Pressure on PSG ahead of Lyon final date
If they had their way, France's leading clubs would have done away with the League Cup a long time ago, but Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon both need the boost of winning Saturday's final.
The sides meet at the Stade de France in the final of the country's secondary knockout competition just six days after Lyon beat the capital club 1-0 at the Stade de Gerland in Ligue 1.
Under normal circumstances, PSG would be the heavy favourites, but a difficult last 10 days have considerably increased the pressure on Laurent Blanc's side.
Following the agony of their Champions League elimination at the quarter-final stage on away goals to Chelsea, Paris saw their run of eight consecutive league wins ended in Lyon, a result that means they will have to wait until next Wednesday's meeting with Evian at the earliest before retaining the title.
But if another Ligue 1 crown is inevitable, Blanc knows his team must win the oft-derided League Cup -- a trophy the club have won three times before -- if they are to improve on their record last season under Carlo Ancelotti.
"The last week has been difficult. That's the way it is. We have to move on," says midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
"We have the chance to play for a title. It's a different competition and there is no doubt that the players are ready and determined."
Failure could have serious consequences for the coach himself, who has said he will not give a definitive answer to the offer of a contract extension until after the final.
The former France coach has another year remaining but the recent run of back-to-back defeats, something the club had not experienced since 2011, has led to speculation that he could be sacked and forced president Nasser Al-Khelaifi to give him the dreaded vote of confidence this week.
"He is our coach today and I insist that I want him to stay. I was very clear about that before the second leg of the Champions League tie against Chelsea and my opinion did not change after that match," Al-Khelaifi told daily Le Parisien.
"Laurent Blanc has my unconditional support and nothing that happens on the field can change that."
- Lyon hit by injuries, suspensions -
Despite beating PSG last Sunday, Lyon are currently in fifth place in Ligue 1 and are at risk of finishing beneath their bitter rivals Saint-Etienne as well as missing out on Champions League qualification once again.
Knocked out of the Europa League by Juventus last week, this could still go down as a successful season for OL if they can secure the League Cup, a trophy they have only won once before.
Remi Garde, who oversaw Lyon's French Cup triumph two years ago when they also lost the League Cup final to Marseille, is confident despite a raft of absences for what will be his team's 56th match of a long season.
"The spirit of the team is great at the moment. It was important for us to win ahead of the final," he said in reference to last week's win against the same opponents, which was secured by a goal from young midfielder Jordan Ferri.
He is suspended this weekend, while Gueida Fofana, Yoann Gourcuff and Clement Grenier are injured, leaving Lyon particularly light on options in midfield.
However, it is the absence of another player that could have the most profound impact on the showpiece, as Lyon bid to repeat their victory against PSG in the final of the French Cup in 2008, when a Sidney Govou goal in extra time secured them a 1-0 win and a league and cup double.
PSG are still without 40-goal top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is in Sweden recovering from the thigh injury suffered against Chelsea.
There has been a noticeable drop in form from PSG in the games they have played without Ibrahimovic since he arrived in France at the start of last season.
They have lost five of the 16 matches he has missed in that time. This season they have lost five games -- four of them without Ibrahimovic in the line-up.
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