Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel said he could not explain his side's laboured performance in their 2-0 win against Nantes, admitting he noticed a lack of confidence among his players.

Kylian Mbappe scored after 52 minutes to give the Ligue 1 champions the lead at Parc des Princes and Neymar converted an 85th-minute penalty to make sure of the result, but Nantes missed numerous opportunities to get back on level terms.

PSG had Keylor Navas to thank for a string of fine saves on Wednesday that ensured the league leaders extended the gap at the top of Ligue 1 to five points over second-placed Marseille.

However, Tuchel was asked afterwards to explain why PSG's performance was not more convincing midweek.

"I do not know," he told Canal Plus. "It's a good question.

"I am convinced that we have desire but it is hard. It was hard today and we feel like it's hard for us for a few games now. My team has desire but it's hard for us.

"We lost four balls in the first four minutes - easy balls! This is not possible if you want to control a match, play offensively and be the team that has possession."

Boasting a five-point cushion over Marseille and a game in hand, PSG travel to Montpellier on Saturday with no reason to panic about the state of their title campaign.

But Tuchel, who must prepare his players for the visit of Galatasaray in the Champions League on December 11, said he would analyse the performance against Nantes to ascertain why performance levels have dipped.

He said: "We show desire but we lose confidence. We make bad decisions right now, we do not play free.

"I do not know, maybe it's not the only reason, but I'll watch the game again tomorrow [Thursday]."

Kylian Mbappe scored a sublime goal and Neymar converted a penalty as Paris Saint-Germain beat Nantes 2-0 to extend their Ligue 1 winning streak to three matches.

Mbappe, restored to the starting line-up at Mauro Icardi's expense, opened the scoring after 52 minutes with a deft backheel and Neymar netted five minutes from the end on a night when both players could have increased their side's advantage.

But PSG's finishing was as inconsistent as their defending and it was only by virtue of a lack of quality in the Nantes attack that Thomas Tuchel's league-leading side emerged with all three points.

Yet with a five-point cushion now and a game in hand on second-placed Marseille, the champions proved yet again that they can win without playing anywhere near their best.

PSG's dominance of Ligue 1 is such that they rarely come out all guns blazing, and the only clear chance of the early exchanges saw Ludovic Blas fire wide for Nantes from just outside the box.

Blas drew a good save from Keylor Navas after 27 minutes, the PSG goalkeeper getting down smartly to turn a low drive around his near post.

Neymar, having spent much of the game protesting against Nantes challenges, steered the ball into the net four minutes from half-time only to see his effort ruled out for a challenge by Julian Draxler on Imran Louza during the build-up.

Neymar missed a one-on-one chance in first-half stoppage-time and the champions piled forward again straight after the interval, Mbappe having a thunderous shot saved moments before he let Angel Di Maria's cross run between his legs and cleverly diverted it past goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

Nantes continued to threaten on the counter-attack and Navas made a strong save from Louza before a moment of madness saw substitute Icardi win a penalty.

Nicolas Pallois' backwards header was bound for Icardi who was pushed from behind by Labont and Neymar buried the ensuing penalty at the second attempt to make sure of the victory.

What does it mean? Relief for Neymar

With Mbappe justifying his inclusion ahead of Icardi with a goal, there was an uneasiness about Neymar until he found the net from the penalty spot - his first goal since recovering from a hamstring injury.

Navas plays a key role

PSG had enough chances to win the game comfortably but also afforded Nantes more space than Tuchel would have liked, and he had Navas to thank for a number of timely saves to preserve his side's clean sheet.

Not Louza's night

Nantes midfielder Louza breathed a sigh of relief when VAR ruled out a Neymar goal for which he would have likely been blamed, but he later fluffed his lines when presented with a clear chance to equalise.

What's next?

PSG face a difficult trip to in-form Montpellier on Saturday, while Nantes entertain struggling Dijon on Sunday.

Thomas Tuchel explained that Neymar trained alone on Friday in order to safeguard his recovery from a hamstring injury, and the Paris Saint-Germain coach confirmed the forward is fit to face Monaco.

The Ligue 1 leaders face 13th-placed Monaco at Stade Louis II on Sunday, and Tuchel said the club has been carefully managing Neymar's fitness in order to ensure his availability.

The Brazil international played the second half of PSG's 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, yet Tuchel opted to keep him isolated from the squad during training.

Explaining why, he told reporters: "Because he felt something in the adductors after the game, we didn't take any risks.

"So he did individual training. That way, we can control it better. Today [Saturday] he trained with us without any problem, I think.

