Legendary Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is expecting a very tough game at the Stade de France on Saturday as the capital club take on Rennes in the Coupe de France final.
Stade Rennais FC - Paris Saint-Germain FC
PSG are seeking to lift the trophy for the fifth season running to add to their record 12 Coupe de France wins. Competition winners in 1965 and 1971, Rennes are trying to erase the pain of recent Coupe de France final defeats - both to neighbours Guingamp - in 2009 and 2014.
Rennes' motivation will be redoubled by the fact that Saturday represents their final chance of qualifying for Europe next season. Should PSG successfully defend their Coupe de France trophy then fifth place in Ligue 1 Conforama will become a European finish.
Buffon: "Very dangerous'
Freshly crowned French champions, PSG may have beaten Rennes in both league meetings this season - scoring seven goals over the two games - but Buffon is taking nothing for granted this weekend. The 41-year-old told PSG TV: "I think Rennes are a very dangerous side. Very dangerous because I remember the game in Rennes and the game here in Paris and we won 3-1 and 4-1, but they were very difficult matches. I think they are a very organised side especially in attack… I have to say that this year I have been surprised by the standard of this championship, because when you don’t play here, you maybe think there’s Paris and that’s it… but I can say, in Ligue 1 I have seen Lille, Lyon, Rennes and also Strasbourg in the league who I think would all do very well in Serie A."
The former Juventus goalkeeper has only made one Coupe de France appearance all season - in the 3-0 home win over Dijon in late February - and Thomas Tuchel must decide whether to recall the veteran Italian or stick with Alphonse Areola, who played against Monaco on Sunday.
Buffon: "In the final, it's more like 60-40 or 65-35"
Buffon won the Italian Cup five times and the 2006 World Cup winner knows exactly what it takes to enjoy success in a one-off final. Buffon commented to PSG TV: "The fact that it’s a one-off match, a final, brings the two sides closer together, the gap isn’t as wide as it can be over 38 matches. In the final, and in this case, there is a favourite, and it’s us. But whereas in the league our chances might have been 80-20, in the final it’s more like 60-40 or 65-35, because it’s a final where anything can happen, you can have a player sent off, an injury, you could hit the post and so we have to be very careful."
Rennes star Hatem Ben Arfa has extra motivation on Saturday as he's up against his former club. A low-key two years at Paris finished last summer and Ben Arfa told Ouest France newspaper: "We know we're capable of great things and we have really good players, something we proved in the Europa Legue and against big Ligue 1 clubs away from home. We are capable of winning the final. We need to be united and approach the game as conquerors."
Rennes have failed to win a single game in four outings since their remarkable 3-2 win at Olympique Lyonnais in the semi-finals and Julien Stéphan's men are definitely underdogs; even more so given that PSG now have Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria fit again to supplement a Kylian Mbappé in prime form.
Stéphan: "PSG are massive favourites"
Stéphan conceded: "PSG are massive favourites and that's the reality of the situation. They have a lot more than us. We need to play with greater heart than them. We also have talent in our side. Of course though it looks like a very uneven game and we're in the position of outsiders."
PSG: Areola; Marquinhos, Silva, Kimpembe; Alves, Paredes, Verratti, Di Maria; Mbappé, Cavani, Neymar
Rennes: Koubek; Traoré, Da Silva, Mexer, Bensebaini; Sarr, André, Grenier, Bourigeaud; Ben Arfa, Niang