Tonight the Stade de France plays host to the 2014 Coupe de la Ligue final. Current Ligue 1 power house, Paris Saint-Germain takes on the former superpower Olympique Lyonnais for the first piece of silverware this season.
PSG are the obvious favourites, but last weekend Lyon shocked the Parisians with a 1-0 defeat at the Stade Gerland, not only giving Lyon a huge boost before the final, but it has cast doubt over PSG’s confidence in current boss Laurent Blanc.
Defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League and then the league defeat has put PSG into something of a mini-crisis. Before the second-leg against Chelsea, Blanc was set to sign a new deal at the club, now there are conflicting reports suggesting that both sides aren’t quite sure what the future holds.
This week PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi came out and said that Blanc had his full support, but it was less than convincing, defeat on Saturday night would be a huge blow to their project.
For Lyon and Remi Garde the Coupe de la Ligue is a great chance for Les Gones to secure qualification to the Europa League for next season and celebrate the great young side that Garde has moulded and made a success this season.
After a slow start to the season, Garde changed to playing a diamond midfield and OL began to climb up the table. The great play of Clement Grenier, Jordan Ferri, Henri Bedimo and Alexandre Lacazette has helped Lyon challenge for a top five place in the league, contend in the Europa League and took them to Saturday’s final.
Unfortunately for Lyon and Garde, he will be without Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff through injury and the excellent Ferri is out via suspension. It will be very interesting to see who Garde picks in the midfield, which is where they outplayed PSG last week; it will be difficult for them to do it again with as much success.
PSG will once again look towards Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani to lead the line this week. Injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic has given Cavani a chance to play the central striker role that he craves, but disappointing displays against Chelsea and Lyon in the league have asked questions over whether he is the man to carry PSG forward if Ibrahimovic was ever to leave the club.
With the hundreds of millions of euros that PSG has spent, it is disappointing to see just how Ibra-dependent they are since he was injured against Chelsea. Blanc will expect more from Cavani, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi has been playing excellent in 2014 and the pressure will be on him to continue his recent form.
On paper there is no doubt that PSG have the best team by quite a distance, but Lyon showed last week that the soon to be Ligue 1 champions aren’t invincible and they can have their off days. It’s not quite David V Goliath, but it would be a shock if it was Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons lifting the trophy on Saturday night.