"He's with the team, he can play."

PSG's equaliser against Madrid came from Pablo Sarabia, who score eight minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute in a frantic spell.

Tuchel was pleased to see his €18million pre-season signing from Sevilla among the goals as he explained the challenge facing Sarabia as he adapts to his new, deeper midfield role.

"It's difficult for him to get a job like [he had] at Sevilla," Tuchel said of Sarabia. "At Sevilla, he had a position a little similar to that of Angel Di Maria here, or that of Ney [Neymar] or Kylian [Mbappe].

"He is a key player on the field. We recruited him because he is able to take responsibility, to play 50 or 60 matches per season. But now he has another role.

"He must adapt to our game, to our players. But he has played a lot of matches and he is very important to us because he gives intensity with and without the ball. He has aggression and we lack that in our game.

"He defends well, too. He is reliable and responsible. He has a good influence on our team.

"I'm very happy that it's him who scored [against Madrid] because he always gives everything during training."

Thomas Tuchel said he benched Neymar for the player's own good against Real Madrid and did not fear upsetting the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Neymar, a starter against Lille on Friday, was introduced at half-time of a rollicking 2-2 Champions League draw in Madrid on Tuesday. 

PSG trailed to Karim Benzema's opener when the Brazilian entered the game and fell further behind when the Madrid striker nodded in Marcelo's cross, before Kylian Mbappe and Pablo Sarabia struck in quick succession to force a share of the spoils.

Tuchel admitted ahead of the Madrid showdown that Neymar could at times be tough to manage but insisted his reduced role at the Santiago Bernabeu was a direct result of his recent hamstring injury.

"No, I'm not afraid [of the ramifications], I don't think we are going to lose Neymar," the PSG boss said.

"We have a connection, we are honest. I talked to him and told him that I would rather he play in the second half and start on the bench. We did the same thing with Kylian away to Galatasaray.

"He's been absent for six weeks, he only played one game before this one and for me it was not worth taking that risk.

"Every month he missed a few days. I made the decision for him, for his health."

Despite being outplayed for 80 minutes in the Spanish capital, PSG did enough to confirm top spot in Group A.

Visitors PSG had goalkeeper Keylor Navas to thank for a series of excellent stops that prevented his former employers from taking a decisive lead.

Tuchel said: "Real were the better team for a long time. We played too complicated, not quick enough, not simple enough, not with confidence. Real played with a lot of confidence.

"They showed that this is a team that won the Champions League three times in a row.

"We had an extraordinary goalkeeper with Keylor Navas. We were lucky, it's not forbidden. After the goal, we were freer.

"There are some positive things to remember. The mentality at the end, the quality of the guys who came on, Ney and Pablo and [Julian] Draxler made the difference. We have 13 points from five games."

Neymar has been benched for Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League clash at Real Madrid.

The Brazil star returned from a month-long absence with a hamstring injury in Friday's 2-0 Ligue 1 victory over Lille.

However, with PSG already through to the next round head coach Thomas Tuchel has opted not to risk the fitness of the flamboyant forward.

Instead, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe line-up in a front three for the Group A clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It marks the first time Neymar has started a Champions League match on the bench since November 2014 when he was at Barcelona.

There are few surprises for a Madrid side who are still yet to book their spot in the knockout stages, with a win against PSG guaranteeing a last-16 berth.

Gareth Bale remains on the substitutes bench amid an uneasy relationship with the Los Blancos faithful, following his celebration after Wales qualified for Euro 2020.

The forward held up a banner that read 'WALES. GOLF. MADRID. IN THAT ORDER' in an apparent dig at the Spanish press' perception Madrid have slipped down Bale's list of priorities.

Neymar's "provocative" tendencies make him a handful but Thomas Tuchel says Paris Saint-Germain cannot win trophies without him and Kylian Mbappe.

PSG refused to let Brazil star Neymar return to Barcelona in the close season after the clubs failed to agree on a fee for the world's most expensive player.

Neymar upset supporters in Paris with his pleas to leave but a return of four goals in six Ligue 1 games amid injury troubles have helped prove his commitment to the cause.

Head coach Tuchel, however, admits it can be tough to keep the 27-year-old in line.

He told France Info: "[It's] not easy at all! He has a big, big heart, but unfortunately, he doesn't always show that he's a generous, reliable boy.

"Sometimes he's provocative and it's a great pity because it's not necessary."

"I tell him. We laugh a lot together and I always try to tell the truth," Tuchel continued.

"He accepts it, but it's hard. Ney is provocative when he feels something is wrong, but he isn't when he is calm."

