PSG seek to stay alive on all fronts vs. Montpellier in Coupe

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

John Berry/Getty ImagesLaurent Blanc's PSG face off against 2011-12 Ligue 1 champions Montpellier in the Coupe de France.

France's two most recent champions meet at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday in the Coupe de France's round of 32. Current titleholders Paris Saint-Germain entertain 2011-2012 Ligue 1 winners Montpellier HSC with both sides hoping to make it to the last 16. Laurent Blanc's men eased through in the previous round against Stade Brestois 29, but now come up against opponents who have been reinvigorated since the start of the New Year.

Montpellier, now coached by Rolland Courbis after the dismissal of Jean Fernandez who was in charge when the two sides met at the Stade de la Mosson back in August, have won two and drawn the other of their three games so far in 2014.

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A 2-0 win away at Rodez Aveyron Football in the last round has been followed by a draw with PSG's title rivals AS Monaco and a first win in 12 attempts in Le Championnat over fellow strugglers FC Sochaux-Montbeliard. Their improved form and the recent loan arrival of AC Milan striker Mbaye Niang, who has already scored twice in three games in all competitions, will buoy MHSC.

PSG are eight-time winners of the trophy, while Montpellier have won it just twice with their most recent triumph coming in 1990. Despite the fact that the hosts have won it a staggering six times since La Paillade's last victory, the visitors will fancy a deep run if they can just get past former player and youth academy product Blanc's stellar team.

The recent good form of the side that pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title two years ago will not worry the capital outfit too much. As they showed once again at the weekend in the merciless 5-0 thrashing of FC Nantes, the Parisian juggernaut is not stopping for anybody right now. Blanc's team are fighting on four fronts at present and will expect to be in the hat for the last 16 draw come Wednesday night. But following Adrien Rabiot's knee injury, the need for an extra central midfielder (and a creative one at that) has been underlined recently.

In fact, victory in Wednesday's clash could potentially have further beneficial ramifications for PSG than just progress in the Coupe de France.

Montpellier currently posses one Remy Cabella in their squad and the creative attacking talent has been linked with a move to English Premier League side Newcastle United. The Magpies are of course the current club of French international midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who is believed to be PSG's number one transfer target since Rabiot's injury. It is thought that the only way that Alan Pardew will part with Cabaye this month is if Cabella arrives in return, despite their difference in position and style.

Knocking Montpellier out of the competition would arguably make Cabella's absence that little bit easier for Courbis' side to deal with and possibly indirectly enhance PSG's chances of snaring Cabaye in the coming weeks.

Before that though, Blanc's men need to keep their impressive recent momentum going with another win on Wednesday. Despite a number of injuries and fitness problems, Le President will be able to rotate relatively heavily against his formative club.

Rabiot and Christophe Jallet are out injured, while Ezequiel Lavezzi has been omitted from the squad in order to fully recuperate. The Argentine's fitness has been an issue this season and it gives frustrated Brazilian international Lucas Moura and marginalised Frenchman Jeremy Menez the chance to impress in El Pocho's absence.

Nicolas Douchez returns from injury and will likely take his place back in goal from regular Salvatore Sirigu, as is the reserve goalkeeper custom in both of the domestic cups. The Italian played in the Coupe de la Ligue clash away at Girondins de Bordeaux with the Frenchman unavailable.

Rabiot's injury means that limited rotation of the midfield will be possible and the intelligent use of substitutions that was exhibited against Nantes may be reprised on Wednesday. Javier Pastore will likely get to start in place of one of Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi or Marco Verratti after his impressive showing in the Bordeaux game last week.

Marquinhos found himself at right back in that match and could well do so again, with Lucas Digne almost certain to be given a chance at left-back in place of Maxwell.

Although it is by no means an easy clash for PSG, they could certainly have done worse than a home fixture given the recent fixture congestion. A rare midweek break is on the horizon next week, but before then there are two important matches to win.

Montpellier firstly, would almost certainly prefer to take three points away from the Parc des Princes in the final game of the league season to aid their battle against the drop than progress here. Saturday's opponents EA Guingamp, on the other hand, should not pose the same difficulties that they did back in August when they succumbed to a late 2-0 defeat in Paris.

Anything less than at least equalling last year's Coupe de France quarterfinal appearance will be deemed unacceptable, so PSG will need to make sure that Sunday's stroll against Nantes did not sap their energy for this one.

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