PARIS: Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco hold the edge over Paris Saint-Germain in the French title race, but the reigning champions haven’t given up hope of landing a third successive sweep of the domestic trophies.
PSG thrashed Monaco 4-1 at the start of April to retain the French League Cup, and with the principality club prioritising Europe and Ligue 1, Unai Emery’s side will again fancy their chances in Wednesday’s French Cup semi-final.
“This semi-final is an encounter between two very important matches, with only two days’ rest each time,” said Monaco boss Jardim, whose side lead PSG on goal difference with a game in hand in the razor tight title race.
“We don’t have a choice, we’ll have to rotate the squad and save those players who have played the most for Saturday against Toulouse.
“We’re going to use the players who have played sparingly and players from the reserves. There’s mental fatigue as well… the league is the most important competition.”
Not only has Monaco’s brilliant young side fired the club to within sight of a first French crown since 2000, but Jardim’s men are also through to the last four of the Champions League, where they’ll face Juventus for a place in the June 3 final in Cardiff.
PSG’s European dreams were shattered in stunning fashion by Barcelona, but they have reeled off eight victories in succession since their Camp Nou meltdown to revive their campaign.
A rejuvenated Angel Di Maria has been a central figure in their largely impressive 2017 form, the Argentine contributing 17 goals in 18 matches since the turn of the year.
“During the League Cup final we were at 100 percent. We played the perfect game, it was an exceptional match,” Di Maria, who scored one goal and set up two more in the April 1 showpiece, told the PSG website.
“Against Monaco in the semi-final we must reproduce the same thing. We must give our best, this time at home with our supporters behind us. To reach another final would be even better!”
– Sixty years making? –
While Jardim is expected to make wholesale changes for Monaco, PSG will be without Javier Pastore — hurt in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Montpellier — and likely Adrien Rabiot in midfield.
Angers will host twice former winners Guingamp at a sold-out Stade Raymond Kopa in the first semi-final on Tuesday.
The home side have reached the last four three times in the past six seasons, but a 6-3 defeat against Toulouse 60 years ago remains Angers’ lone appearance in the final.
“We really feel the enthusiasm of the fans for the semi-final,” said right-back Vincent Manceau. “Even before the league match at Dijon (last Saturday), the people talked more about Guingamp.”
“It’s a big chance that has been presented to us. If we could write a new page in the club’s history 60 years later, it would be fantastic,” added Olivier Pickeu, the club’s general manager.
Guingamp striker Jimmy Briand is still smarting over last month’s 3-0 league defeat to Angers and vowed to use it for motivation as Antoine Kombouare’s men bid to reach the final for the third time in eight years — after lifting the trophy in 2009 and 2014.
“When I signed for Guingamp two years ago, I said that I wasn’t coming just to keep the club in the top flight,” said Briand.
“This season has been a good one for the moment. With a French Cup final, it would certainly be a very, very good one.”
Fixtures (times GMT)
Angers v Guingamp (1900)
Paris Saint-Germain v Monaco (1905)