French football returns after four months with fans strictly limited

French football returns after four months with fans strictly limited
The 80,000 seater Stade de France will only host 5,000 supporters on Friday night. Photo: AFP
Four months after the pandemic put a halt to French football, Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Étienne face off on Friday night in the final of the French Cup, with a limited number of fans allowed in the stadium.

Attendance for the match, which kicks off at 9:10pm at the Stade de France in Paris, will be capped at 5,000 in order to comply with strict social distancing regulations

It will make for an unusual atmosphere in the 80,000-seater venue.

French President Emmanuel Macron will also be watching on from the stands.

While limited numbers of fans were able to attend a string of friendly games in the past weeks, Friday night's final will mark the first time in 135 days that (some) French supporters can watch their teams in competitive action from inside a stadium.

Former French prime minister Edouard Philippe had previously said that professional football would not restart with a crowd until September, so Friday's match marks an earlier-than-expected restart, albeit still with strict hygiene rules in place. Fans will have to wear masks.

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PSG players train ahead of Friday's 2020 Coupe de France final. Photo: AFP

'We're ready to play'

Paris Saint-Germain, who were declared champions of Ligue 1 after the 2019/20 season was terminated early, are seeking the first of a potential three titles in a five-match burst, with the French League Cup and Champions League still in their sights.

They will be strong favourites against a Saint-Étienne side who finished a lowly 17th in the league.

“The goal was to avoid injuries and come into the final with fresh legs and clear minds. We're ready to play.” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.

Friday's showdown is a re-run of the 1982 final, won by PSG on penalties following a 2-2 draw in which Michel Platini scored twice for Saint-Étienne. It was PSG's first major title and also the last time Saint-Etienne reached the final.

“We're not favourites. Our goal is to enjoy ourselves, play our trump card and be in the match. I hope we let loose, we have nothing to lose,” said Saint-Étienne boss Claude Puel.

 


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