PSG paid €222million to sign Neymar in 2017 with a view to him spearheading their bid for Champions League glory.

Successive last-16 exits have instead added to the doubt over his future along with that of Kylian Mbappe, who regards last season's European failure as a key reason he will not win the Ballon d'Or this year.

Real Madrid reportedly want the talented 20-year-old but Tuchel insists PSG cannot afford to lose either of their valuable attacking assets.

"He can definitely do better. He must and he can," the German said of Mbappe.

"He has the opportunity to win everything, individually and as a team. He's a key player for us. It's not possible to win anything without Ney or without Kylian.

"They are truly exceptional players. Really exceptional. Mbappe is super young. He has to protect himself and improve himself every day.

"He can win everything."

PSG face Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday knowing a point will be enough to seal top spot in Group A.

Neymar had a "bad performance" on his return for Paris Saint-Germain, according to coach Thomas Tuchel, who nonetheless defended the fit-again forward.

The Brazil star had been out of action for a month with an injury sustained on international duty but started for PSG at home to Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Neymar had a hand in PSG's second goal in a 2-0 win that moved the champions 11 points clear at the top of the table.

However, in his 65 minutes on the pitch, he failed to record a single shot or key pass and completed only 63.9 per cent of his passes on an underwhelming return to action.

Tuchel, though, was not expecting a top performance given his time on the sidelines.

"No, I'm not worried by his bad performance," Tuchel told reporters of Neymar's display. "I do not know if it's normal. 

"I did not expect much from him because he missed six weeks. It's a lot for someone like him, who needs pace for everything he does. 

"He missed precision today, timing. But it's like that. He had to play a few minutes."

Neymar was replaced by Kylian Mbappe and went straight down the tunnel rather than watch the rest of the game from the bench.

"It's normal. Many players enter the locker room directly," was Tuchel's view. 

"I did not see that because I was focused on the game, changing tactics. 

"We have to talk about this thing internally. But we are not going to talk about it too much now."

Goals from Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria in the first half saw PSG to a routine victory at Parc des Princes.

"They are fit, and strong together," Tuchel said of the Argentina duo. "Both stayed with us during the [international] break.

"That's good because you can manage them and keep them fresh. Both are decisive and score goals. And they work for the team and it makes a huge difference for us."

Neymar returned for Paris Saint-Germain as a comfortable 2-0 home win over Lille moved the Ligue 1 champions 11 points clear at the top of the table.

The Brazil star had been out of action for a month due to injury but was fit enough to start at Parc des Princes on Friday, though fellow forward Kylian Mbappe, who has been ill, was only deemed ready for the bench.

Mbappe's initial absence did not hurt PSG as on-loan striker Mauro Icardi hit his ninth goal in his past eight appearances to put his side in front.

Angel Di Maria struck the second before half-time and Mbappe came off the bench to make it a good day for coach Thomas Tuchel ahead of Tuesday's Champions League trip to Real Madrid.

Icardi continued his hot streak with the opening goal for PSG in the 17th minute, the Argentina attacker arriving at the back post to convert Idrissa Gueye's left-wing cross.

PSG had not hit top gear but doubled their advantage before the half-time break.

When Neymar was tackled the ball ran loose for Julian Draxler to trick his way into space and free Di Maria in the left channel to beat Mike Maignan with a trademark left-foot curler.

Though Keylor Navas had to save well from Luiz Araujo, such was PSG's comfort that Neymar was able to make way for Mbappe's return midway through the second half.

Lille substitute Loic Remy had a chance to set up a grandstand finish but scuffed a tame finish at Navas, while Yusuf Yazici curled wide from a promising position in the closing stages.

What does it mean? Another title looks certain for PSG

Despite already having lost three times in the league this season, PSG are 11 points clear and seemingly cruising to another Ligue 1 crown. The challenge for Tuchel will be maintaining momentum and intensity for key Champions League clashes still to come.

Lille lost vital members of their coaching staff to Tottenham after Jose Mourinho's appointment this week and Christophe Galtier's side, who have only won once in the league since September, face a battle to secure Champions League football.

Gueye adds to clean sheet collection

PSG's array of attacking talent is the envy of clubs from all over the world but Gueye, who joined from Everton ahead of the 2018-19 season, may prove their most important signing in some time.

The Senegal midfielder has now played nine Ligue 1 matches for his new club and they have won eight of them, conceding just three times. As well as providing protection for PSG's defence, he created the opening goal for Icardi with a fine low cross.

