The domestic treble was something that was mooted a number of months back but Paris Saint-Germain can go a long way in making it a reality with victory tonight. There is a place in the Coupe de France Final at stake against Christophe Galtier’s Saint-Etienne. Ligue 2’s Auxerre lie in wait for the winners after they knocked out holders Guingamp last night in scenes of jubilation for the AJA fans who spilled onto the pitch, even before the final whistle was blown!
We head into this game in buoyant mood after the 2-3 win at the Velodrome last Sunday. Taking a seventh straight win in the classique which also put us back on top of the table was ever so sweet. But it came at a cost. David Luiz is ruled out for at least a month. Thiago Motta will miss the next 10 days. And Edinson Cavani is not in the squad as he also picked up a thigh complaint during the win. Unfortunately, Lucas Moura has not made the squad despite being on the brink of a comeback following his injury.
So there is food for thought for coach Laurent Blanc as to how to set-up tonight. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore will most probably be the supporting cast up top with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Motta’s absence may mean that Marco Verratti will step into that holiding role to allow Yohan Cabaye or Adrien Rabiot to come into the midfield trio. Marquinhos who has been playing at right-back as of late will more than likely usher into the centre alongside Thiago Silva. This will allow either Gregory Van der Wiel or Serge Aurier to slot in at full-back.
We are up against a team that are unbeaten in their last seven games (all competitions). We have met three times already this season, accumulating a clean sweep, scoring seven goals and conceding zero. It is pretty conclusive! But Les Verts can always look back to that penalty shoot-out win over us in the fall of 2012 in the last-eight of the Coupe de la Ligue which they went on to win.
Blanc knows this will be a tough game but is hopeful his team can book a place in yet another final. He said in his pre-match presser; “The players know that we have a very busy month of April ahead of us in various competitions. But every match will be very important. For each fixture the preparation and the motivation are the same, that is, we have to give our all to win. This meeting with Saint-Etienne gives us a chance to reach two cup finals this season, and so naturally the players have remobilised quickly after the Marseille match. It’s a very exciting challenge to have and so we have our hearts set on winning this semi-final”.
With the Coupe de la Ligue Final on Saturday, we can ill afford to rest on any laurels. This is arguably the most intense period in the modern history of the football club. The opportunity to make history is there. These players can do something no other French club has ever done and complete a domestic treble. Victory tonight will go a long, long way in making it a potential reality.