Is today the start of something special for Paris Saint-Germain? After beating Marseille last Sunday in the league and booking a place in the Coupe de France Final during the week, the next step is to retain the Coupe de la Ligue against Bastia this evening. This could very well be the first piece of a domestic treble as the football club looks to accomplish a feat that no other entity in France has ever done.
It is a repeat of the showpiece 20 years ago – the inaugural final – in which PSG won
2-0 thanks to goals from captain Alain Roche and Rai in front of 25,000 fans at the Parc des Princes. It is fitting that two decades on the teams meet again; but this time on a far bigger stage at the Stade de France. We have gone on to win the competition on three other occasions as the Corsicans seek their first ever triumph.
We look to become only the second team in history to retain the trophy. Marseille did it on three successive occasions in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and that can be an added incentive for the group heading into the game. Last year we overcame an opponent more on an even keel in Lyon but this Bastia side cannot be underestimated by any stretch. Remember what happened back in January? Laurent Blanc has not forgotten about it. The players have not forgotten. And I guarantee those affiliated with SCB will use that as a source of motivation as they look to take the trophy away from the mainland.
This was the mother of all capitulations. We led 2-0 – ended up losing 4-2. That asked some serious questions of the group and in particular the coach. The period after the winter break was a tough one and full credit to Blanc, who not only steadied the ship but look what he is now on the brink of doing. In the days after that defeat we beat Saint-Etienne away in this competition to book a place in the last-four. That result was pivotal! And kick-started a 15-game unbeaten run.
Blanc in his pre-match presser yesterday paid a lot of respect to our opponents but you can tell he is itching for the victory after what transpired back in January. He said; “We have a lot of respect for this side. We know their strengths and their weaknesses, but I think they know us as well. They beat us so we can’t wait to play them. We will continue to play our football, because we are in good form at the moment. Our results are consistent and our technical quality is enabling us to defeat our opponents. Whoever we are playing, to continue on our winning run, we need to win this Coupe de la Ligue. We want to win it.”
Julian Palmieri who scored one of the goals of the season in that 4-2 victory described that day as one of the happiest in his career. He said in an interview with CBS ; “This was the happiest moment of my professional career. It was a strange feeling that I had never felt before. It was pride to have helped my team beat one of the biggest teams in Europe.”
And he was in confident mood during yesterday’s presser by exclaiming; “I firmly believe that we will win this final. This is our time. There is no reason why we will lose”. You just have to admire that passion and if it is transmitted onto the pitch, then this will be a keenly fought contest.
But, we are overwhelming favourites and they are the underdogs. Nevertheless, anything can happen in a final. You only have to look at Guingamp’s triumph in the Coupe de France last season. Montpellier even a few years back in that miracle title run. French football loves an underdog and Ghislain Printant’s side will give their all tonight. This will be no stroll in the park for Paris Saint-Germain, it will be a test!
With Barcelona coming up on Wednesday and some key names out such as David Luiz/Thiago Motta, the coach will still field a full strength team – or near enough. There is a question mark over Edinson Cavani who had a thigh complaint during the Saint-Etienne win. But apart from him, the others are fine.