PSG looking to make up for lost time in Coupe

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

John Berry/Getty ImagesLaurent Blanc and Zlatan Ibrahimovic could potentially face Montpellier should they take care of Brest in their Wednesday Coupe de France contest.

No sooner had they arrived back in the French capital from Qatar last week, Paris Saint-Germain prepared to travel to Brittany on Sunday to tackle Ligue 2 outfit Stade Brestois in the Coupe de France's (French FA Cup) round of 64. Shortly before departing though, Laurent Blanc and his players were informed that the match had been postponed because of the bad weather in western France and the inability of their opponents' meagre facilities to cope with the adverse conditions.

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After one more cancellation on Tuesday, the match is finally set to go ahead on Wednesday night at the Stade Francis-Le Ble.

Eight-time winners of the competition PSG face a struggling Brest side that got relegated from Ligue 1 last season, but Blanc's men will still need to be at their best to avoid being on the receiving end of a cup upset. With the problem of the short turnaround between their clash against Real Madrid in Doha on Thursday and Sunday’s proposed meeting already overcome, their task has arguably been made a little easier.

A Brest team in dire form and struggling to stay out of trouble in the second tier will face the defending Championnat winners, so the 1983 quarterfinalists will be hoping to put their league woes behind them for one afternoon at least. Mired in 15th place, just two points above the relegation zone in Ligue 2, Alex Dupont's men are without a league win since October.

On paper, it should be a straightforward task for PSG. However, the hosts will be aided by the poor state of the pitch as well as the fact that their league leading opponents no doubt already have one eye on Saturday's Ligue 1 clash against Ajaccio in Corsica.

The last time the two sides met was back in May when Brest were the final opponents in David Beckham's long and colourful career. The French champions won 3-1, without really breaking a sweat, and went on to enjoy their first title celebrations in 19 years that night. Since then, the Finistere side have regressed and the current squad is devoid of any real talent.

Dupont's men have managed to keep hold of two former PSG players; experienced full-back Bernard Mendy is now club captain and Tripy Makonda is another regular in the starting XI. However, those two will strike little fear into the hearts of the PSG players who should easily find a way past their struggling hosts.

Under Carlo Ancelotti, the side from the capital were expected to ease past Evian Thonon Gaillard in last year's quarterfinal, but ended up getting overturned by the Savoyard side. Complacency could also cost them here, particularly considering the hazardous conditions and the far from ideal timing, which is why it is important that Blanc does not field a completely rotated lineup.

One of Ancelotti's greatest failings in his time with PSG was not taking the domestic cup competitions seriously enough. Having already knocked out Coupe de la Ligue (French League Cup) holders AS Saint-Etienne prior to the Christmas break, admittedly after extra time, Blanc has already shown that he is willing to give higher priority to the two potential trophies and one or more appearances at the Stade de France this season.

Evian reared their head again in early December, a reminder of the dangers of over-rotating, and Le President will be keen to point out to his side that success in the domestic cups is necessary in order for PSG to be truly dominant domestically.

Based on the wasteful showing against Real Madrid at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha last week, a handful of changes to the side can be expected. One enforced alteration will be the replacement of Marco Verratti in the midfield; he has been ruled out with an abductor problem. Christophe Jallet also misses out and is set for a considerable spell on the sidelines with surgery on a back injury, similar to Jeremy Menez's last summer, planned for Wednesday.

Menez recently stated his desire to stay with PSG until at least the end of the season and the French international outshone Ezequiel Lavezzi in his substitute performance against Real. Brazilian Lucas Moura, also initially on the bench for that match, impressed and could be given a start. Alex and Thiago Silva's shaky performances in Doha may lead to compatriot Marquinhos being handed a start, while Nicolas Douchez may be preferred to Salvatore Sirigu between the posts, as is the reserve goalkeeper custom in the domestic cups.

PSG are notoriously slow starters in the Coupe de France and have produced some unexpectedly close encounters when faced with lower league opposition in recent years. Last season's clash away at Arras finished 4-3, despite twice holding a two-goal lead, while a stoppage time Diego Lugano winner was required the year before to overcome Breton minnows Saint-Colomban Locmine.

A victory over Brest would keep alive PSG's chances of success on four fronts. In a delayed first competitive match of 2014, nothing other than progress to the round of 32 is expected. The draw for the next stage has already pitted the winner of this match against 2011-2012 Ligue 1 champions Montpellier HSC in the round of 32.

Should PSG make it past Brest, and a clash between the two most recent French champions beckons.


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