Linas (France) (AFP) – The players of little Linas-Montlhery face a dilemma when they take on mighty Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup on Sunday.
“We can’t injure them, we have the Champions League to win,” said Hermann Colin Kouassi, the left-back for the sixth-tier club.
Like most of his team-mates, Kouassi is a diehard PSG fan.
The club, where Tottenham’s Tanguy Ndombele played in his teens, takes its name from neighbouring towns in the southern outskirts of Paris, Linas and Montlhery, which have a combined population of just 7,000.
Their normal home ground is 26 kilometres from PSG’s Parc des Princes home, though it is too small to host Sunday’s round-of-64 match.
Unless PSG rest their stars, Kouassi could find himself trying to stop his heroes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
“It’s the match of my life, the match of my dreams,” he said.
Captain Johan Roca spent four years in the PSG youth system from 2000 to 2004.
“It is very emotional, there’s a lot of memories, but only good memories,” he said. “And I’m a supporter too!”
Coach Stephane Cabrelli is even a PSG season-ticket holder.
“I’m 52 years old, I’ve been going to the Parc des Princes since I was six,” he said.
“The players I support all year round, playing against them, it’s obviously a little bizarre.”
The match will be played in nearby Bondoufle where the anticipated crowd of 15,000 will add to the unfamiliarity of the event for the home team.
Roca insists he is not very daunted.
“We’re here to win,” the captain said. “We don’t have much chance of doing it, we’re not very optimistic, but we’re not going to give up.”
Ahead of the big match the amateurs tried to avoid excess over the holiday period while stepping up their training schedule, said goalkeeper Ali Lutumba.
They had three sessions in Christmas week and four this week, the last on Saturday at Marcoussis, the nearby French national rugby centre.
Neymar was injured in a French Cup match against Strasbourg late last January and missed PSG’s Champions League elimination by Manchester United.
Yet, even with the first leg of PSG’s Champions League round of 16 tie against Dortmund coming up on February 18, Roca says he won’t hold back.
“We’re going to play the game at 100 per cent, and it’s not this match that will determine whether or not they go far in the Champions League,” he said.
For Linas-Montlhery the cup is also a distraction.
They have a one-point in lead in their pool in the Paris area, one of 13 zones in the French regional leagues, and the possibility of securing the sole promotion place to the next tier up.
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