France’s football league declared the season over on Thursday, with Paris Saint-Germain named as Ligue 1 champions.
PSG led the table by 12 points from Marseille when the season was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has gone on to kill more than 24,000 people in France.
The announcement by the LFP comes after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday that “professional sports leagues, notably football, cannot restart” because of the risks linked to the pandemic.
“There is no ambiguity about this declaration. We needed to make a final decision about this season. We acknowledge that the 2019-20 season is over,” said LFP president Nathalie Boy de la Tour, in a conference call with reporters.
Ruling out any possibility of following the lead of the Netherlands, who decided to void their season without a champion, relegation or promotion, the LFP said a final table was arranged on the basis of average points per game.
Ten rounds of matches remained when the campaign was halted, although PSG and Strasbourg both had a game in hand.
As a result, Marseille and Rennes will go into the Champions League next season, while fourth-placed Lille will play in the Europa League.
Toulouse and Amiens, the bottom two, are condemned to relegation, with Lorient and Lens coming up from Ligue 2.
The identity of the other European representatives depends on whether the finals of the two domestic cups are ever played.
Large gatherings of people remain banned in France until September.
However, if the French government and UEFA accept, both cup finals could yet be staged in August with European places still up for grabs.
PSG were due to play Lyon in the League Cup final and Saint-Etienne in the French Cup final. If the games are played, Lyon and Saint-Etienne would qualify for the Europa League by winning.
Lyon — seventh in the table when the season was stopped — would otherwise miss out on European qualification for the first time in over two decades.
Paris Saint-Germain are sweating on the fitness of star striker Kylian Mbappe who has picked up a throat infection ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 return-leg against Dortmund.
The French World Cup star missed team training Monday and Tuesday and was reported to have a sore throat, with his club needing to overturn a 2-1 deficit from their first leg defeat in Germany two weeks ago.
Mbappe has scored six goals in his last three PSG matches.
At Monday’s training session Argentine forward Angel Di Maria was observed passing the ball around with Neymar. Spanish forward Pablo Sarabia is also a likely inclusion should Mbappe miss the game.
PSG lost 2-1 to an Erling Haaland-inspired Dortmund before a crowd of 80,000 in Germany last month, with the return-leg to be played in an empty Parc d-es Prices stadium due to the coronavirus.
Neymar has criticised Paris Saint-Germain’s handling of his recent injury after scoring in the 2-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund, which leaves the French club facing the prospect of another early Champions League exit.
After missing four games in the last fortnight with a rib injury, the Brazilian superstar looked short of match fitness in Tuesday’s last-16, first-leg, defeat at Dortmund.
Norwegian goal-machine Erling Braut Haaland scored twice to make him the Champions League joint top-scorer, but Neymar gave PSG a lifeline for the second leg in Paris on March 11.
He tapped home for what could prove a crucial away goal after being set up by France striker Kylian Mbappe in the second half.
Teenage record-breaker Erling Braut Haaland warned Borussia Dortmund still have it all to do to reach the Champions League quarter-finals even after his two goals sank Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain.
Haaland netted either side of a Neymar equaliser on Tuesday as the Brazilian superstar scored on his return from injury as the French champions crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Dortmund in the last 16, first leg, tie.
“We want to go through, it’s going to be a hard game,” Haaland said of the return leg in Paris on March 11, “but we are a good team.
“The result is quite a dangerous one, as Paris has a very strong team and can still go through in the return leg.”
Haaland’s team-mate Emre Can, who alongside Axel Witsel worked tirelessly in Dortmund’s midfield to contain Neymar and France striker Kylian Mbappe, said the home side’s defence had been key.
“It was a big statement from the team how we defended today. We know it’s not over — it’s just half-time,” said Can, whose permanent transfer from Juventus was confirmed Tuesday.
However, the night belonged Haaland who has 11 goals in his first seven games for Dortmund and warned there is more to come.
“I feel like I still can do a lot better,” said Haaland.
“I have to work hard to improve to play better at this level.”
Having also scored eight goals for Salzburg in the group stages before his 20 million-euro ($22 million) transfer to Dortmund, Haaland made Champions League history on Tuesday.
