PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain will seek to draw their bitter-sweet season to a winning close when they take on unheralded Angers in Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) French Cup finals.
SG missed out on the Ligue 1 title to rivals Monaco, who finished eight points clear at the top of the table to break the Parisians’ hopes of a fifth consecutive trophy.
Despite that second place, guaranteeing Champions League football next season, and victory over an under-strength Monaco in the League Cup finals, PSG coach Unai Emery has found himself in the spotlight of the ever-demanding Qatari owners.
Emery’s first season since joining from Sevilla saw PSG notch up a memorable 4-0 home win over Barcelona in the Champions League before the Catalans stunningly overturned that deficit at home in the round of 16, meaning the Paris side missed out on the quarter-finals of Europe’s lucrative club competition for the first time in five years.
“There were some changes last summer and after that we had some problems in the first half of the season,” PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp acknowledged, notably with the departure of stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz to the English Premier League.
“Our season wasn’t as bad as all that, we finished with 87 points in the league despite the season Monaco had.
“But we must ask ourselves some questions for next season because there are always things to improve.
“The second part of the season was good and we were competitive.”
PSG focused on 11th Cup title
Trapp added that the team were now focused on landing a record 11th — and third consecutive — French Cup title.
“We have to win the Cup final. If we’d won the league, there wouldn’t have been less pressure,” he said.
“There’s the same pressure when you’re in a club like PSG — like that you always want to win everything.”
PSG’s opponents in the 100th staging of the Cup final will be Angers, the western club that finished 12th in the league.
Despite a limited budget that pales into insignificance compared to PSG’s, Angers coach Stephane Moulin has moulded a team ethic based around tight on-field discipline, which has paid dividends.
“Football fills my life in an almost permanent way,” the 49-year-old admitted. “I want us to live for the team.
“What I look for in a player is the desire to work, the taste for work.
“I like generous or courageous people. If they’ve got talent, all the better!”
Angers’ appearance in the Cup final will be their first in 60 years, when they lost 6-3 to Toulouse, and just the second in club history. A victory would also guarantee a spot in the Europa League.
“Should that happen, it will push us a bit to accelerate some things” said Angers president Said Chabane, an Algerian who touched down in France at the age of 23 to finish his engineering studies before going on to found a food group.
“We’re not ready now, but that’s not to say we won’t be ready at the start of September.”