Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Wounded PSG face Montpellier trip

Publish on 29/04/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Paris Saint-Germain could be forgiven for wanting the season to be over, but the capital club must lift themselves for a quick return to action as they travel to face Montpellier Hérault SC at the Stade de la Mosson on Tuesday.

Montpellier Hérault SC  -  Paris Saint-Germain 

PSG's dramatic defeat on penalties against Stade Rennais FC in Saturday's Coupe de France final has led to their campaign being labelled in many quarters as the worst since the Qatari takeover of the club in 2011, despite Thomas Tuchel's side retaining the Ligue 1 Conforama title.

The manner in which they struggled to get across the line in the league before being confirmed as champions due to a slip-up by second-placed LOSC has taken some of the shine off what could still be a record-breaking season in terms of points won, with PSG still able to get to 99.

Meanwhile, after being dumped out of the UEFA Champions League by Manchester United in the last 16, and seeing a five-year grip on the Coupe de la Ligue ended in a quarter-final defeat at home to EA Guingamp, the defeat by Rennes ended their four-year stranglehold on the Coupe de France.

PSG were 2-0 up midway through the first half at the Stade de France thanks to brilliant goals by Dani Alves and Neymar Jr, but Rennes battled back to force extra time, during which Kylian Mbappé was sent off. The Bretons then won 6-5 in the shootout for their first major trophy in 48 years, leaving Paris coach Thomas Tuchel drained at full-time.

"It is too soon to assess the season. I will think about it for a few days. It is not an easy situation. We lost our intensity after the winter break, and for weeks we did not have enough players," the German said when asked what the defeat meant for his future.

The former Borussia Dortmund coach insisted that he wanted to stay for a second season in charge, but accepted his responsibility for the Cup final defeat, notably for taking off Ángel Di María in the second half and not bringing on Edinson Cavani until extra time.

"Of course I am responsible. You need to make decisions in the moment, and with all these players coming back from injury there were a lot of risks to take. It was too much. That is why I didn't start Edinson Cavani, even though it was a difficult decision. Of course I want to continue!"

Mbappé suspended

Di María was playing his first game in five weeks after injury, while Neymar played the whole match having not started in three months. Cavani has barely featured since early February, so it will be interesting to see what team Tuchel puts out in Montpellier.

Mbappé - Ligue 1 Conforama's leading scorer with 30 goals - will certainly not play, as he faces a suspension of several matches after his sending-off for a dreadful challenge on the Rennes defender Damien Da Silva.

Montpellier, who lost 5-1 away in Paris in February, will not necessarily have welcomed the result of the Coupe de France final. Michel Der Zakarian's side come into this game in sixth place, three points behind Olympique de Marseille in fifth and with this match in hand. However, Rennes winning the Cup means only fourth place will be good enough to qualify for next season's UEFA Europa League via the league, and the 2012 champions are eight points behind AS Saint-Etienne.

Hilton still going strong

That means there is probably only really pride still at stake for them, although a top-six finish and a final tally of at least 57 points will make this their best season since that fairytale championship triumph of seven years ago, when they beat Carlo Ancelotti's PSG to the title.

Vitorino Hilton was part of the side and the Brazilian defender, despite now being at the ripe old age of 41, has just signed a new one-year contract extension to carry on playing with the southern side.

"This year there is an even more special taste for me. Every time I say to myself, at my age, at my age...Now I am 41, nearly 42, and I am extending for another season, so if I stop at the end of the season I will be 42. It is something I never would have imagined," the former Marseille player said.

Montpellier come into this game fresh from three wins in four games in April. They won 3-1 away to RC Strasbourg Alsace last time out, with Andy Delort scoring a brace to take him to 13 league goals for the campaign. Strike partner Gaëtan Laborde has 10 goals of his own, and that duo will now hope to pile more misery on PSG.

Probable teams

Montpellier: Lecomte; P. Mendes, Hilton (c), Congré; M. Suarez, Skhiri, D. Le Tallec, Oyongo; Mollet; Laborde, Delort

Paris Saint-Germain: Buffon; Dagba, Marquinhos (c), Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Bernat, Paredes; M. Diaby, Neymar, Di Maria; Cavani