His tally of 10 goals in his first seven Champions League matches is now a new record in the competition and makes him the joint top-scorer alongside Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
The teenage goal-machine has so far scored 39 times in 29 games this season for Salzburg and Dortmund.
The 19-year-old had already sent records tumbling since arriving in Dortmund last month when he became the first player to score a hat-trick off the bench on his Bundesliga debut.
His incredible strike for his second goal on Tuesday overshadowed Neymar’s return from a rib injury with PSG desperate to break their last 16 jinx having exited at this stage in the competition in each of the last three seasons.
‘Important Neymar goal’
Paris defender Marquinhos said Neymar’s away goal could prove crucial in the home leg.
“We weren’t intense enough with or without the ball and did a lot of things badly, however the goal we got is important for the second leg,” he said.
The presence of the world’s most expensive player was a major boost for his team, after Neymar missed last season’s surprise last-16 loss to Manchester United with a foot injury.
He also sat out the second leg of their defeat by Real Madrid at the same stage in 2018.
PSG’s German coach Thomas Tuchel admitted Neymar’s lack of match fitness had been a factor in the away defeat, but said his team still has time to find their form.
“Neymar hadn’t played for a fortnight, but he is very important for Kylian (Mbappe), there is harmony between them and if Neymar lacks rhythm, it’s immediately noticeable,” said Tuchel.
“We didn’t have enough possession, we made too many easy mistakes, we weren’t smart enough and we lost the ball too early.
“It’s difficult, but it’s 2-1 and we still have a few games left to get back into the rhythm.”
His counterpart Lucien Favre echoed Haaland’s insistence that the result gives Dortmund only a slender advantage with PSG’s passionate home fans set to get behind their team in the return leg.
“Of course it’s a dangerous result, but we played well in both defence and attack,” said Dortmund’s Swiss coach.
Norway teenager Erling Braut Haaland scored twice as Borussia Dortmund sealed a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain, for whom Neymar scored on his return from injury, in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, first-leg tie.
Forward Haaland took his tally to 11 goals in seven games since Dortmund paid Salzburg 20 million euros ($22 million) for the 19-year-old with second-half goals either side of Neymar’s equaliser.
The Brazil star, who has been sidelined for the last four weeks with a rib injury, gave PSG a life-line with an away goal for the return leg in Paris on March 11 in their bid to reach the quarter-finals after exiting the last 16 in the last three consecutive seasons.
After Haaland stabbed home at the near post to give Dortmund a deserved lead mid-way through the second-half the world’s most expensive player profited from Kylian Mbappe’s final pass and tapped home the equaliser.
After the Neymar missed last season’s surprise last-16 loss to Manchester United with a foot injury, this was exactly what travelling Parisian fans at Signal Iduna Park had wanted to see.
However, PSG were level for just two minutes as Dortmund’s 17-year-old midfield replacement Giovanni Reyna put a pass inside which Haaland smashed into the top corner for the winner.
Dortmund deserved the win with PSG’s star-studded attack, led by Mbappe and Neymar, repeatedly frustrated with Dortmund’s defensive midfielders Axel Witsel and Emre Can on hand to snuff out attacks.
There was very little to separate the teams in the first-half with a saved shot from Dortmund’s English winger Jadon Sancho the only clear-cut chance of the opening 45 minutes.
Dortmund kept finding plenty of holes in midfield with Witsel calling the shots.
His midfield partner Can, whose loan deal from Juventus was made permanent earlier in the day when he signed a four-year contract, had a penalty appeal waved away by referee Jose Montero after being clattered in the area by Marco Verratti.
After the goalless first half, Dortmund poured forward and kept finding spaces to exploit down the flanks.
Soon after Dortmund’s Swiss coach Lucien Favre threw on Reyna, who turned 17 last November, for his Champions League debut, Haaland got the breakthrough soon after when he stabbed home past PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas on 69 minutes.
With their German coach Thomas Tuchel frantically urging them on, PSG were level six minutes later when Mbappe unpicked the Dortmund defence and presented Neymar with a straight-forward finish.
