Paris Saint-Germain will finally get back to Ligue 1 Conforama business when they bring down the curtain on 2018 with Saturday's home encounter with FC Nantes.
Paris Saint-Germain - FC Nantes
The gilet jaunes (yellow vests) protests that have rocked France have also impacted on PSG's title challenge. Thomas Tuchel's men have seen their last two league games postponed, and Tuesday's nervy Coupe de la Ligue win at Domino's Ligue 2 side US Orléans was only their second competitive outing since the 1-1 draw with RC Strasbourg-Alsace in early December.
The signs of rust were evident as the reigning Ligue 1 Conforama champions struggled to contain their bullish opponents before substitute Moussa Diaby's late strike secured their 21st successive win in the competition.
"We showed our mental strength. That's important," said Tuchel, whose team now host En Avant Guingamp in the quarter-finals in early January. "We took it seriously. The conditions were tough. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome here: the weather, the wind, the ball, the pitch...it wasn't easy, but the team did their job thoroughly and deserved the win. It was tricky after Orléans scored, but we had a great reaction."
"The most important thing was to qualify," added captain Thiago Silva. "It was difficult to play because the pitch wasn't in a good state. Orléans managed to equalise after a technical error. But we stayed calm and kept playing. We tried to control the game until the end and Moussa Diaby's great individual effort allowed us to reach the quarter-finals."
Teenager Diaby, who has been directly involved in five goals in his last seven appearances for the club in all competitions, could get his chance to join Kylian Mbappé, who turned 20 this week, and Edinson Cavani in attack against Nantes with Neymar having been given permission to already return to Brazil to rest his niggling adductor injury.
Nantes will be relieved the Brazilian superstar, who has scored 30 goals in 32 Ligue 1 Conforama matches, will be missing as they already have enough worries. They have lost their last 14 league games against the capital club, and have seen the positive effect new coach Vahid Halilhodzic gave them wear off.
Halilhodzic, who was boss at PSG between 2003 and 2005, won three of his first four league matches after taking over from Miguel Cardoso in early October, but has picked up only five points from the next four.
Les Canaris have also had their last two matches postponed, but their Coupe de la Ligue outing in midweek was less successful than that of PSG as they let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at Stade Rennais FC on Wednesday.
"When we led, we should have been more compact. It is because we haven't played for two weeks that we lacked rhythm and understanding? We can find a thousand excuses, but getting knocked out like that is cruel," said the Nantes boss after watching Rennes' Damian Da Silva grab an 89th-minute winner before turning his sights on his former club.
"Everything is possible as long as we want it, but you also have to do things for it. We're going to go to Paris to try to do something. Having said that, are we going to succeed is another question."
PSG: Buffon; Meunier, Kehrer, Kimpembe, Bernat; Diaby, Verratti, Marquinhos, Draxler; Cavani, Mbappé
Nantes: Tatarusanu; Fabio, Diego Carlos, Pallois, Lima; Rongier, Girotto, Touré; Boschilia, Sala, Waris