PSG stop rot to raise trophy hopes
A season that has lurched from triumph to disaster and back again may yet have a golden conclusion for Paris Saint-Germain.
Catastrophe is never far away for the club from the French capital and their trophy ambitions appeared to have taken an insurmountable hit when they went six games without a win in March and April. Having gone into the winter break in second place behind leaders Lille, PSG's spring slump saw them slip to fifth in the table and bow out of the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Benfica.
A 0-0 draw at home to Lorient on 2 April left the club 12 points off the pace in the title race and five points short of third place - the final qualifying berth for next season's UEFA Champions League. Their early-season momentum having deserted them, PSG's fans steeled themselves for another trademark collapse, but a 2-1 win at Caen stopped the rot and, two weeks on, there is everything to play for once again.
PSG produced a superb performance to defeat third-placed Lyon 1-0 last Sunday, which moved them above Rennes into fourth place, and crucially within a single point of the Champions League places.
A comfortable 3-1 win over second-tier Angers on Wednesday sent them to the French Cup final to be played on 14 May, where they will defend the trophy they won last season against double-chasing Lille. "It will be more complicated against Lille," said coach Antoine Kombouare, who led the club to an underwhelming 13th-place finish last term.
"I hope it will be a great final. We'll go into it having already qualified for a European cup. That was the objective, and it's already been achieved."
Having proven their ability to compete with the French top flight's leading lights, however, few at the club will be content to rest on their laurels.
"We had a difficult month of March, so we told ourselves that the hardest part was behind us, that we had to bounce back, and that's what we're doing," said striker Guillaume Hoarau. "There are loads of great things to play for in the league. It'll be an exciting end to the season."
Hoarau ended a month-long wait for a goal in PSG's victory at Angers, but the most eye-catching performance was that of talented Brazilian forward Nene. With 13 league goals, the former Monaco star was the stand-out performer of the season's first half, but his form dipped after the winter break.
He scored his first goal since 8 January against Angers, however, and the manner in which his team-mates piled on top of him in celebration will have helped dispel notions that he has not fit in with the squad. Nene's man-of-the-match performance also included a pair of assists for Mathieu Bodmer and Hoarau, and he has more reason than most to look forward to the final after finishing on the losing side when PSG beat Monaco in last season's trophy match.
PSG have become cup specialists in recent years and will be making their sixth French Cup final appearance in the last nine seasons, but for once they may not be obliged to win just to rescue their campaign.