PSG must refocus on upset-filled Coupe de France after wrapping up Ligue 1 title
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain can book their place in the Coupe de France final against semi-professional opposition if they can overcome Caen away on Wednesday.
The French capital outfit are already 11-time record winners of the competition and a 12th title (fourth consecutive) looks likely, but first they need to dispose of their remaining Ligue 1 rivals.
Coach Unai Emery wants another date at Stade de France and is taking his players to Stade Michel d'Ornano midweek expecting a result.
"It is the Coupe de France and we have a lot of respect for this competition," the Spaniard said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday. "We want to reach the final at Stade de France, with our supporters, and a sell-out crowd.
"We also have a lot of respect for Caen -- this match is also a great opportunity for them. They deserve their place in the semifinal, especially after eliminating Lyon. I am sure that they will give it everything.
"It is the game of the season for them. Along with their fans, they will be giving it more than 100 percent to beat us -- we will need to stay focused."
PSG showed just how dangerous they can be when focused Sunday when they ripped second-place Monaco to shreds in a 7-1 thrashing that confirmed Les Parisiens' seventh overall title success. It was an immediate response to being dethroned by Les Monegasques last season.
However, the Coupe de France has always been a great leveler due to the genuine "magic of the cup" and the conditions at different stadiums giving smaller teams a better chance of springing an upset. Caen's Stade Michel d'Ornano was under so much water last weekend that the Ligue 1 clash with Toulouse was postponed. That delay and the extra rest could play into the hosts' hands.
"The Coupe de France is a competition that always throws up its fair share of surprises," Emery told journalists at Camp des Loges. "Les Herbiers and Chambly having the chance to reach the final is great for semi-professional football.
"That these two sides are in the semis means a lot of other sides have fallen by the wayside. A lot of those teams wanted to win the Coupe de France.
"We want to avoid a nasty surprise. We want to be focused, maintain our standard of play and win. If we qualify for the final, we will be playing against the side that deserves it the most -- we respect every opponent.
"Last season we were able to overtake Marseille as the most successful club in the competition's history with our 11th win. Last Sunday, when we won the league, we had just a little celebration because we want to be ready and motivated for the semifinal."
Emery is certainly equipped with a squad strong enough to dispose of Caen, even without Marco Verratti, Layvin Kurzawa and Lassana Diarra.
However, the Basque tactician must bear in mind how poor his team was away at Saint-Etienne in the immediate aftermath of winning the Coupe de la Ligue final against Monaco. Unless PSG are focused on the fact that another cup final is at stake in Caen -- despite the favourable selection of clubs left -- a performance like the one at Saint-Etienne could be repeated.
A dip in intensity is to be expected in Ligue 1 with the title now secured, but if that is to happen, it needs to be outside the Coupe de France.
PSG have a very good chance to add another piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet and will not even have to excel on the pitch to make that happen, but they can still mess that up if they are not right mentally.
Emery must ensure that his players keep their eyes on the prize, despite the prospect of semi-professional opposition in the final next month.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.