PARIS: Arch rivals Marseille and Paris St Germain will face more than a test of their trophy-winning potential in their first ever meeting in a French Cup final today.
Both clubs have courted trouble on and off the pitch this season, and the issue of security for what should be a mouth-watering final at the Stade de France is high on the French authorities' list of priorities.
PSG striker Pauleta and Marseille midfielder Franck Ribery might best symbolise their clubs' respective ambitions on the pitch, however off it the encounter is being taken very seriously.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has guaranteed a massive security cordon around the national stadium, has called for a final in which football, and not controversy, emerges king.
We won't tolerate any kind of trouble, Sarkozy warned in midweek.
We want fans and their families to enjoy what should be a celebration of football. We've made sure that from the start to the finish of the final, everything will go well.
After a fifth consecutive season of Lyon dominating the league, the Marseille vs PSG clash has all of France rubbing their hands in anticipation despite the clubs' spat last month when Marseille sent a second string side to Paris in protest at what they believed were lax security measures.
Despite the French Cup's added attraction of an automatic place in the UEFA Cup for the winner, the final will also give fans nostalgic souvenirs of when PSG and Marseille used to win silverware on a regular basis.
Marseille are France's most fanatically supported club, but since their 1993 European Cup victory they have hopped from one crisis to the next and they haven't won the Cup since their 4-3 win over Monaco in 1989.
PSG, who won the European Cup winners' Cup in 1996, can at least boast having won the French Cup in 2004 when they beat lowly Chateauroux thanks to a game-winning header from Pauleta.
It was Pauleta's well-taken volley that secured a 2-1 victory over Nantes and a Cup final date last week, but the striker admits this encounter will have special significance.
We've never played in a Cup final against Marseille before. Everyone knows about the rivalry, and that's perhaps the reason why it will be a more physical match than usual, said the Portuguese international.
Marseille have the upper hand in the league so far this season, with a 1-0 home win over Guy Lacombe's side in October preceding the controversial scoreless draw in Paris last month.