PSG Warm Up For Barcelona Clash With Narrow Victory In Neymar Absence

Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian forward Moise Kean (C) heads the ball to score during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Nice (OGCN) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on February 13, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Moise Kean struck the winning goal as a Paris Saint-Germain side missing the injured Neymar survived a scare to beat Nice 2-1 on Saturday and boost their Ligue 1 title hopes three days before facing Barcelona in the Champions League.

Kean struck in the 76th minute for his 10th Ligue 1 goal since joining PSG on loan from Everton at the start of the season, handing Mauricio Pochettino’s side the points after Julian Draxler’s opener had been cancelled out by Rony Lopes at a freezing Parc des Princes.

The result allowed the reigning champions to go provisionally top of the table on goal difference from Lille, who play Brest at home on Sunday. Lyon are two points back in third but can climb to the summit with a win at home to Montpellier later on Saturday.

PSG are expected to be without Neymar for at least the next three weeks after the world’s most expensive player came off with a groin injury in a midweek French Cup win at second-tier Caen, a huge blow ahead of the Champions League last 16, first leg in Barcelona on Tuesday.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Senegalese midfielder Idrissa Gueye (L) vies with Nice’s French forward Alexis Claude-Maurice during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Nice (OGCN) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on February 13, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

With Angel di Maria also out for that game, Pochettino handed starts to Kean and Mauro Icardi alongside Kylian Mbappe in attack against Nice, as PSG sported a pink and violet-coloured fourth kit with player names on the back in Mandarin to mark the Lunar New Year.

The new look inspired the home side to go in front midway through the first half thanks to Draxler, who followed up to score after Icardi had turned Thilo Kehrer’s cross onto the post, the German scoring on his first league start since October.

However, a Nice side who have struggled badly for form this season drew level five minutes into the second half when Marquinhos attempted a pass out from the back but only succeeded in finding Lopes, who picked up the ball on the edge of the box and fired high into the net.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian forward Moise Kean (L) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Nice (OGCN) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on February 13, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Keylor Navas then turned Amine Gouiri’s shot onto the bar with PSG on the ropes, but Pochettino’s side grabbed the winner with just under quarter of an hour left.

Mbappe’s cross from the left to the back post was returned into the six-yard area by Icardi, and Kean headed in.

PSG Wait On Neymar Return Ahead Of Lille Showdown

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar celebrates after scoring a penalty kick during the UEFA Champions League Group H second-leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and RB Leipzig at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on November 24, 2020.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain are hoping to have Neymar back in time for their top-of-the-table clash at Lille on Sunday, as the Brazil superstar looks to have recovered quicker than expected from what looked like a bad ankle injury.

Coach Thomas Tuchel said “for Neymar we will do everything” after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over struggling Lorient, which put the champions second and keeps them just a point behind Ligue 1 leaders Lille.

Neymar had already revealed the injury, which came after a rough Thiago Mendes tackle during last weekend’s 1-0 home loss to Lyon, was not as bad as initially thought.

However such a speedy return still seemed unlikely until Tuchel revealed he could yet feature at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

“I can’t say ‘No, he’s not playing against Lille’. It is possible. We can try, we will try everything,” Tuchel said.

His return would be a huge boost to PSG’s morale after a strife-ridden opening few months of the season which has led to speculation over Tuchel’s future.

A win on Sunday would put the capital city side back on top of the pile after they moved above Lyon in the midweek round of fixtures, with a five-match winning-streak for Rudi Garcia’s side coming to an end with a dramatic 2-2 draw with Brest.

PSG’s other major title rivals Marseille host Reims on Saturday as they lurk five points back but with a game in hand.

Fourth-placed Marseille go into the weekend having lost ground in the title race following a 2-1 defeat at Rennes, who have won two on the bounce after a miserable run in which they lost seven of their previous eight in all competitions.

There appears to be some tension in the Marseille camp after coach Andre Villas-Boas launched an attack on a journalist at French newspaper La Provence.

According to witnesses the Portuguese boss targeted the reporter with threats of “I’ll get you” and criticised their work during the post-match press conference.

