PSG favourites to eat their Greens and lift French Cup in silent stadium
The French Cup final will be decided tonight at the Stade de France between Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Etienne. There will be 5,000 spectators in the stadium, with a normal capacity of 81,000, because of Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings. French President Emmanuel Macron will be among the lucky few who get to see the match live.
Competitive football resumes in France tonight, with this cup final involving the stellar PSG of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé against the more mundane ASSE, or Association Sportive de Saint-Etienne.
The odds are all in favour of the Parisians, winners of their three recent warm-up friendlies, in which they scored 20 goals, conceding none.
The Greens, as Saint-Etienne are known, haven't been this far in the competition since 1982. Back then, they lost the final on penalties . . . to PSG.
The atmosphere will be bizarre, to say the best of it, with only a handful of spectators in the vast national stadium, normally crammed to the girders for this season-ending clash.
Each club was allocated 900 tickets, but hard-core supporters on both sides have organised a boycott.
"Make Us Forget the Emptiness" was the main headline this morning in Saint-Etienne local newspaper, Le Progrès. But that's more easily said than done.
Greens captain and defender, Loïc Perrin, admits that it's going to be weird. "Players don't like silence. At the end of the day, football is a spectacle. And it's supposed to be played before a full house."
But the Greens won't be there just to make up the numbers.
"We have a shot at a magnificent trophy," says Perrin. "I hope that we'll create a bit of a shock and lift the cup."
His PSG counterpart, Thiago Silva, admits that it will be different from any other match in his career. But he's happy to face "a historic moment".
Both sides will be allowed to use five substitutes, instead of the regulation three, again because of virus-related health concerns.
The trophy will be presented to the winners on the pitch and not, as usual, in the presidential box.
A question of form...
Both sides will face the difficulty of raising their game after the long period of virtual inactivity imposed by the Covid crisis. Despite their three friendly outings, PSG have not given any of their players more than an hour of football per match.
Thiago Silva says it will come down to a question of sporting intelligence.
"After four months off, we won't be able to play to our best, that's obvious. But we will play with a lot of intensity, move the ball around and make them run."
Busy schedule facing PSG
Paris Saint-Germain will need to be in form, and not just tonight.
They face Lyon in the French League Cup final at the end of the month, and they have a European Champions League quarter-final against Atalanta in August.
Chances for the Parisians to add to the French League and the Champions Trophy they've already collected.
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