However, the scene was set for Haaland to continue his phenomenal scoring run with some clinical finishing from Reyna’s final pass when he blasted home the winner to the delight of the home crowd.
Neymar has been named in the Paris Saint-Germain squad for Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Borussia Dortmund, despite missing the French club’s last four games through injury.
The world’s most expensive player has been struggling with a rib problem but was expected to be fit in time for the game at Signal Iduna Park.
The Brazilian missed last season’s surprise last-16 loss to Manchester United with a foot injury, while he also sat out the second leg of the defeat at the same stage of the competition by Real Madrid in 2018.
Neymar was rested, along with Kylian Mbappe, for PSG’s remarkable 4-4 draw at Amiens in Ligue 1 on Saturday.
“He will be in Dortmund, I’m sure of it, but without being in the best shape he was in two weeks ago,” Tuchel said before the Amiens game.
“But he will help us. I am sure and convinced of that.”
PSG are yet to reach the Champions League semi-finals since being bought by their Qatari owners in 2011, with their run to the last four in 1994-95 still the closest they have come to lifting the European Cup.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel on Friday said he was “sure” that Neymar would recover from his rib injury in time to play some part in the French club’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Borussia Dortmund next Tuesday.
The world’s most expensive player has been out of action with the problem since the win over Montpellier on February 1 and could miss Saturday’s game against Amiens.
But Tuchel insisted that Neymar would be fit for the clash at Signal Iduna Park.
“Whether or not he plays on Saturday (against Amiens), he will be in Dortmund, I’m sure of it, but without being in the best shape he was in two weeks ago,” said the former Dortmund boss.
“But he will help us. I am sure and convinced of that.”
Neymar missed last season’s surprise Champions League last-16 defeat by Manchester United with a foot injury, and also sat out the second leg of the loss to Real Madrid at the same stage of the competition in 2018.
PSG have still not reached the Champions League semi-finals since their Qatari owners took over in 2011.
While Neymar has been partying with an injured rib, and Kylian Mbappe has been making no attempt to hide his displeasure with his coach, Paris Saint-Germain supporters could be forgiven for having that sinking feeling
.This has been the time of year when the French club’s season has tended to implode in recent years, with three successive eliminations in the first knockout round of the Champions League.
They are currently unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions after Tuesday’s 2-1 success at Nantes, and sit 12 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
However, everything is gearing up towards their Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund, with the first leg in Germany on February 18.
PSG have not made it beyond the last 16 in four years, with the nature of defeats against Barcelona in 2017 and Manchester United last season helping make them something of a laughing stock around Europe.
Injuries to Neymar at this stage in each of the last two years proved crucial, so fans of a nervous disposition will be hoping the rib injury suffered by the Brazilian against Montpellier last weekend is nothing more than a short-term problem.
The injury did not prevent the world’s most expensive player from staging a lavish party at a Parisian nightclub for his 28th birthday last Sunday, but it did keep him out of the Nantes game.
With the Dortmund first leg coming into view, he could be rested for this Sunday’s visit of Lyon.
“I hope he can play on Sunday,” said coach Thomas Tuchel. “He was in pain at half-time against Montpellier. He is in exceptional form, but we will decide later. He needs to manage the pain.”
Meanwhile, Mbappe seems certain to play, just as he did in midweek despite an angry reaction to being substituted against Montpellier which has brought back the rumours that the 21-year-old — regularly linked with Real Madrid — may not stick around in Paris too much longer.
“He was decisive for us. There was no need for him to show a reaction,” Tuchel said of Mbappe’s midweek performance. The France star is PSG’s leading scorer this season with 22 goals.
The days when Lyon were the most feared opponents in the country are long gone, and they have taken just two points from their last 11 visits to Paris.
Rudi Garcia’s side are also struggling in sixth place just now after a soporific 0-0 draw with Amiens in midweek.
With or without Neymar, PSG will surely be too strong for them. It is the Dortmund tie that really matters though, and Tuchel needs his two biggest stars fully fit and focused in time for the trip to Germany.
