, who fell to fourth.

With Sevilla content to attack on the counter from the outset, the hosts dominated possession but struggled to create chances.

The second half began in similar fashion, but Modric began to exert greater influence and, as he sent a dipping effort into the side netting on the hour mark, the opening goal felt imminent.

Dani Ceballos struck the crossbar from 30 yards before Casemiro gave Real Madrid the lead. Modric then sealed victory in stoppage time. Finding himself in space in the penalty area, the Croatian drew the goalkeeper before curling the ball past inside the near post.

Leipzig’s goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi can only watch Axel Witsel’s winner for Borussia Dortmund go past him.

The Bundesliga leaders, Borussia Dortmund narrowly, beat RB Leipzig 1-0 thanks to Axel Witsel’s 19th-minute winner to protect their six-point lead over the champions Bayern Munich as the German top flight resumed following the winter break.

Though missing their in-form captain Marco Reus, who suffered a ligament injury in training on Friday, Dortmund managed to earn their eighth win in their last nine league matches, helped by Roman Bürki’s string of fine saves.

It was also Leipzig’s first home loss of the season and Dortmund’s first league win there since their opponents were promoted to the Bundesliga a few seasons ago.

“We are extremely satisfied. It was as expected a very hard game. Leipzig came very close two or three times but we won in the end,” said Dortmund’s coach, Lucien Favre. “We played really well as a team. The first game of the year is always difficult, so it was important to win here today. Roman Bürki was outstanding.”

Roma survived a second-half fightback to end Torino’s unbeaten Serie A away record with a 3-2 win thanks to Stephan El Shaarawy’s late goal at the Stadio Olimpico. A Nicolò Zaniolo strike and an Aleksander Kolarov penalty gave the hosts a comfortable half-time lead but Torino drew level through strikes by Tomás Rincón and Cristian Ansaldi before El Shaarawy secured the points for Roma in the 73rd minute.

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