Ligue 1 – Domestic cups may not be an upset for PSG
Last season, PSG pulled off an unprecedented domestic quadruple, which became the focus of their attentions after being knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona in the quarter-finals. This season, having been knocked out by Manchester City at the same stage, eyes have again swivelled back to domestic glory. Philippa Booth looks at who stands in their way in the remaining domestic competitions.Embed from Getty Images
PSG are already halfway there, having won the season-opening Trophée des Champions 2-0 against Lyon, and having sewn up the Ligue 1 title after only 30 games. This leaves the prospect of repeating a cup double, and a slight fixture pile-up.
Tonight (Tuesday), they face Lorient in the Coupe de France semi-finals; on Saturday, it’s the Coupe de la Ligue final against Lille. A glance at the squad against Caen last weekend showed where Laurent Blanc’s priorities lay – the names Sessi D’Almeida, Kévin Rimane and Timothée Taufflieb don’t trip naturally off the tongue even for the most ardent Parisien supporter.
(None of them started. PSG won 6-0.)
So – can anyone put a crimp in the champions’ chances as they cruise through another season?
The omens aren’t great, naturally, but there is some hope for variety on the French football honours wall this season. Lorient might be having a slightly tricky time of it in the league after an impressive first half of the season, but they are not in any real danger in 11th place with a very decent goalscoring record, and have also scored 13 in their four CDF games.
However, their only top-flight cup opponents were Gazélec Ajaccio, who could be forgiven for having their mind on other things, and they took extra time to see off both Ligue 2’s Tours and third-tier Boulogne. So, the semi-final should be a fun game, as Lorient aren’t likely to sit back and defend – mostly because they can’t – but their chances seem limited.
In the other game, it is tempting to see Sochaux as the more difficult prospect for the final, if up-for-sale OM can’t sort themselves out. The Ligue 2 side have already seen off three top-tier teams in their run, including away at Bastia, the archetypal difficult place to go, and Monaco and Nantes at home. Marseille, meanwhile, have made underwhelming weather of it, including a goalless draw at Caen requiring the traditional heroics from Steve Mandanda with three saves in the penalty shootout, and only winning 1-0 against fifth-tier Granville.
Onto the most immediate chance of silverware, the Coupe de la Ligue final; Lille had a bad start to the league season, with only two wins and seven goals in thirteen games under soon-to-be-let-go manager Hervé Renard. However, he did manage one other game, where Lille beat Troyes 2-1, and started a rather confusing run to the final. They beat Ligue 2’s Laval 1-0, dulled out a goalless draw against Guingamp, winning on penalties courtesy of goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, and then demolished Bordeaux 5-1 in the quarter-final, which was a bit surprising as at that point Lille had not scored more than three goals in a game all season.
They have now put together a run of six straight wins, including a 4-1 defeat of Monaco, and most recently a 4-2 win away at Gazélec, with a hat-trick from Sofiane Boufal. They have the second-best defence in Ligue 1 – and they’ve started scoring.
After a disappointing time in Europe, therefore, this week is crucial for PSG. Expect them to get past Lorient, but Lille should be trickier – it was 1-0 to PSG in game 1 in the league, and a goalless draw at the Parc des Princes in February. A similarly tight game looks on the cards.
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