Player to watch: Stephy Mavididi
One of that rare breed of English players trying his luck abroad, the 21-year-old, Derby-born forward Mavididi is currently a regular in a Dijon team battling to avoid relegation.
Mavididi left Arsenal without playing a top-team game and last year he joined Juventus — becoming their first English player since David Platt in 1992 — after being scouted by Giorgio Chiellini’s brother.
After one appearance for Juve last season, he was allowed to move to France on loan and he has already scored three times for the Burgundy side, who host Nantes this weekend.
4 – The number of goals scored by Mbappe in a 5-0 win when PSG hosted Lyon last season.
15 – Marseille are unbeaten in 15 games in all competitions, including 12 in the league, as they host bottom club Toulouse, who have taken one solitary point over the same period.
12 – The number of league goals scored by Metz captain Habib Diallo this season. The club that brought Sadio Mane, Ismaila Sarr and Papiss Cisse to Europe have unearthed another Senegalese gem.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Angers v Lille (1945)
Marseille v Toulouse (1630), Amiens v Monaco, Dijon v Nantes, Metz v Bordeaux, Nice v Nimes, Rennes v Brest (all 1900)
Montpellier v Saint-Etienne (1400), Strasbourg v Reims (1600), Paris Saint-Germain v Lyon (2000)
Borussia Dortmund were dealt a blow on Wednesday after announcing that captain Marco Reus has picked up a muscle injury that should keep him out of the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
In a statement Dortmund said the 30-year-old should be out “for around four weeks” after picking up the injury late in Tuesday’s 3-2 German Cup defeat at Werder Bremen, ruling him out of the home leg of the PSG clash on February 18.
He should, however, be back for the return leg in Paris on March 11.
Germany forward will be a big miss for Dortmund, as he has scored 12 goals and set up seven more this season.
Teenage striking sensation Erling Braut Haaland scored his eighth goal in just four games for Dortmund at Bremen, but could not stop his new side crashing out of the cup.
Edinson Cavani wants to join Atletico Madrid and is being treated “unfairly” by Paris Saint-Germain, the Uruguay striker’s father said on Wednesday.
Cavani, 32, has fallen out of favour at PSG, where he is competing with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Mauro Icardi and Angel di Maria for starting spots in the attack.
Several clubs are reportedly keen on signing Cavani, who has scored a club-record 198 goals for PSG and whose contract expires in the summer. Atletico appear to be the 32-year-old’s preferred choice but the La Liga outfit and PSG are yet to agree on a fee.
“I would like him to play there, (Atletico coach Diego) Simeone wants him now but the head coach of Paris Saint-Germain (Thomas Tuchel) says he needs him to help them compete in the Champions League,” Cavani’s father Luis told Spanish television programme El Chiringuito.
“I think there is a strong chance he will go to Atletico. There is also the option to join the club in June. There are lots of other clubs interested but when you give your word to a team, you respect it.
“If he is allowed to leave tomorrow and Atletico still want him, I think he will sign. He is a player who needs time to play and at the moment he only plays four or six minutes per game. PSG are treating him unfairly.”
Atletico have struggled for goals this season and currently sit third in La Liga, eight points behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Cavani would give the club a welcome mid-season boost, with a crunch last-16 tie against Liverpool to come in the Champions League next month.
“Paris Saint-Germain have rejected three bids from Atletico Madrid,” Cavani’s mother Berta Gomez told Madrid newspaper AS on Wednesday.
“My son has asked to leave and we are waiting for an agreement from both clubs.
“He is angry because he does not understand why are blocking him leaving if they do not count on him to play.”
Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani’s desire to leave Paris Saint-Germain has stoked the interest of Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, who has bemoaned his players’ lack of clinical finishing.
Tammy Abraham has scored 16 goals in all competitions this season but Lampard is aware that he needs support.
The 1-0 defeat by Newcastle on Saturday highlighted a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal with defeat preventing Chelsea from extending their advantage over their rivals for a Champions League place.
Fourth-placed Chelsea play Arsenal on Tuesday and are presently five points clear of Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Arsenal are 10 points adrift of their London rivals.