The row, apparently over an article which slammed Villas-Boas’ career record in the Champions League following their dismal effort in this year’s competition, then carried on outside Rennes’ Roazhon Park as the reporter and coach faced each other down.

Lille, meanwhile, seem confident they can maintain their slight hold on the summit and make this a true title race in a league now used to PSG dominance.

The northern outfit seem to be unworried by a potential change in ownership, with president Gerard Lopez saying he would “completely withdraw” from the club if a bid from a Luxembourg investment fund is accepted.

“Both teams are tired, Paris might have more quality but in one game everything is there to play for,” said coach Christophe Galtier.

Player to watch: Yusuf YaziciTurkey’s Yazici continued his impressive recent form on Wednesday when he scored the opening goal in Lille’s 2-0 win at Dijon.

The 23-year-old showed the composure that has seen him score five times in just three Ligue 1 starts, and six in as many Europa League appearances, when he slotted home Zeki Celik’s cutback in the 19th minute.

Yazici signed for Lille in the summer of 2019 but this has become the attacker’s breakout season, his two hat-tricks at Sparta Prague and AC Milan helping his side reach the Europa League last 32, where they will face four-time European champions Ajax.

Key stats5 – goals that Yusuf Yazici has scored this Ligue 1 season

12 – the number of games Lyon have played since last losing

4 – PSG have already lost to Lens, Marseille, Monaco and Lyon so far this season

Fixtures (all times GMT)Saturday

Metz v Lens (1600), Marseille v Reims (1800), Nice v Lyon (2000)

Sunday

Brest v Montpellier (1200), Dijon v Monaco, Strasbourg v Bordeaux, Nantes v Angers, Saint-Etienne v Nimes (all 1400), Lorient v Rennes (1600), Lille v Paris Saint-Germain (2000)

Monaco Come Back To Stun PSG After Mbappe Double

Monaco’s players and staff celebrate after winning the French L1 football match between Monaco (ASM) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco on November 20, 2020. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

 

Cesc Fabregas scored a late winner from the penalty spot as Monaco came from two goals down to stun reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Kylian Mbappe had netted a first-half brace, including a penalty, against his former side, taking him to 99 goals for PSG and leaving his current team seemingly on course for a ninth consecutive league win.

But German international Kevin Volland struck twice for Monaco after the break and Fabregas converted from 12 yards in the 84th minute after Abdou Diallo had been sent off for conceding the all-important penalty.

PSG remain clear at the top of Ligue 1, but this result is a major setback for Thomas Tuchel’s team before a crucial Champions League tie against RB Leipzig next week.

“I am more surprised than I am angry,” said Tuchel, who was also disappointed to see further first-half goals for Mbappe and Moise Kean disallowed.

“I saw two totally different halves. First of all we completely controlled the game…and then the second half was completely different. I can only say it is our responsibility.”

Niko Kovac’s Monaco climb up to second in the table, four points behind PSG, but Lille can reclaim second spot and move to within two points of the leaders if they beat Lorient on Sunday.

“If you come back from two down to win 3-2 it is for sure something special, but I don’t want to glorify it too much,” said ex-Bayern Munich coach Kovac.

“We cannot stop and say everything is done. It was a big victory but nothing more.”

PSG have been severely handicapped by injuries and suspensions this season, and Neymar was only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench at kick-off at the Stade Louis II after missing Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers over the last week due to fitness problems.

– Volland stars –
Mbappe was back in the starting line-up, however, after missing his club’s last two outings prior to the international break with a hamstring injury.

Facing his former club, with whom he won the Ligue 1 title in 2017, Mbappe burst through to put Paris in front in the 25th minute after being released by Angel Di Maria.

He then found the net again in the 37th minute, converting a penalty awarded for a foul on Rafinha by Youssouf Fofana.

His ninth goal of the season leaves him just one away from a century of goals in a PSG shirt since his arrival from Monaco at the start of 2017/18 in a 180 million-euro ($213m) deal. He even had another goal disallowed just before half-time.

Without their French international striker Wissam Ben Yedder after he tested positive for coronavirus, it was a long way back for Monaco but they reduced the deficit seven minutes after half-time when Gelson Martins set up Volland to score from close in.

