PSG and Monaco set for Coupe de la Ligue final showdown
By I. Holyman
Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco put their Ligue 1 Conforama challenges on hold to collide in Saturday's Coupe de la Ligue final in Bordeaux with both teams determined to swell their trophy cabinet.
Paris Saint-Germain - AS Monaco
The top two in the league are meeting in the competition's showpiece occasion for the second successive season. PSG are gunning for their eighth triumph in the competition and fifth in a row after extending their victory streak with their stunning 4-1 success over the side that would eventually pip them to the league title in the 2016/17 final.
"We were in second place behind them in Ligue 1 and we had to prove in that final that it was nothing more than a slip. We wanted to show that, in spite of everything, we were still the boss," admitted former Monaco man Layvin Kurzawa, who has helped PSG build an imposing 17-point lead over the principality club this term.
"Today, we have a comfortable lead in the league, but the aim is the same. We really want to show our superiority. We have to win trophies and break records."
WATCH: PSG take apart Monaco in the 2016/17 final
A win for Unai Emery's men at Girondins de Bordeaux's Matmut Atlantique home would go some way to easing the pain of PSG's UEFA Champions League exit to Real Madrid earlier this month.
With their domestic dominance firmly established, becoming a major force to be reckoned with on the continental scene is the capital club's new ambition. Still, the thirst for success on home soil is unquenched.
Kurzawa: 'Formidable opponents'
"It was a real blow to get knocked out, but we quickly got back to work. We have continued winning despite the disappointment. Now, we want to win every trophy possible, starting with the Coupe de la Ligue," said Kurzawa, who came through Monaco's youth academy before joining PSG in 2015.
"It won't be easy, because Monaco are formidable opponents, but we have to do what is needed to achieve our objectives. Our elimination from the Champions League served as a lesson."
WATCH: Neymar shines in semi-final win
Though Neymar Jr will have to watch from his home as his team-mates try to give the Brazilian a winner's medal, fellow forwards Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé — another former Monaco player — will be PSG's main threats, and both were on target for their nations during the international break.
Mbappé has shaken off a foot injury sustained in the 3-1 win in Russia in Tuesday's friendly — a game in which he scored twice for the first time for his country, becoming the youngest player to do so for France post-war — while Marco Verratti should also play despite suffering a minor injury while with Italy. Angel Di Maria, however, is a doubt after picking up a hamstring injury in Argentina's win over Verratti's Azzurri last week.
Lopes: 'Show we're not afraid'
Monaco are likely to be without Senegal international forward Keita Baldé, who has a muscle strain, as they seek to secure the only piece of silverware they have a realistic chance of getting their hands on this season.
"We want to win. A trophy fills up the CV of everyone," explained coach Leonardo Jardim, while in-form attacking midfielder Rony Lopes insisted the prospect of victory — and not of avenging last year's heavy defeat to PSG — is Monaco's main motivation.
WATCH: Monaco's semi-final win over Montpellier
"We don't have a feeling of revenge. We want to win the final, we want to win the cup. We know Monaco lost last season's final, but this season we're going to try to win it. We think we have the ability to do that," said Lopes, who has found the net six times in his last five league games.
"PSG is a team that likes to have the ball. We'll have to defend very well and then take advantage of their mistakes to counter-attack well. We have to show that we are in the game, that we're a good team, that we're there to win, and that we're not afraid of anyone."
Paris Saint-Germain: Trapp – Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva (cap.), Kurzawa – Verratti, L. Diarra, Rabiot – Mbappé, Cavani, Di Maria.
Monaco: Subasic – D. Sidibé, Glik, Jemerson, Raggi – Tielemans, Fabinho – R. Lopes, Moutinho, Lemar – Falcao (cap.).