The romance of the Coupe de France is very much alive among French soccer fans, with AS Monaco’s trip to fourth-tier amateurs MDA Chasselay in the last 32 today will see them come up against one very familiar face.
The principality side, second in Ligue 1, will look to avoid an upset when they meet opponents who are battling to avoid relegation from the Championnat de France Amateur, the country’s fourth division.
Chasselay are struggling despite the presence in their side of one of the most decorated players in the recent history of French soccer.
Now 37, Ludovic Giuly enjoyed two spells with Monaco, captaining them on their run to the 2004 Champions League final the first time around and then returning for a season in the second division two years ago.
In between, the little winger won the Champions League and two Spanish titles with Barcelona, had a spell with AS Roma and spent three years at Paris Saint-Germain, helping them beat Monaco in the 2010 Coupe final.
After ending his top-level career last year, Giuly returned to his native Lyon and joined tiny Chasselay — his very first club — who are coached by Stephane Santini, son of former France boss Jacques Santini.
Together, they are plotting the downfall of Radamel Falcao’s Monaco in a game that will be played at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland rather than at their own modest home, the Stade Ludovic Giuly.
“This is like a jubilee for me. It couldn’t be better. We will try to pull off a shock,” Giuly said.
Plenty of other minnows will try to do the same thing, with LOSC Lille Metropole, who are third in Ligue 1, preparing for a derby against fifth-tier minnows IC Croix, who hail from the suburbs of the northern French city.
Meanwhile, in-form Olympique Lyonnais go to fourth-division outfit AS Yzeure, who eliminated Ligue 1 Lorient in the last round, and holders Girondins de Bordeaux go to Corsica to face FAIRM Ile-Rousse Monticello.
There are also two all-Ligue 1 ties, with Olympique de Marseille facing OGC Nice in a south coast derby that has added importance for both teams given that the Coupe is their only chance of winning a trophy this season.
“It is an objective for us because it’s a trophy so we will do everything we can to win it,” l’OM coach Jose Anigo said ahead of the match at the Stade Velodrome.
The last two Ligue 1 champions also go head to head, with Paris Saint-Germain hosting Montpellier Herault at the Parc des Princes, where the capital club have not lost since November 2012.
Already five points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and through to the semi-finals of the League Cup, PSG are chasing an unprecedented domestic treble and few expect them to have any problems against a struggling Montpellier side, even if they have shown signs of improvement recently.