Ligue 2 side AJ Auxerre and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain meet at Stade de France on Saturday evening in the 98th Coupe de France final, French football’s most prestigious domestic cup competition.
On paper, this should be a routine win for Laurent Blanc’s men. However, PSG are under pressure to pick up the trophy to become the first team in French football history to complete a domestic treble. Victory would also seal their ninth Coupe de France, which would move them to within one of record holders Olympique de Marseille on 10.
Jean-Luc Vannuchi’s Auxerre are not in the best form, having failed to win any of their last seven Ligue 2 games. If they pull off an improbable shock win in the capital on Saturday, though, it would be their fifth Coupe de France and first since 2005.
Date: Saturday, May 30
Time: 8 p.m. BST (9 p.m. CEST) / 3 p.m. EDT
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
TV Info: France 2 (France) and beIN Sports (USA) at 2:55 p.m. ET
Live Stream: beIN Sports CONNECT (USA)
PSG ended the Ligue 1 season in spectacular fashion, scoring 31 goals in their last nine league matches. Les Parisiens’ nine-game winning run set a new club record in Le Championnat.
The French champions are coming into this clash against fallen giants Auxerre with plenty of momentum, while AJA’s Ligue 2 campaign came to a halt some time ago.
Blanc’s men are chasing an unprecedented domestic treble, and victory at Stade de France on Saturday would end what has been a mixed season in glittering fashion.
PSG were familiar with Auxerre up until their relegation from the top flight at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, but the Burgundy-based outfit are now more of an unknown quantity to the men from the capital.
Both sides have considerable history in this competition. PSG are eight-time winners; Auxerre are four-time champions after a rich spell of success between 1994 and 2005.
PSG had to see off Montpellier HSC, Girondins de Bordeaux, FC Nantes, AS Monaco and AS Saint-Etienne to reach their 13th Coupe de France final. AJA ousted SC Dinsheim, Sarreguemines FC, RC Strasbourg Alsace, Jura Sud Foot, Vendee Poire-sur-Vie Football, Stade Brestois and EA Guingamp to reach their sixth.
The odds are stacked firmly against Auxerre, but the Coupe de France is everything the English FA Cup claims to be. The "magic of the cup" is genuinely alive in France, and each year this competition witnesses multiple big shocks.
This fixture could produce one of them. Can Auxerre do the unthinkable and deny PSG a historic French domestic treble?
L. 2-1 vs. Havre AC (Ligue 2)
D. 2-2 vs. US Creteil-Lusitanos (Ligue 2)
D. 1-1 vs. Chamois Niortais (Ligue 2)
D. 0-0 vs. GFC Ajaccio (Ligue 2)
D. 1-1 vs. Stade Lavallois (Ligue 2)
W. 3-2 vs. Stade de Reims (Ligue 1)
W. 1-2 vs. Montpellier (Ligue 1)
W. 6-0 vs. EA Guingamp (Ligue 1)
W. 0-2 vs. Nantes (Ligue 1)
W. 3-1 vs. FC Metz (Ligue 1)
Player to Watch Per Side
Traditionally, Auxerre have been famed for their ability to identify and nurture young talent. The once-famous club has fallen on hard times, though, and the golden days under emblematic coach Guy Roux are now further away than ever before.
These days, although there have still been a large number of players coming through the celebrated youth academy in Appoigny, there is less top homegrown talent in the actual squad.
The best recent prospects, such as Stade Rennais' Paul-Georges Ntep, Arsenal's Yaya Sanogo, SC Braga's Willy Boly, FC Utrecht's Sebastien Haller and Manchester city's Thierry Ambrose, have been swiftly moved on for little or nothing, leaving AJA to operate on a shoestring budget.
A bargain pick up for Auxerre last summer was midfielder Amara Baby. The 26-year-old has scored six goals in Ligue 2 alone this season and will be one of the main threats to PSG on Saturday.
Based wide on the left in the 4-2-3-1 starting XI unveiled by Vannuchi on Thursday, one of Serge Aurier, Gregory van der Wiel or Marquinhos will have his hands full trying to keep Baby quiet.
As for PSG, few players in the team are in as good form as Edinson Cavani right now.
Javier Pastore’s absence through suspension is a big blow, but even without him, there will be plenty of players capable of supplying El Matador with the opportunities he needs to continue his rich run of scoring form.
The Uruguayan has 12 goals in his last eight domestic games and could add to his extremely strong finish to the campaign with more goals in Saturday’s final
Cavani was in poor form for large parts of the season, but he has come good at the right time and can end his domestic campaign with more silverware before heading off on Copa America duty.
Strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be back alongside him, but Cavani will be a bigger danger to Auxerre at this moment in time.
One of Auxerre’s few experienced players, captain Sebastien Puygrenier will have his hands full in the centre of defence against Ibrahimovic at Stade de France
The Frenchman, a wily and uncompromising veteran, will be crucial for Vannuchi’s men on Saturday.
Not only will he be expected to get physical with the Swede, but he will also be important in keeping some of the younger, more inexperienced members of this Auxerre side in check and stopping them from being overawed by the occasion.
Ibrahimovic, returning from the calf problem that kept him out of PSG’s final two games of the Ligue 1 season, will be keen to make up for lost time as he chases Pauleta’s all-time scoring record of 109.
The talismanic striker needs three goals to equal the Portuguese’s tally and four to surpass it, making it unlikely—but not impossible—that the 33-year-old breaks it in the Coupe de France final.
Puygrenier's attempts to stop that from happening will make his battle with Ibrahimovic the key one to keep an eye on.
Odds (Per Oddschecker)