Two down, two to go! Paris Saint-Germain have an incredible feat in sight. Last season’s domestic quadruple was unprecedented but they are on the cusp of repeating that come the end of May. It would be a staggering achievement by Laurent Blanc and his players having already won the Trophees des Champions and league title. But, they have the most in-form team in Ligue 1 standing in their way of capturing a third straight Coupe de la Ligue tonight, Lille OSC!
It’s a pity that so much has been made of the Champions League exit to Manchester City. The emphasis on Europe in the French media in particular has diminished what this group of players have done on home soil. It’s incredible what Blanc and his team have achieved thus far and the fact that they can potenitally win a back-to-back quadruple is unheard of! Especially in one of Europe’s top leagues.
But, it is what it is. The facts speak for themselves, Les Parisiens have nothing to prove domestically; the 28-point lead at the top says it all. However, PSG’s success has also been a hindrance as it proved against City where our lack of competition in France had ultimately played a part in our laboured display at the Etihad. As a result, we bowed out with a whimper.
There will be no lack of competitive spirit tomorrow from either team. The Paris lads will be looking to retain the Coupe de la Ligue for a third straight year and Lille will be chomping at the bit after an incredible turnaround to their season. Since Herve Renard’s sacking last November, Les Dogues have really found their feet under new coach Frederic Antonetti. They are on the cusp of Europe, racked up six straight wins and have a real chance at claiming some silverware tonight at the Stade de France.
It is going to be a tight affair you feel, Lille’s form coming into this has been too good for it not to be. We’re buoyed after our 1-0 victory away at Lorient to book a place in the Coupe de France final. It was far from pretty, we had to rely on some key saves from Salvatore Sirigu. But, the boys came through it thanks to a beautiful solo goal by the big man Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The 6-0 thumping of Caen last weekend and that win in Brittany has restored some confidence after the City debacle.
Laurent Blanc though was buzzing in his pre-match presser yesterday, even proclaiming that the whole of the first-team squad trained together for the first time in years as everyone is now fit! This is great news, especially with Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore FINALLY being named in the squad after their injury woes. Thiago Motta did train but has not made the cut due to a thigh problem he picked up in Manchester. His return is a little too soon.
Apart from that, PSG are raring to go with all the big hitter available. Verratti of course will start from the bench you feel having not played since February. Motta’s absence leaves a spot for the likes of Pastore and Benjamin Stambouli. Lucas Moura should start in attack as opposed to Edinson Cavani. And with David Luiz just returning from an injury, Marquinhos may be given the nod to start in the centre of defence alongside Thiago Silva.
Blaise Matuidi was asked about the quadruple in the presser yesterday at the Stade de France. He did admit that the Champions League elimination was a disappointment but is under no illusions as to how special it would be to capture back-to-back quadruples. BM said, as quoted by the club’s official website; “We won everything last season. It was exceptional, and if we do it again, that would be exceptional too. We wanted to do better in the UCL, but we shouldn’t get depressed and throw the baby out with the bath water. We have two titles left to play for but even if we miss out on them, it will still have been a huge season. And we have a chance to do the quadruple two seasons in a row, which is very special. We’re not taking it lightly and we’re not blasé about it in the slightest.”