Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria braces lead PSG to cup rout of Rennes
Paris Saint-Germain made an explosive start to 2018 by pulverising fellow Ligue 1 side Rennes 6-1 at Roazhon Park in the Coupe de France Round of 64 on Sunday.
The three-time defending champions produced some scintillating football, with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria each scoring twice in Brittany.
Benjamin Bourigeaud's second-half penalty proved the scantest of consolation goals as Unai Emery's men marched into the round of 32.
The obvious major plus point is that PSG looked so sharp and clinical so soon after the winter break. A sluggish start to 2018 was expected, especially considering the Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore situation off the pitch, but the French capital outfit looked reinvigorated after their rest and absolutely tore Rennes apart.
There were a number of excellent performances on the night but the highlight was arguably the fourth goal, which was scored by Neymar after a lightning fast break from their own box. If Emery can get his players to display that sort of chemistry more often over the business end of the season, domestic and continental success beckons because nobody will be able to stop it.
At the end of the day, as impressive as the performance and the result are, it does not change the fact that all PSG gain from it is a place in the next round of the Coupe de France. A fourth consecutive title is not necessarily expected, depending on what happens in the Champions League, but Les Parisiens are looking good for it -- so far.
Aside from Thiago Motta's disastrous eight-minute second-half outing, which saw him come on, get injured, concede a penalty and then go off again, there were no minuses in a showing of this quality.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Emery went for a strong starting XI without Cavani and Pastore but still fielded regular substitutes Kevin Trapp, Presnel Kimpembe and Giovani Lo Celso from the start and was rewarded handsomely. His use of Motta even ended up forcing him to make all three changes before the 70-minute mark -- very rare, perhaps even unheard of from the Basque tactician.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kevin Trapp, 6 -- The Germany international made one good save early in the second half but could do little about Rennes' penalty. Otherwise, he was solid on the rare occasions he was needed but largely untested.
DF Dani Alves, 6 -- The Brazilian was preferred over Thomas Meunier and looked better for the rest over the festive period. Jaded towards the end of 2017, Emery needs to rotate between the South American and his Belgian positional rival better from 2018 onwards.
DF Thiago Silva (c), 7 -- The captain was commanding at the back, even if he and Kimpembe did not have too much to do. The Brazil international assisted Mbappe for the opener inside the first 10 minutes with a sublime searching ball forward from inside his own half.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 6 -- The Frenchman was sound alongside skipper Silva, even if the pair were not troubled that much by the hosts.
DF Yuri Berchiche, 7 -- The Spaniard has started to gain momentum and added an assist to his goal last time out at home to Caen in Ligue 1 as part of a solid display. The Basque teed up Di Maria for his first and Emery now has a serious contender for Layvin Kurzawa's starting role.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 7 -- Asked to play defensive midfield, despite Motta's presence in the squad, the France international performed with great maturity until he was replaced by the Italian. The Azzurri veteran's injury soon after that highlighted the need for January investment for a natural alternative to Motta.
MF Marco Verratti, 8 -- Although it featured Di Maria and Rabiot in the build-up, the Italy international provided Neymar with the assist for his first of the night and the Azzurri star was instrumental in his 61-minute outing before making way for Julian Draxler.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 7 -- The Argentina international looks more and more settled with each passing match and he combined well with Rabot and Verratti to form a midfield trio that did not allow Rennes a sniff for most of the hour that they played together.
FW Angel Di Maria, 8 -- It was an impressive start to 2018 from the Argentine and Emery will want more of the same from him over the coming weeks and months. El Fideo might have been playing with a potential January move in mind but his pair of goals and assist for Mbappe's second might actually have made a stay until at least the end of the season more likely.
FW Kylian Mbappe, 9 -- Two goals and two assists for the France international and although he simply laid the ball off for Neymar's second as part of a stunning team move, the 19-year-old was largely clinical in front of goal and unselfish at times when he might have put himself first. A poor early miss aside, "Donatello" was superb.
FW Neymar, 7 -- The Brazilian superstar helped himself to two goals and could have had a third had it not been for the crossbar. PSG's iconic No. 10 also featured heavily in his team's fourth goal, apart from his, which is arguably one of -- if not the -- best team goals of the season so far.
MF Thiago Motta, NR -- Sent on for Rabiot after 61 minutes, the Italian quickly injured his left calf, conceded a penalty and then was replaced by Christopher Nkunku -- all inside eight second half minutes! Unlucky, yes, but also not what Motta and Emery wanted after the Italian old stager's recent lay-off with a knee issue.
MF Julian Draxler, 6 -- The Germany international replaced Verratti with 29 minutes left and nearly scored with one of his first touches. Otherwise, he helped PSG keep the tempo up right to the final whistle.
MF Christopher Nkunku, 6 -- The youth academy graduate replaced the unfortunate Motta after 68 minutes and was solid but unspectacular in a much needed 22-minute run-out. The Frenchman could do with longer in coming Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue matches.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.