body-container-line-1

Coupe de France: Lyon face test of mettle during Mbappé's farewell show for PSG

By Paul Myers - RFI
Football News AP - Laurent Cipriani
SAT, 25 MAY 2024 LISTEN
AP - Laurent Cipriani

Hoisting the Coupe de France trophy on Saturday night in Lille at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain would cap a remarkable turnaround for Lyon.

At the end of 2023, the team and the club appeared to be in the doldrums, swirling in a vortex of ineptitude.

Laurent Blanc was sacked after four games with the team bottom of Ligue 1 with one point. His successor, Fabio Grosso, brought six points during his eight Ligue 1 games in change before he was dispatched on 30 November.

His replacement – Pierre Sage – initially appeared equally cursed. The team lost the first two matches under his aegis to leave them bottom of the table at the beginning of December.

But a burst of three successive victories renewed hope andtook them out of danger just before the break for Christmas and New Year. Defeats to Le Havre and Rennes sent them back into the drop zone again for a couple of weeks.

Since February, however, it has been a glistening rise. They have taken 37 out of a possible 45 to climb into sixth place.

"Even though it started badly we've gone through something good," said Sage just after his side finished its Ligue 1 campaign with a place in next season's Europa League.

"We'll go into the Coupe de France final with a view to win it because a trophy is a trophy. A place in a European competition is simply that. When you get the chance to win something, you have to take it."

Lyon has claimed the Coupe de France on five occasions – the last time came in 2012 when they beat third tier US Quevilly.

PSG have lifted the cup six times in the intervening years and will be seeking a record 15th Coupe de France to complete a domestic sweep of Ligue 1, French Super Cup and Coupe de France to crown an impressive first season for Luis Enrique.

Glory

The 53-year-old Spaniard took over last July from Christophe Galtier and the former Barcelona and Spain coach has suavely handled the loss of star players such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Marco Verratti.

In their stead a yeoman collective has emerged with Vitinha and Warren Zaïre-Emery pulling the strings in midfield and feeding Kylian Mbappé up front.

"It's going to be an important match because it's a final," said Enrique on the eve of the game.

"The Coupe de France is an important competition with an historic dimension. It's different from the league because there are more surprises that can happen. But the important thing for us is to win this competition."

Mbappé will feature in his last game for PSG on Saturday night a few weeks after announcing he will leave the side at the endof the season. 

Though still unconfirmed, Real Madrid is widely believed to be the 25-year-old's next port of call. He will arrive in the Spanish capital with a challenge to continue his prodigious feats in front of goal.

Since arriving at PSG in the summer of 2017, he has become the club's record marksman with 256 goals in 307 games. He has finished with the Ligue 1 "golden boot" for the last six years and will depart from PSG with 14 trophies – 15 if the club thwarts Lyon.

Battle

The omens look good for PSG. When Lyon played PSG a month ago, they were walloped 4-1. Mbappé was rested for the fixture and Gonçalo Ramos, his replacement in attack, bagged a brace in the rout at the Parc des Princes.

The final will be an altogether different experience, says Enrique.

"Sage's statistics are incredible," he added. "He has turned around a difficult situation and has an incredible squad.

"I think this team can compete with us for the title next year and we have to be wary of them on Saturday. This is a team with defensive and attacking qualities."

Wrestling with PSG for Ligue 1 titles and participation in the Champions League was at the epicentre of John Textor's thinking when he took over from Jean-Michel Aulas as Lyon supremo in June 2022.

Such realities have proved unattainable. But a win over PSG could launch an era.

"We've got to be brave," Lyon midfielder Maxence Caqueret told the French sports newspaper L'Equipe.

"And we've got to be on our guard defensively because PSG are so fast in attack.

We've lost to them twice this season but a cup final is different. It's going to be a great match between the champions of France and us, a team who is in form."

body-container-line