PARIS: Monaco have a real chance to end two years of complete domestic dominance by Paris Saint Germain when they face the title holders in Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) French League Cup finals.
Owned by billionaire Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco have banked on recruiting the cream of French youth whilst their Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim has unleashed Europe’s highest scorers on the pitch.
They have also earned a fortune selling on the likes of James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial and others to balance the books at a visibly burgeoning club.
The latest starlet to emerge at Monaco is 18-year-old striker Kylian Mbappe, who will be firmly in the spotlight at Lyon’s Stade Olympique this weekend.
Chelsea are among Europe’s big guns reportedly chasing him and their star striker Diego Costa last week called Mbappe “a phenomenon”.
Underlining his fast-growing reputation, Barcelona’s Gerard Pique picked out the youngster at half time of the France v Spain game on Tuesday, asking Mbappe for his shirt.
Striker Radamel Falcao is also back on form, helping Monaco plunder 87 goals so far in the French league, which they lead with eight games to go and face Dortmund in the Champions League quarterfinals.
In contrast to the surging confidence in Monaco, in Paris there is a feeling that Unai Emery will be shown the door in the summer after only a year in charge at PSG following the Champions League meltdown at Barcelona.
Winger Javier Pastore said the players were behind their Spanish coach.
“Another reason we want to win (the League Cup) is for him, he’s worked hard and deserves something,” Pastore said.
If they are to retain their crown they may do it without captain and central defender Thiago Silva — once known as “the Monster” — who is suffering a crisis of confidence at just the wrong time.
“In recent big matches he looks afraid,” former PSG defender Bruno N’Gotty said.
In the past two years PSG, bankrolled by Qatari money, have won the domestic treble of league, cup and League Cup.
But even that was not enough to save the job of former coach Laurent Blanc.
There is enduring hope in striker Edinson Cavani, who has scored 38 times this season in all competitions and hit a brace in the semifinals defeat of Bordeaux.
Another shining light under Emery has been the Brazilian winger Lucas Moura, who has played the most minutes for PSG this season.
“There’s a trophy up for grabs, we want it and we will do everything to win this game. We are strong and we know our potential,” he told the PSG website.