Paris Saint-Germain continue their bid for a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honors when they make the trip to Lorient for a French Cup semifinals on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), a week after their Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City.
Laurent Blanc’s Ligue 1 champions bounced back from becoming the first team to bow out of the Champions League at the quarterfinals stage for four years in a row when they thrashed Caen 6-0 in the league on Saturday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to form with a brace at the Parc des Princes to take his tally for the season to 41 goals in all competitions, and he will be confident of causing problems for a Lorient team who have lost their last seven meetings with PSG.
Caen were perfect opponents at the weekend as they had little to play for and PSG looked back to their best after Blanc returned to a familiar 4-3-3 formation.
The main target this term was to conquer Europe, but despite Blanc appearing pleased to avoid the “ogres of European football” in Barcelona and Bayern Munich, PSG failed to make the most of the last-eight draw and were beaten by a Kevin De Bruyne strike at the Etihad Stadium.
Now the coach says that they are fully focused on repeating their domestic clean sweep of last season, having already wrapped up the Ligue 1 title in record time and won the season-opening Champions Trophy.
After facing Lorient, they take on Lille in the French League Cup finals at the Stade de France on Saturday.
“At the start of the season the objective was to go as far as possible in the Champions League and especially get to the semi-finals, but also to win one of the domestic cups as well as the league,” said Blanc, who last week claimed that his job is always under threat.
“But the reality is that we want to try to win everything. We still have a final and a semi-final to play, so the end of the season is still exciting.
“For PSG, as we are out of the Champions League, people say that it is all finished. But we still have two trophies to win.”
Extra motivation for PSG is the fact that a successful defense of the French Cup would draw them level alongside archrivals Marseille as the competition’s record 10-time winners.
Lorient are looking to emulate the heroes of 2002, when Jean-Claude Darcheville scored the only goal in the finals against Bastia.
Marseille under pressure
Marseille and their under-fire coach Michel have the chance to put a silver lining on an otherwise woeful campaign and they go to second-tier Sochaux in the second semifinals on Wednesday.
OM slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Monaco on Sunday night as their winless run in the league extended to 10 matches.
But the cup has provided some solace, and the draw has pitted them against lower-league opponents for the third successive round, leaving a heavyweight final clash with PSG still a strong possibility.
Sochaux have picked up some big scalps this season though in their run to the last four, having seen off Nantes in the quarterfinals and Monaco in the last 16.
Their cup exploits have given Albert Cartier’s side a boost in the league too, with a five-match unbeaten run dragging them away from danger of being relegated to France’s third division.
The last of Sochaux’s five major trophies came in the French Cup in 2007 when they beat Marseille on penalties in the final. AFP