Can PSG overcome Nantes to reach Coupe de la Ligue final?

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Xavier Laine/Getty ImagesZlatan Ibrahimovic will have to shoulder the scoring burden at PSG while Edinson Cavani is out injured.

Paris Saint-Germain take on FC Nantes at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Tuesday, a team that the French champions recently thumped 5-0 in Ligue 1. Nantes represent the only thing standing in PSG's way of making their only potential Stade de France appearance this season. Laurent Blanc's side were in merciless form against Les Canaris at the Parc des Princes just over a fortnight ago, but have since endured a mixed run.

PSG crashed out of the Coupe de France at home to Montpellier HSC three days later and were then held to a 1-1 draw by EA Guingamp, before a return to normality with a 2-0 win over Girondins de Bordeaux last Friday. However, that victory came at a cost with Edinson Cavani suffering a hamstring injury that has ruled him out for the next three weeks.

- Report: Cavani out for three weeks

The prolific Uruguayan's absence is problematic for Blanc in that it deprives him of one of his most indispensable assets for more than just one crucial match.

In addition to Tuesday's semi-final clash, El Matador will also miss the crunch title showdown between the top two in Monaco on Sunday, as well as the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last 16 encounter with Bayer Leverkusen. However, it is hoped that he will be back in time for the second leg and the home leg of Le Classique against bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille.

Cavani's injury also creates a rare chance to impress for a few players though, starting on Tuesday.

Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the South American's untimely injury is Brazilian international Lucas Moura who was in good form against Bordeaux last time out. The 21-year-old provided both of PSG's goals against Les Girondins and, although he was not outstanding, would benefit from being able to enjoy the continuity of starting two consecutive matches.

Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore are the two others who stand to gain the most from this situation. El Pocho has played in a central striking role before, when Carlo Ancelotti was coach, while El Flaco could be accommodated in his preferred position behind the striker. Pastore could be benched from the start against Nantes though, after new signing Yohan Cabaye impressed on his PSG debut.

Less likely to benefit immediately, but someone who now might actually get a look once in a while is French international Jeremy Menez. The 26-year-old was thought to be on the verge of an exit in January, but a move away did not materialise. Blanc could hand the mercurial talent a chance to stake his claim for more regular involvement.

However, there is no question that the burden on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's broad shoulders will be enlarged.

The Swede will be expected to single-handedly lead the side from the start of the next few games, as he was for the majority of last season. PSG cannot afford for some of their old troubles to come back and haunt them though, and an inability to break opponents down in cup games of this importance and Sunday’s clash with Monaco could prove costly.

One major positive for Blanc will be the return of Marco Verratti from suspension in midfield, but defender Zoumana Camara has also been ruled out through injury, along with Adrien Rabiot and Christophe Jallet. An injury to Thiago Silva, Alex or Marquinhos could see PSG slip back into the dangerous position they found themselves in earlier in the season where both Silva and Alex nursed problems, forcing newcomer Marquinhos into action early on.

Should Blanc's side emerge victorious at the Stade de la Beaujoire, they will face either Olympique Lyonnais or ESTAC Troyes in the April Stade de France final. An appearance at the home of the French national team would offer PSG the chance to become the most decorated side in the trophy's history as one of three clubs currently tied on three wins apiece.

To do that though, the capital outfit will need to overcome a Nantes side who will be keen to erase the memories of their painful 5-0 mauling at the hands of the Parisians recently.

Les Canaris have never won the Coupe de la Ligue, but PSG cannot afford to not win it this year having already slipped out of the Coupe de France. The objective at the start of the season was to dominate the domestic scene, while progressing past the quarterfinal stage in Europe. Nothing other than a victory will do for Blanc and PSG on Tuesday.

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