Neymar stays in Paris as PSG head to Dijon for cup test

By Sports Desk February 12, 2020

Neymar will be absent when Paris Saint-Germain tackle Dijon in the Coupe de France on Wednesday.

That confirmation came on the morning of the quarter-final fixture as PSG named their travelling squad, with Neymar staying behind in Paris as he continues to recover from a rib injury.

The Brazil striker was checked by coach Thomas Tuchel in training after Tuesday's media conference, when it was made clear PSG would take no risks with the former Barcelona player.

"Neymar is injured, we have to be patient and careful with him," said Tuchel.

Neymar has missed PSG's 2-1 win at Nantes and 4-2 victory over Lyon since suffering his injury against Montpellier on February 1.

He returned to training last Friday, but the last thing PSG would want is for Neymar to aggravate the problem, given they return to Champions League action at Borussia Dortmund next Tuesday.

Ahead of that first-leg match at the last-16 stage, former Dortmund coach Tuchel will hope to have his key players available.

Neymar was joined on the list of non-travellers for the Dijon game by Marquinhos, who is recovering well from a calf injury, along with Idrissa Gueye, Presnel Kimpembe and Marco Verratti.

In Neymar's absence, PSG remained replete with fire-power as Tuchel took Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Edinson Cavani on the trip to the Stade Gaston Gerard.

PSG are hoping to go one better than last year in the Coupe de France, having lost the 2018-19 final on a penalty shoot-out to Rennes.

Rennes reached this year's semi-finals on Tuesday with a 3-0 win over fourth-tier minnows ASM Belfort.

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    Neymar insisted he did not leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain to play in the Europa League after boosting the club's Champions League qualification hopes on Wednesday.

    PSG are in control of their own destiny thanks to a Neymar-inspired 3-1 victory over 10-man Manchester United at Old Trafford midweek.

    United only required a draw to progress to the last 16, but their passage to the knockout stage was put on hold after Neymar's double and a Marquinhos goal threw Group H wide open heading into the final matchday.

    PSG, United and RB Leipzig are all level on nine points through five matches, with the Ligue 1 champions – who reached last season's final – only needing a draw against Istanbul Basaksehir next week to secure a round-of-16 berth.

    "That is why I said that we needed to change attitude or else we could forget about our Champions League dream," Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 after winning the Champions League with Barca, told Eleven Sports.

    "But we have changed. And today our dream has more life in it. Of course, I have never been eliminated in the Champions League [group stage] or played in the Europa League.

    "That never crossed my mind and it never well. When these difficult moments come, I am able to evolve and take my responsibilities. I did not come here to play in the Europa League."

    Neymar opened the scoring inside six minutes away to United before Marcus Rashford scored in his third successive Champions League appearance against PSG.

    After Anthony Martial wasted a gilt-edged opportunity and former PSG forward Edinson Cavani rattled the crossbar, it all went pear-shaped for United – who watched Marquinhos bundle the ball over the line with 21 minutes remaining and saw Fred receive a second yellow card moments later.

    Neymar added gloss to the scoreline in the first minute of stoppage time and he said: "I have always felt like a leader, since I was 17, I have never needed to have an armband to feel that way. Today, I am a figure at PSG.

    "Everything that I can do on the pitch has an impact on my team-mates and what I want, is to help them, to give the best of myself. I am a very annoying guy on the pitch, I follow up a lot with my team-mates, but I am also ready to accept criticism, about myself too.

    "I am not untouchable. Everyone is fighting for the same thing. I am very happy to be able to help my team-mates."

    PSG have won both of their last two away matches against English opposition in all competitions (both versus United) – they had only won one of their first 10 such visits prior (drawn four and lost five).

    Since his Champions League debut in 2013, only Cristiano Ronaldo (79), Robert Lewandowski (60) and Lionel Messi (59) have more goals in the competition than Neymar (38).

    Neymar's double in Manchester was the Brazilian's first goals in his six Champions League games away to English sides.

    PSG head coach Tuchel added: "Neymar was again decisive. He is not 100 per cent but he is decisive.

    "Marquinhos was also decisive. These two players were already decisive for us in Portugal. They are leaders, they take responsibility when necessary. Congratulations to both players!"

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    A Neymar brace and Marquinhos' goal placed United's last-16 progression on hold, while putting last season's runners-up PSG in control of their own destiny heading into the sixth and final matchday in Group H.

    Neymar opened the scoring inside six minutes at Old Trafford on Wednesday before United star Marcus Rashford scored in his third successive Champions League appearance against PSG.

    After Anthony Martial wasted a gilt-edged opportunity and former PSG forward Edinson Cavani rattled the crossbar, it all went pear-shaped for United – who watched Marquinhos bundle the ball over the line with 21 minutes remaining and saw Fred receive a second yellow card moments later.

    Neymar added gloss to the scoreline in the first minute of stoppage time as PSG joined United and RB Leipzig on nine points with one fixture remaining – Tuchel's side only require a draw against Istanbul Basaksehir to secure a place in the knockout stages.

    But Tuchel urged calm post-match, telling RMC Sport: "Nearly qualified, is not qualified. Nearly pregnant, is not being pregnant. That does not exist, I am not going to let a single guy think that everything has been done.

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    PSG have won both of their last two away matches against English opposition in all competitions (both versus United) – they had only won one of their first 10 such visits prior (drawn four and lost five).

    Since his Champions League debut in 2013, only Cristiano Ronaldo (79), Robert Lewandowski (60) and Lionel Messi (59) have more goals in the competition than Neymar (38).

    Neymar's double in Manchester was the Brazilian's first goals in his six Champions League games away to English sides.

    "We can be proud tonight," PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told RMC Sport. "We showed the real PSG, a real team who is fighting for the Champions League. It was important for us, this was a decisive match.

    "We needed to show that we are always present in the big moments. I am proud of my players. It was difficult, it was a match that everyone wanted to win, I think that we created goals.

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    Neymar caused a stir after inspiring Paris Saint-Germain to victory over Manchester United when he said he wants to link up with Lionel Messi in 2021.

    The Brazil star scored twice to help PSG to a 3-1 win at Old Trafford, a result that puts them in a strong position to reach the Champions League knockout stages.

    Neymar joined the Ligue 1 champions from Barca for a world-record €222million fee in 2017, partly, it has been suggested, to escape the shadow of Messi at Barcelona.

    The Catalans won the treble in 2014-15 with an attacking trident of Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez, but it has been claimed the former Santos man left Camp Nou so he could have a better chance of winning the Ballon d'Or.

    Neymar has since repeatedly been tipped to return to Spain but has made it clear he will stay in Paris until at least the end of the 2020-21 season.

    Messi failed to engineer a move away from Barca in the previous transfer window but, with his contract running out next June, it remains unclear whether he will choose to leave next year.

    For his part, Neymar wants nothing more than to reunite with his old team-mate, telling ESPN on Wednesday: "What I want most is to play with Messi again.

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    "Next year, we have to play together, for sure."

    Neymar's two goals over United took him to 38 in the Champions League in his career. Since his debut in 2013, only Cristiano Ronaldo (79), Robert Lewandowski (60) and Messi (59) have scored more.

    PSG's victory means they are level on nine points with United and RB Leipzig in Group H heading into matchday six next week.

    A win for Thomas Tuchel's side over Istanbul Basaksehir will guarantee they progress as winners of the group.

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