Preview: Coupe de France Final – Marseille v PSG
This is it. The last game of the French football season, the last chance for silverware; PSG aiming for a second consecutive domestic quadruple, Marseille looking to defend their status as record cup-winners. Ooh.
Marseille may not have had the most successful or stress-free league season but their cup run has been a bright note, featuring six different scorers (admittedly one of whom doesn’t actually play for them) and no goals conceded in their five matches so far. They had to rely on Steve Mandanda to be the hero in their first match, a goalless draw against Caen where OM spent an hour playing with ten men after Karim Rekik was sent off, to win 3-1 on penalties. After that, things got a little smoother, beating Montpellier and CFA’s Trelissac 2-0 each, then avoiding potential embarrassment against fifth-tier Granville with a second-half goal from Michy Batshuayi.
This set up a semi-final against Ligue 2’s Sochaux – which took place the day after coach Michel had departed the club, when they were 15th in the league and not yet safe from relegation. There were some signs that the players were unsettled as they managed only one shot in the first half, struggling to deal with an organised opposition, but Steven Fletcher set up Florian Thauvin for the goal shortly after the restart, to book their ticket for the final.
PSG opened their campaign with a functional 1-0 win against CFA team Wasquehal (goal Ibrahimovic), before then facing four Ligue 1 teams. Toulouse did a decent job but were seen off 2-1, Lyon less so and 3-0, St Etienne around what you’d expect and 3-1, to set up a semi-final against Lorient in which it was widely agreed that the synthetic pitch was the winner. Opta seemed to be reaching a bit when their half-time tweet was that Marquinhos had completed all of his 58 passes, but the inevitable Zlatan got the goal with fifteen minutes to go. PSG had to rely on cup keeper Salvatore Sirigu to keep it that way as Lorient went for the equaliser, particularly from a last-minute free-kick.
Two key players for PSG in this match are both leaving this summer; Sirigu having lost his starting place, and Ibrahimovic having definitely not. He is currently joint top-scorer in the competition with five goals (level with Lorient’s Benjamin Jeannot, Monaco’s Lacina Traore and Granville’s Thomas Vauvy) and you get the feeling Zlatan doesn’t like sharing that kind of thing. On the other side, Mandanda may also be heading off for pitches new, and that ‘no goals conceded’ record would be a nice, if unexpected, way to say goodbye.
There is obviously needle between these two teams whenever they meet, but this one has an added edge in that OM are the current record-holders with ten trophies, the last in 1989. PSG are second – on nine. This is also a replay of the 2006 final which PSG won 2-1 with goals from Bonaventure Kalou and Vikash Dhorasoo, Toifilou Maoulida with the goal for OM (he’s available on a free at the age of 36, by the way, after two seasons at Nimes). The match featured a wealth of names, some now retired (Pauleta, Mario Yepes, Fabien Barthez), but several still playing (Franck Ribery, Lorik Cana, Renato Civelli and Sylvain Armand).
The most likely outcome will be that PSG prevail, retain the cup, draw level in the historic standings, and motor on. Indicative odds have them at 19/50 to win, the draw at 4/1 and Marseille at 9/1. After OM’s season, even their most ardent fans will not be confident that even the magie de la coupe can work in their favour here.