Draxler miss not punished by Lille

PSG should have won by a greater margin but Draxler, who had otherwise been impressive, wasted a superb chance to add to their lead early in the second half after being set up by Icardi.

Substitute Edinson Cavani, who replaced Icardi, was also profligate in the last minute.

What's next?

PSG are already through to the next round of the Champions League but can secure top spot by avoiding defeat away to Real Madrid on Tuesday, with Tuchel's side back in domestic action next Sunday when they go to Monaco.

Lille are at home to Ajax on Wednesday then host Dijon in the league three days later.

Neymar is back in the Paris Saint-Germain side to face Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday after recovering from injury.

The Brazil forward has been out of action for a month after sustaining a hamstring injury while on international duty.

But PSG coach Thomas Tuchel indicated in a pre-match news conference that Neymar was ready to return and he is in the XI to take on fifth-placed Lille.

Kylian Mbappe has been passed fit to start in attack with Neymar after recovering from illness.

Keylor Navas is back in goal for the Ligue 1 champions, replacing Sergio Rico, after the Costa Rica international missed PSG's win at Brest last due to a groin injury.

Christophe Galtier's side have won just one of their last six Ligue 1 games while PSG are unbeaten in their 19 home Ligue 1 matches against Lille.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are back in the Paris Saint-Germain squad to face Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Both of Thomas Tuchel's star forwards have endured injury interrupted campaigns so far.

Neymar missed the start of the season as he completed his rehabilitation from ankle ligament damage but returned in style with four goals in five Ligue 1 outings.

A hamstring injury sustained while on duty with Brazil last month left him back on the sidelines but Tuchel told reporters on Thursday the world's most expensive footballer had resumed training.

Mbappe has nine goals in 11 games across all competitions in 2019-20 despite being compromised by hamstring, thigh and adductor problems, before illness placed his participation in the game at the Parc des Princes in doubt.

The attacking duo return in time for a pivotal week, with trips to Real Madrid and Monaco on the horizon.

PSG are eight points clear of Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 table and they are five points better off than Madrid thanks to a perfect record from four Champions League group matches to date.

Right-back Thomas Meunier is back from a hamstring injury but midfielders Marco Verratti (knee) and Ander Herrera (thigh) remain among the absentees.

Luis Suarez says when Gerard Pique speaks "sometimes you have to take everything with tweezers" after the defender said Barcelona stars were ready to alter their salaries to accommodate the return of Neymar.

Brazil star Neymar was heavily linked with a switch back to Camp Nou just two seasons after making a record-breaking €222million move to Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Barca were unable to strike an agreement with PSG despite the best efforts of LaLiga's champions.

Centre-back Pique said last month: "We didn't stump up money.

"What we said to the president was whether we could change our contracts because we knew there was a Financial Fair Play issue... so we said to the president, rather than earn something in year one, we could earn it in year two or three or four."

Star forward Suarez, who formed a devastating trio with Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barca, insists the players had no involvement with the talks and believes not everything Pique said should be taken at face value.

"When Geri speaks, sometimes you have to take everything with tweezers," Uruguayan Suarez told Sport.

"He has a lot of work and a lot of experience in making statements. In this case he knows and is aware that the players were totally out in the case of Ney.

"We were willing to welcome him or any player who wants to come, but always oblivious to the case."

Suarez also insisted everything is well with close-season signing Antoine Griezmann and his integration with Barcelona's squad.

It was reported captain Messi objected to the signing of the former Atletico Madrid forward due to his desire for Neymar to return, although the Argentinian branded such suggestions as a "lie".

Suarez said: "[His integration has been] spectacular, sometimes things are misunderstood. Both Leo and I and Geri himself welcomed him a year earlier, said he was a great player and was one of the best in the world.

"He came from being world champion and we already praised him. Then we didn't know what was going to happen to him, we weren't sure he was coming this year.

"We treat him as one more. It is also true that some have more affinity with some partners than others; in his case he gets along very well with the French players."

Neymar is ready to return to action for Paris Saint-Germain against Lille on Saturday, but the Ligue 1 champions could be without Kylian Mbappe.

The Brazil superstar has not featured for his club since sustaining a hamstring injury during the October international break, continuing a tale of fitness woe that has stained his time at the Parc des Princes.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed Neymar would be available for a mouth-watering week of fixtures, with trips to Real Madrid and Monaco coming after Lille's visit to the French capital.

"Neymar feels good," Tuchel said. "He has trained well and will be in the group for tomorrow's match, but he will not be able to play 90 minutes.

