Neymar close to PSG return as Pochettino takes on critics

By Sports Desk March 13, 2021

Mauricio Pochettino revealed Neymar is close to returning for Paris Saint-Germain as he urged critics to respect the team's Champions League win over Barcelona.

The PSG head coach did not specify whether Neymar would come into contention for Sunday's home match against lowly Nantes, who sit 19th in the 20-team Ligue 1 table.

Speaking on Saturday, Pochettino faced questions about the performance of his players in the second leg of their clash with Barcelona, with a string of excellent saves by Keylor Navas, including a penalty stop from Lionel Messi, helping the French side snatch a 1-1 draw.

That clinched a 5-2 aggregate victory, and Pochettino wants to hear more admiration for such a scoreline, given the stature of the opposition.

On the question of when Neymar would return from an injury lay-off that has extended to a month, Pochettino explained: "I think I said there was a chance he'd be back for the Barcelona game.

"We also knew it would be difficult to set a timeframe because players' recoveries can be difficult to predict. He has trained with the squad today, we are pleased with his progress, and we hope he will be back with the team soon."

But Pochettino was probed over how PSG allowed Barcelona to be so dominant for large parts of the second leg of their European tie, particularly the first half, and he was not happy for his team's achievement to be followed by such interrogation.

"I don't understand why we should be so focused on that," Pochettino said.

"That was the story of the first half of the second leg against Barcelona when we didn't play well. That is the reality. But focusing too much on that in my opinion would be a mistake.

"Of course we analyse everything that happens during games but we mustn't forget the team have reached the quarter-finals after beating a strong Barcelona side, and overall it finished 5-2 after 180 minutes. That is the reality.

"There have been games where we played well and lost, such as the game against Monaco [which PSG lost 2-0 last month], and other games where we haven't performed so well.

"The most important thing is to learn and we do have to improve because none of us were happy with the first half, but after achieving such a big target I think our performance in the first half can be downplayed."

With third-placed Lyon only drawing against Reims on Friday, PSG remain in the thick of a title battle, with leaders Lille having a tricky clash with Monaco on Sunday.

PSG sit second as they chase a fourth successive league title, and they cannot afford to slip up against a Nantes side who are equally in need of points.

"Yes, it will be a tough game for us," Pochettino said. "I wouldn't say it would be a trap, but we are aware that after such a happy night for the club and the fans, with us getting through in the Champions League, it is in our minds that the next game is important. That is the theory, but we know it's an important game and we have to put that into practice.

"Preparation is essential in football. We often say we are ready, but Nantes are a physical side who will make things difficult, just as Monaco did after we played Barcelona [in the first leg], but that is why our performance level is essential and we have to be fresh.

"I will try to select a team that can really battle with Nantes and have that freshness that can give us the energy that we need in this sort of game."

Related items

  • Juventus 2-2 Lazio: Milinkovic-Savic late show ruins Dybala's Turin farewell Juventus 2-2 Lazio: Milinkovic-Savic late show ruins Dybala's Turin farewell

    Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser as Lazio came from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with Juventus in Turin.

    In a match where Juventus paid tribute to departing stars Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala, first-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata seemed to have put the Bianconeri in control.

    But after Alex Sandro's own goal halved the arrears, Maurizio Sarri's return to the Allianz Stadium ended in chaotic fashion when Milinkovic-Savic fired into the roof of the net with the last kick of the game.

    As well as spoiling the farewell home appearances of Chiellini and Dybala, the result boosted Lazio's hopes of beating local rivals Roma to a fifth-place finish in Serie A.

  • Bale 'likely' to return to English football as agent confirms Madrid exit Bale 'likely' to return to English football as agent confirms Madrid exit

    Gareth Bale could be set for a return to English football when his Real Madrid contract expires next month, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett, who has confirmed the winger's imminent exit from the Santiago Bernabeu.

    The 32-year-old already looked set to leave Los Blancos at the end of his deal, with Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti saying last month that Bale wanted "to finish on a high note" with the club.

    While Madrid wrapped up their 35th league title recently, Bale's role in that success was virtually none-existent, with the former Tottenham man making just seven appearances all season in all competitions, totalling just 290 minutes of action.

    Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three goals in finals of the competition (one against Atletico Madrid in 2014 and two against Liverpool in 2018).

    However, he has attracted the ire of the club's fans ever since he paraded a flag bearing the slogan "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" after helping his national team qualify for Euro 2020, and was described as a "parasite" in Spanish sports daily Marca earlier this year.

    Bale remains a key man for his country, scoring a brace in Wales' 2-1 World Cup qualification win over Austria in March to put them within one win of reaching the tournament in Qatar, and Barnett says the result of the Dragons' June play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine will inform any decision on the player's future.

    He also hinted Bale could return to England next season, having returned to Tottenham on loan for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign. 

    "Gareth will leave Real Madrid, but we have to wait for what Wales will be able to do," Barnett told Portuguese outlet Record.

    "It all depends on whether Wales qualify for the World Cup, then we will make a decision, which may vary on whether or not Wales go to the World Cup. 

    "Is he likely to return to England? I think so, but we'll have to wait and see."

    Wales will face either Scotland or Ukraine on June 5 in Cardiff for a place at the World Cup, where they would face England after being drawn into Group B. 

  • Dwight Yorke signs two-year deal as head coach of Macarthur FC in Australia's A-League Dwight Yorke signs two-year deal as head coach of Macarthur FC in Australia's A-League

    Former Trinidad and Tobago and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke has signed a deal to coach Macarthur FC in Australia’s A-League. Yorke replaces Ante Milicic and will lead the Bulls for the next two seasons in what will be his first role as a senior coach.

    “Having played in the augural A-League Men’s season I have continually followed the competition and am aware of both the footballing and fan demands in Australia,” said Yorke, who played for Sydney FC in the augural season of the A-League.

    “I look forward to adding a positive contribution and improve the game at all levels. Of course, my primary focus will be with the Bulls, to deliver them success and a style of football that defined me as a player.”

    Yorke, 50, enjoyed a successful career as a player. He won the treble – Premier League, FA Cup and  Champions League in his first season with Manchester United in 1999 when he scored 18 goals to be the leading scorer in the league.

    He represented Trinidad and Tobago on 72 occasions scoring 19 goals.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.