PARIS, France, Jan 5 – Paris Saint-Germain play their first game in 2018 as they begin their quest to win the French Cup for the fourth year running with a trip to Rennes on Sunday.
PSG may have missed out to Monaco for the Ligue 1 title last season but they won both domestic cups. Indeed, they have won 33 consecutive domestic cup ties going back four years.
Extending that sequence is the priority at the start of the new year, with the game in Brittany being followed by a League Cup quarter-final at Amiens on Wednesday before Ligue 1 resumes next weekend.
The Cups are “very important objectives”, coach Unai Emery insisted in an interview with AFP this week, as his side returned to training after the winter break.
In the back of their minds will be the Champions League last-16 showdown with Real Madrid in February, with the chase for European success the main reason they committed to the two biggest transfer deals in history to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at the start of the season.
Emery, whose team are nine points clear at the top of Ligue 1, added: “The league shows how consistent a team is, and our start to the season has been close to excellent.
“We want to maintain our consistency, and the league helps you for other competitions, ensuring that you are better prepared for the Champions League club.”
While PSG could give some fringe players a run-out in the upcoming Cup games, they are hoping to move on the likes of Lucas Moura and Hatem Ben Arfa this month.
Javier Pastore reportedly wants out too, hoping that more regular game time elsewhere will help him clinch a place in Argentina’s World Cup squad.
And with Emery hoping to strengthen his midfield, France midfielder Lassana Diarra has been heavily linked with a move to the club.
“I know him well. When he was at Real Madrid he put in some great performances. Last year he played well for Marseille,” said Emery.
Diarra, 32, has been playing for Al Jazira in the United Arab Emirates.
Lagging behind PSG in the league and already out of Europe, the French Cup takes on added importance for Monaco, who visit fourth-tier minnows Yzeure.
Radamel Falcao will miss the opening game of the year, ahead of which coach Leonardo Jardim spent more time batting away questions about possible departures in the January window.
“Monaco are not used to making big sales in winter. It is our strategy. The players understand and know how it works here,” said Jardim.
Speculation continues to link Thomas Lemar with a move away after Liverpool and Arsenal failed with big offers in August.
Fabinho is more likely to leave in the summer, while Terence Kongolo and Soualiho Meite have already moved on loan to Huddersfield Town and Bordeaux respectively.
French Cup last-64 fixtures (only games involving Ligue 1 clubs)
Toulouse v Nice, Pontarlier (5th tier) v Montpellier, Le Mans (4th tier) v Lille (all 5pm), Yzeure (4th tier) v Monaco, Guingamp v Niort (Ligue 2), Hazebrouck (6th tier) v Caen (all 8pm), Nancy (Ligue 2) v Lyon (11pm)
Marseille v Valenciennes (Ligue 2), Granville (4th tier) v Bordeaux, Strasbourg v Dijon, Saint-Etienne v Nimes (Ligue 2), Angers v Lorient (Ligue 2) (all 4:15pm), Senlis (5th tier) v Nantes, Sochaux (Ligue 2) v Amiens, Dunkerque (3rd tier) v Metz, Still (8th tier) v Troyes (all 7:30pm), Rennes v Paris Saint-Germain (11pm)