Cavani is PSG’s record goalscorer with 198 but the 116-times capped striker told the board he wanted to leave for Atletico Madrid having fallen behind Mauro Icardi in the pecking order this season.
However, Lampard said he would be interested in a striker of the 32-year-old’s class when he was told at the eve of match press conference of Cavani’s desire to leave PSG.
“He’s a great player,” said Lampard of Cavani.
“I played against him and I always loved his mentality and attitude, and obviously his goal-scoring record speaks for itself.
“I’m not absolutely aware of what the situation is, so we’ll see.
“The idea of bringing in experience is something I’m certainly not absolutely looking away from.
“Because sometimes the young players need a little bit of help, and if that’s the case then that may help us.”
Lampard denied that defeat by Newcastle made it all the more urgent he delve into the transfer market.
“I don’t think Newcastle hastens anything, it’s just we couldn’t do any business in the summer window,” said Lampard referring to the FIFA transfer ban which has now been lifted but which existed in the close season.
“At this point, it’s something (lack of accurate finishing) we’ve seen as a bit of a problem in our home games.
“So we’ve got to work hard with the group here, and then if we can improve in terms of goal scoring, it’s for sure something we have to look at.”
Neymar marked his first start in a Champions League game in a year by scoring one goal and setting up two more as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 5-0 win over Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia netted in the first half at the Parc des Princes, with the world’s most expensive player getting his team’s third within two minutes of the restart.
Kylian Mbappe scored the fourth goal and substitute Edinson Cavani added a late penalty as PSG — who had already qualified for the last 16 as group winners – made it 16 points out of a possible 18 in Group A to finish five points ahead of Real Madrid.
However, it was Neymar who made the biggest impression, four days after starring in a 3-1 domestic victory at Montpellier and an injury-ravaged year to the day after his last start in Europe, against Red Star Belgrade.
“Neymar was already super important in a very difficult game at Montpellier. He was decisive in that game and he is improving,” said coach Thomas Tuchel.
“He is working hard off the ball, and going forward he is finding his form. It is easier now for him to accelerate, and he was really, really good.”
Despite PSG already being through and France being in the grip of a transport strike that has almost completely shut down the Paris metro system, the Parc des Princes was still largely full.
That included a sizeable travelling support, and there were incidents outside the stadium ahead of the match between rival fan groups, with police responding by firing tear gas before calm returned.
The game itself carried the air of a training exercise for the home side, with Tuchel resting stars such as Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
There was a start in midfield for the 17-year-old Tanguy Kouassi, who made his senior debut last weekend and has still not signed full professional terms.
A year in the wilderness
The two biggest stars were on the pitch, though, and both Neymar and Mbappe proved too hot for the Turkish champions to handle.
Mbappe lifted the ball over advancing Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, leaving Icardi with an easy finish to make it 1-0 just after the half-hour mark.
It was Icardi’s 12th goal of the season and it was followed three minutes later by Sarabia controlling Neymar’s pass and firing low into the far corner.
After that Red Star game at the end of last season’s group phase, in which Neymar scored in a 4-1 win, he went on to miss both legs of the last-16 defeat against Manchester United due to injury.
He then sat out the first three games of this European campaign because of suspension, and was injured again for the following match, a 1-0 win over Club Brugge.
Neymar returned for the 2-2 draw at Real Madrid a fortnight ago, but only as a substitute.
The Brazilian collected Mbappe’s lay-off and fired low into the net to make it 3-0 in the 47th minute and then returned the favour, releasing the French World Cup winner to score his fifth Champions League goal of the season and make it 4-0 after the hour mark.
All that was left was for Cavani — the real PSG fans’ favourite currently relegated to the role of back-up — to convert a late penalty, making it 5-0 after Mbappe had been brought down, with Neymar happy for the Uruguay striker to take over penalty duties.
“We are in this together as a team and I hope him giving the penalty to ‘Edi’ is a symbol for the team this season,” added Tuchel.
Galatasaray finish with a paltry one goal and two points in the group and miss out on the consolation of a Europa League spot in the new year to Club Brugge.