Volland then equalised with a tap-in after Fabregas, on as a substitute, had beaten goalkeeper Keylor Navas to a cross.

Worse was to come for the visitors, as Diallo — another former Monaco player — clumsily conceded a penalty and was shown a red card after the referee opted to review the images.

Fabregas made no mistake from the spot, as PSG lost a Ligue 1 game after leading by two goals for just the second time since the Qatari takeover of the club in 2011.

Earlier Rennes warmed up for their Champions League rematch with Chelsea in the worst possible fashion, going down to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Bordeaux.

Hatem Ben Arfa scored the only goal of the game against his old club, as Rennes slip to fifth before entertaining Chelsea in a game they realistically need to win to keep any hopes of reaching the Champions League last 16 alive.

PSG’s Di Maria Gets Four-Match Spitting Ban

(FILES)  Di Maria is suspended for four matches for spitting on a Marseille player, the French Ligue announced on September 23, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria received a four-match ban on Wednesday for spitting during this month’s fiery Marseille game which saw five players red-carded and claims by Neymar of racial abuse.

Di Maria’s suspension meted out by Ligue 1’s disciplinary commission was for spitting at Marseille defender Alvaro Gonzalez.

It takes effect from September 29, meaning he can play against Reims on Sunday, returning the weekend of November 8.

Neymar’s accusation that Gonzalez racially abused him will be investigated on September 30, the commission announced.

Neymar was sent off for slapping Gonzalez on the back of the head, accusing the Spaniard of calling him a “monkey”. Gonzalez denies the charge.

The world’s most expensive player was served with a two-match ban last week for that incident in the September 13 fixture at the Parc des Princes.

Also last week PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa incurred a six-match ban for kicking out at Marseille left-back Jordan Amavi, who was hit with a suspension of three games after he too was dismissed.

And Leandro Paredes was banned for two games after he was sent off for a clash with fellow Argentine Dario Benedetto, who was also red-carded and suspended.

Marseille won the game 1-0.

The French league’s disciplinary commission is also investigating accusations that Neymar made racist remarks towards Marseille’s Japanese right-back Hiroki Sakai and made a homophobic slur against Gonzalez.

Any player found guilty of racist or discriminatory abuse risks a ban of up to 10 matches.

 

 

-AFP

PSG Produce Late Comeback To Beat Atalanta And Reach Champions League Semis

Paris Saint-Germain’s Cameroon forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by RAFAEL MARCHANTE / POOL / AFP)

Paris Saint-Germain snatched a dramatic victory from the jaws of defeat as substitute Eric Choupo-Moting’s goal three minutes into added time allowed them to beat Atalanta 2-1 in their Champions League quarter-final in Lisbon on Wednesday.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish goalkeeper Sergio Rico, Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva and Paris Saint-Germain’s French defender Presnel Kimpembe celebrate after winning at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by RAFAEL MARCHANTE / POOL / AFP)

 

Atalanta were on the brink of extending their remarkable run on into the last four after Mario Pasalic gave the Italians a 27th-minute lead in the first game of the ‘Final Eight’ at an empty Estadio da Luz.

But PSG were rescued as Marquinhos came forward to scramble in a last-minute equaliser and they did not even need extra time to complete the turnaround, with Kylian Mbappe setting up fellow substitute Choupo-Moting to win the tie right at the end.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian defender Marquinhos celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by RAFAEL MARCHANTE / POOL / AFP)

 

The French champions’ reward is a place in the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 1995. They will play RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid next Tuesday for a place in the final.

It is the first time PSG have gone beyond the last eight of the Champions League since the Qatari takeover of the club almost a decade ago and all the huge investment that has followed.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian defender Marquinhos celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by RAFAEL MARCHANTE / POOL / AFP)

 

The result is heartbreaking for Atalanta, who were hoping to continue their fairytale campaign for at least a few more days and give the people of Bergamo more reason to cheer.

The northern Italian city suffered terribly at the height of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Bergamo’s death toll from COVID-19 has made it one of the worst-hit regions anywhere during the health crisis.