"He will bring us quality and decisive things. When he is with us, we are super dangerous. That is necessary if we want to continue to win

"Lille, Real Madrid and Monaco represent three challenging games for us."

Mbappe has often stepped up in Neymar's absence, but the France forward has been laid low by illness having already suffered hamstring, thigh and groin setbacks this term.

"He had a fever, he has to start training today, we have to wait," said Tuchel, who will be without midfield duo Marco Verratti (knee) and Ander Herrera (thigh).

Neymar's rehabilitation took in a trip to watch the Davis Cup in Madrid this week, something which neither delighted nor angered his boss.

"What can I do? I'm not his father, nor the police. I am just his coach," Tuchel added.

"He trained well. Did I enjoy his trip to Madrid? No. But he was very professional during those two weeks.

"He did more than others, working with the group and also individually. If all goes well, he can play [against Lille]. Tomorrow we will decide".

Barcelona will always be interested in Neymar but it is financially difficult to re-sign him, the club's sporting director Eric Abidal has admitted.

Neymar attempted to secure a move back to Camp Nou in the close season, two years after leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal that made him the most expensive player in history.

LaLiga champions Barca held talks with PSG but were unable to meet the Ligue 1 side's demands.

Lionel Messi suggested some at the Catalan club did not want Neymar to return, though it appears he will remain a target.

"A top player, who has a Barca philosophy and who is performing at a high level, will always be an option," Abidal told Mundo Deportivo.

"We can make decisions on the sporting level but the whole financial issue, there are things that you can do and others you cannot. The future will tell us.

"I will not say it would be option number one, because the season is very long, but clearly it can be an option."

Barca reignited their interest in Neymar amid a desire to find a long-term successor to ageing striker Luis Suarez.

The search is said to have led them to highly rated Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Asked about the 22-year-old, Abidal said: "He is a complete player. I think he is performing at a great level. He is a player we know.

"There are other players who also have a lot of quality... but I don't pay much attention to the player who plays every weekend, I look at others."

Barca did boost their attacking options with the addition of Antoine Griezmann in July and Abidal said Suarez had been briefed on the club's intentions to pursue another competitor for his starting spot.

"I am transparent with the players," the Frenchman said. "Luis can tell you, because last year I already told him that it was going to be like that, that we were going to look for an offensive player.

"He accepted it because he wants the best for the team. Today, I can tell you that there is no priority. The planning will always be done, no matter the position on the field, the only change will be the decision."

Neymar, Thomas Meunier, Keylor Navas and Marco Verratti are all expected back in Paris Saint-Germain training next week following injuries.

PSG had previously announced Neymar was due to resume training this week, having been out since the previous international break with a hamstring injury.

He is instead now set to return in the coming days, alongside Thomas Meunier, who has also been dealing with a hamstring issue.

Navas should likewise be back among the squad in the next seven days as he recovers from a thigh injury which forced him out of last weekend's win at Brest.

The former Real Madrid man had crucially saved a penalty against Club Brugge in the Champions League three days earlier.

Verratti has had an injury to the back of his right knee, keeping him out of international action for Italy, but is hoping to train by the end of next week.

Brazil legend Pele believes Lionel Messi is the most complete player on the planet and one of "two or three" on par with the greats of previous eras.

The former Santos forward and three-time World Cup winner named Barcelona captain Messi, Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar as the select few deserving to be discussed as the world's best.

Messi, 32, and Ronaldo, 34, have long dominated the game's most coveted individual awards but are reaching the latter stages of their highly decorated careers.

Selecao star Neymar became the most expensive player in history when he moved from Barca to PSG in 2017, but for Pele there is a clear standout among the trio.

"I think of Leo Messi," he told Gazzetta dello Sport when asked who he would most like to play alongside.

"He is a skilled player, gives assists, passes, scores, dribbles well. If we were in the team together, the opponents should worry about two players, not just one! Today, Messi is the most complete player."

However, when balancing the leading players of today compared to those of the past, he lamented a perceived lack of true stars.

"Once, you found two or three in every country with a great football culture," the 79-year-old said.

"Eusebio, Simoes, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Maradona, Garrincha, Didi. How many did I say? There were so many.

"Today we have two or three in all. Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, I would say Neymar, who in Brazil has not yet managed to become a great figure."

That would change if Neymar inspired the country to glory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which will mark two decades since the South American nation's most recent triumph.

"I hope that at the next World Cup he is in good physical condition," Pele said.

"People criticise him, I even did it a few times, but we forget that he is a product of ours, of Santos. We always want the best for him. I talk about him often with his father.

"Technically, he is an excellent player."

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