When Paris Saint Germain and Nice faced off at the Parc des Princes in what was considered an early Ligue 1 title showdown on Sunday, free-scoring Monaco had already rubber-stamped their status as genuine contenders for a first top division championship since 2000 with another emphatic win.

The Principality club travelled to Bordeaux on Saturday and cruised to a 4-0 victory in what is quickly becoming their typical, devastating fashion. Leonardo Jardim's men are the highest scoring side throughout Europe's major leagues with an incredible 53 goals from 17 games -- plundering 3.1 goals per game on average.

After PSG and league leaders Nice played out a 2-2 draw, Monaco's victory meant that they closed within one point of the Cote d'Azur club, positioning themselves perfectly for a sustained push towards the title as the season approaches its halfway stage.

The Rouges et Blancs transformation has been remarkable. Last term, they were one of the more solid sides in Ligue 1 and finished third, but they were a full 31 points adrift of champions PSG.

Furthermore, they didn't really show any signs of transforming into the kind of attacking juggernaut that they have become. As it stands, they need just four more goals to equal their return for the entirety of the last campaign. The way Monaco are going right now, they could quite conceivably reach that tally when Lyon visit the Stade Louis II on Sunday.

Jardim has always been regarded as a coach who prizes defensive organisation and solidity, but not necessarily one who is adept at constructing free-flowing offensive teams; that perception has been shattered over the last few months.

One of the key reasons behind Monaco's recent success has been the fact that this summer saw them buck the trend of selling their biggest and brightest stars. Two years ago, they sold James Rodriguez to Real Madrid; Yannick Ferreira Carrasco joined Atletico Madrid and star striker Radamel Falcao was loaned out to the Premier League the following season, then Anthony Martial was snapped up by Manchester United in August 2016.

There were no such high-profile outgoings this summer. And while Monaco didn't break the bank to make superstar additions, they were savvy in the transfer market, bringing in the likes of Kamil Glik, the uncompromising Polish centre-back signed for €11 million from Torino, and Djibril Sidbe, a dynamic right-back brought in from Lille for £12.75 million.

By holding onto their best young players, the likes of Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar and Fabinho have been allowed to further their development with the Ligue 1 outfit and the club is now benefitting from their augmented talents.

Portuguese playmaker Silva, who missed his nation's triumphant Euro 2016 campaign through injury, has taken his game to a whole new level. His versatility has allowed Jardim to deploy him on either flank or centrally as a No. 10. The 22-year-old has scored four goals including a stunning strike in the 2-1 Champions League defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in September and registered four assists.

With his low centre of gravity, quick feet and eye for a killer pass, Silva is developing into one of the most potent attacking forces in Ligue 1, and Monaco may have to fend off strong interest in the former Benfica midfielder in upcoming transfer windows.

Left midfielder Thomas Lemar has been one of the breakout stars of Ligue 1 in 2016-17. Having joined Monaco from Caen in 2015, the youngster featured regularly last season and demonstrated his ability to strike the ball powerfully and accurately from distance with a couple of spectacular goals. This term, however, the 21-year-old has added a new degree of subtlety to his game which has seen him improve his short passing and diversify his finishing to the point where he no longer seeks to kick the leather off the ball whenever he has a sight of goal.

Lemar made his full international debut for France in November, and with Barcelona thought to be monitoring his progress, he undoubtedly has a bright future.

Brazilian international Fabinho was strongly linked with a move to Manchester United over the summer, with the Red Devils reportedly in the market for a new right-back. The 22-year-old had excelled in that position since moving to the Principality from Rio Ave on loan in 2013, before making the move permanent last year.

No such deal materialised however, and Fabinho has undergone a transformation in his role at Monaco, where he has become even more key to the French side. When Sidibe was signed from Lille, it was believed that he was brought in as a replacement for Fabinho as they were both right-backs.

But Sidibe's arrival has allowed Jardim to move Fabinho into a central defensive midfield position a role he'd occupied sporadically in recent years. As a spot-kick specialist, the former Real Madrid loanee has always chipped in with his fair share of goals, but, while his athleticism, strength and positional sense has made him the ideal man to shield the back four, he is also getting into positions to score from open play since moving into midfield.

Alongside Fabinho, Tiemoue Bakayoko has developed into one of the division's most effective holding midfielders and is also attracting interest from Manchester United. The partnership that the central midfield duo have formed provides a platform for the more creative attacking players to push forward, safe in the knowledge that they have adequate defensive cover.

Perhaps the biggest story within the story of Monaco's season is the return to form of Falcao.

The Colombian became a figure of derision following a disastrous two-season spell in the Premier League on loan with Manchester United and Chelsea in which he appeared a shadow of the devastating finisher that took Europe by storm with Porto and Atletico Madrid.

But the 30-year-old has returned to form since re-joining his parent club this season, bagging an impressive 12 goals in 14 appearances, including a hat-trick against Bordeaux at the weekend.

If the aforementioned players are the present of this Monaco side, 17-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe is unquestionably the future. The teenage sensation, capable of playing on either wing or centrally as a striker, was a key member of the France under-19 team which won the European Championships over the summer. With three goals and four assists from nine Ligue 1 appearances this term, the youngster impresses every time he takes to the field.

This week's draw for the last-16 of the Champions League saw Monaco paired with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. The reaction of many members of the UK press suggested that City had been lucky to be matched with the Ligue 1 side, and that they should expect to breeze through to the quarter-finals.

But with their current confidence in front of goal, and considering the way City have been defending this season, Monaco will be quietly confident of springing an upset.