However, this will still go down as a highly successful season for Gian Piero Gasperini’s team, who scored eight goals over two legs to beat Valencia in the last 16 in March.

 

Atalanta’s Argentinian defender Jose Luis Palomino (R) reacts at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by David Ramos / POOL / AFP)

 

That tie was completed just before football across Europe ground to a halt in the face of the pandemic, but Atalanta have since come back to finish third in Serie A for the second year running, scoring 98 goals in the process.

Beating PSG was ultimately a step too far, but that Atalanta came so close is remarkable enough. After all, their annual wage bill is believed to be equivalent to what PSG pay Neymar alone.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Cameroon forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by RAFAEL MARCHANTE / POOL / AFP)

 

It was because of the pandemic that UEFA decided to bring the Champions League to Lisbon for a straight knockout tournament from the quarter-finals onwards, with all games being played behind closed doors and as one-off ties.

Mbappe’s half-hour

PSG therefore knew they would get no second chance to turn the tie around and coach Thomas Tuchel’s gamble on Mbappe’s fitness ultimately paid off.

Mbappe was left in a race against time to make this match after spraining his ankle in the French Cup final against Saint-Etienne on July 24.

He was only deemed fit enough to come on for the final 30 minutes, with PSG already diminished without the injured Marco Verratti and the suspended Angel Di Maria.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrate after winning at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by David Ramos / POOL / AFP)

 

Neymar was there, but the world’s most expensive player failed to take a glorious early chance, shooting wide with only Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello to beat after bursting through on goal from halfway.

Instead it was Atalanta who broke through just before the half-hour mark as Pasalic fired home first-time from 15 yards after the ball fell to him in the box.

Berat Djimsiti might have made it 2-0 just before the hour, but then Mbappe came on and PSG stepped up the pressure.

Atalanta’s Italian goalkeeper Marco Sportiello reacts at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by David Ramos / POOL / AFP)

 

The French side lost goalkeeper Keylor Navas to injury late on and looked to be down and out until Marquinhos bundled in a Neymar assist from inside the six-yard box in the 90th minute, the ball going in off Mattia Caldara’s leg.

 

Atalanta’s Italian goalkeeper Francesco Rossi reacts at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by David Ramos / POOL / AFP)

 

And Choupo-Moting — who signed a two-month contract extension to stay at PSG for the ‘Final Eight’ after his deal expired in June — was on hand to grab the dramatic winner.

Neymar supplied Mbappe and his low ball across the face of goal was converted by Choupo-Moting, often derided as not good enough for PSG but this time their hero.

 

 

-AFP

Sweden Includes Ibrahimovic In Olympics Squad

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden, OlympicsZlatan Ibrahimovic has been listed in Sweden’s provisional 35-man squad for the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

But the 34-year-old has refused to disclose his intention whether or not to participate in the Olympics, until the Euro 2016 was over.

He is the captain of the Swedish national team at the ongoing European football competition.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s coach at the Olympics, Hakan Ericson, said he would keep Ibrahimovic’s chance of participating open, but acknowledged the probabilities were slim.

This comes after the Paris Saint-Germain forward agreed to conditional terms with Manchester United and to join the club after Euro 2016.

The Red Devils manager, Jose Mourinho, gave his approval to Ibrahimovic’s signing, as the duo were motivated to work together again after winning the Italian league title with Inter Milan in 2009.

Ibrahimovic Wins ‘Ligue One Player Of The Year’ Award

Zlatan Ibrahimovic-Ligue One Player of the YearParis Saint-Germain (PSG) forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has been named the ‘Ligue One Player of the Year’.

The 34-year-old Swedish bagged the award on Sunday, making it the third time in four seasons.

After scoring 35 goals in the French league and a total of 45 in all competitions, Ibrahimovic was handed the trophy by Dutch legend, Edgar Davids, at the UNFP Awards ceremony in Paris.

Also at the ceremony, Ousmane Dembele of Stade Rennais FC clinched the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award, beating Vincent Koziello of Nice, Thomas Lemar of AS Monaco and PSG’s Adrien Rabiot.

The French league champions’ coach, Laurent Blanc, claimed the ‘Ligue One Coach of the Year’ prize for the second successive season.