PSG respecting opponent ahead of Coupe de France final vs. third-tier Les Herbiers

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PARIS — In the most unlikely of matchups, Paris Saint-Germain and Vendee Les Herbiers will meet in Tuesday’s Coupe de France final and it is one of — if not the — most David vs. Goliath scenarios the competition has ever produced at this stage.

In terms of a lower-ranked team facing a Ligue 1 outfit, only Nantes’ 2000 final victory over fourth-tier Calais RUFC can claim to have had a greater gulf.

However, Les Canaris did not benefit from the exorbitant budget that Qatari-owned PSG do, so that creates an argument for this being the most one-sided (on paper) pairings of all-time.

On the one hand, you have the French capital club, 11-time record winners (one more than bitter rivals Marseille) and four-time runners-up — not bad for a club formed in 1970.

On the other, Les Herbiers were founded in 1919 and will turn 100 next year and had only made it as far as the round of 32 twice until this season — losing to Rennes in 1999-200 and Guingamp in 2016-17.

Admittedly, Stephane Masala’s men have benefitted from avoiding any Ligue 1 opposition pre-PSG, but Auxerre and Lens — both victims on this fairy-tale run — have each reached the final more than once.

What is more, eight of PSG’s 11 Coupe de France victories (and all four second-placed finishes) predate Oryx Qatar Sports Investments’ (QSI) arrival at Parc des Princes, so the arrival of substantial investment has only consolidated a pedigree of domestic success that already existed.

Departing Parisien coach Unai Emery insisted that Les Herbier deserve their Stade de France berth pre-match and as he pointed out, it is the “beauty of the cup.”

“It is a final,” said the Spaniard on Monday. “Les Herbiers deserve to be here — that is the beauty of the Coupe de France.

“The entire village will be there in support, so it will be a beautiful final and a lovely day.”

“We are going to go for it — the best way to show respect is to put in a proper performance.

Thiago Silva celebrates during PSG's 3-1 win over Caen in the Coupe de France semis. PSG are massive favourites but they know they can’t overlook Cinderella side Les Herbiers in the final.

Les Herbiers’ only honours until now are a 1999 Atlantique DH championship title and their 2006 Championnat de France Amateur 2 Group G crown from 2006.

The Stade Massabielle outfit only reached Championnat National 1 (France’s third tier) in 2015 and only two other teams — US Quevilly-Rouen (2012) and Nimes Olympique (1996) — have reached the final from that level, leaving Calais as the only side to better it.

PSG captain Thiago Silva was wary of Les Herbiers’ desire to pull off an all-time giant killing and equated it with some of his early career experiences in his native Brazil.

“I have been in this position before, in Brazil, playing against the likes of Gremio when in the third division — we must remain conscient of the difficulty of this fixture,” the former AC Milan and Fluminense man said. Playing against a significantly lower-ranked opponent is always difficult — you are obliged to win.

“Les Herbiers are our main opponents here, not ourselves. A draw is a catastrophe in this situation but a loss — that would be worse. I asked our staff for videos of their attackers to help me prepare. It is important to finish the season well.”

Barring a massive underperformance from his outfield teammates, Silva will not have to put that knowledge into action often on Tuesday.

However, PSG showed back in 2005 against Ligue 2 side Auxerre, that lower league opponents can prove hard to break down in a one-off match.

Add to that the fact that Les Herbiers gave their National 1 survival hopes a massive shot in the arm last Friday with a 3-2 come-from-behind home win over Laval and PSG could be made to pay for any complacency at Stade de France this midweek.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.