PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain face an in-form Lille side in the French League Cup finals at the Stade de France on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), as they look to complete part three of a possible domestic clean sweep of titles.
Laurent Blanc’s side are on track to repeat their haul of last season when they won the French Cup and League Cup, the Ligue 1 title, as well as the season-opening Champions Trophy.
The capital city club’s main aim this term was to conquer Europe, only to be beaten by Manchester City as they bowed out at the quarterfinals stage for the fourth year in a row.
But after wrapping up the Ligue 1 title in record time, PSG are just two wins away from successfully defending their cup trophies, after setting up a mouthwatering French Cup final against arch rivals Marseille by beating Lorient on Tuesday.
Talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic grabbed the winner in the 75th minute with his 42nd goal of a fantastic farewell season.
The rest of the campaign still appears full of possibilities for the league champions, but Blanc is under pressure to at least match the feats of 12 months ago.
The French coach is still sweating on the fitness of key midfielder Marco Verratti, who has been out since February 20 with a groin problem, for the Lille clash, while David Luiz may miss out with an ankle injury.
Luiz’s absence would mean that Marquinhos partners captain Thiago Silva in central defence, as he did in the European exit to Man City.
Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu looks set to leave the club at the end of the season after being replaced as number one by German Kevin Trapp, but he could still make an indelible mark with his last two matches likely to be the two-cup finals.
PSG are on course for a third successive French League Cup and are the record five-time winners of the competition, while Lille have never lifted the trophy and will be playing in the final for the first time.
Lille will be tough opponents on Saturday though, after a recent resurgence in form under the tutelage of new coach Frederic Antonetti.
Earlier this season they were struggling for goals and embroiled in a relegation battle, but a thumping 5-1 semi-final win over Bordeaux sparked them into life.
A six-match winning streak, during which they have scored 16 goals, has propelled them to within just four points of the Champions League places with four Ligue 1 games remaining.
“We will not hide, we know where we’re coming from and things will not totally change just because we have won six matches,” Lille midfielder Florent Balmont told sports daily L’Equipe.
“We are nothing but outsiders for this final. PSG have so many great players.
“We know very well that if we are just average that will not be enough. We must play the perfect match, but we have nothing to lose.”
The prodigious talent of Sofiane Boufal has shone through for Lille in recent weeks, with the Moroccan winger scoring a stunning volley as part of a hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Gazelec Ajaccio last Saturday.
Portuguese international striker Eder has also chipped in with five goals since joining on loan from Swansea City in January, and suddenly the team look to be a far more potent force.
Antonetti with be without central defender Renato Civelli as the Argentine starts a three-game ban, although winger Mounir Obbadi should be fit to start after returning to action from the bench in Corsica at the weekend.