PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain will resume their quest for the quadruple when they lock horns with St Etienne in the French Cup final on Friday in the first professional match in the country following a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The showpiece match will take place at the 80,000-capacity Stade de France in Paris but only 5,000 fans will be allowed to attend in line with government regulations to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus which has upset St Etienne followers.
PSG are Ligue 1 champions and, with a League Cup final versus Olympique Lyonnais and a Champions League quarter-final against Atalanta coming up, victory on Friday would keep Thomas Tuchel's side in contention for an unprecedented quadruple.
"This will be our first official match since March. I have the feeling that we are prepared for this final as best as possible," Tuchel told a news conference on Thursday. "The best thing to prepare for big challenges is to win titles."
PSG showed little rust preparing for their return to action, scoring 20 goals and conceding none in friendlies against Le Havre, Waasland-Beveren and Celtic, with their prolific strike partnership of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe looking in fine form.
The French champions, who have won the French Cup a record 12 times, have 16 wins in their last 18 games against St Etienne in all competitions which will bolster their confidence.
But Claude Puel's side can draw inspiration from Stade Rennes, who rallied from two goals down in last year's final to make it 2-2 and went on to beat PSG in a penalty shootout.
St Etienne, who are looking to lay their hands on a seventh French Cup, will be without centre back William Saliba, who is set to return to Arsenal after the two clubs failed to agree terms for the 19-year-old to extend his loan spell.
The Greens were dealt another blow when their fans announced their intention to boycott the game in protest at the limit on spectators and health protocols put in place by the government.
PSG's Brazil defender Thiago Silva is chasing a fifth French Cup title that would put him in elite company alongside former PSG players Dominique Bathenay and Alain Roche plus ex-Lille defender Marceau Sommerlynck.
"I don't really look at that kind of statistic. Despite those four that I've won, it's the next one that's always the most important," said Silva, whose eight-year stay at the Parc des Princes will draw to a close at the end of the season.
"I've got two months left and you can be sure that I'm going to give it my all on the pitch to win as many titles as possible. There are three to play (for), and we're going to work to win them all."
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram and Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)