Lack Of ‘Killer Instinct’ Leaves Bayern Facing Champions League Exit

Bayern Munich’s Austrian defender David Alaba (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in Munich, southern Germany, on April 7, 2021. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

 

 

Thomas Mueller says holders Bayern Munich must show their “killer instincts” and finish their chances at Paris Saint-Germain in Tuesday’s return leg to avoid a Champions League quarter-finals exit after losing to the French giants at home.

Bayern badly missed injured striker Robert Lewandowski in Wednesday’s first leg as the hosts converted just two of their 31 shots on goal, while Kylian Mbappe scored twice from the six chances PSG created all game in their 3-2 away victory at the Allianz Arena.

Despite falling snow in Munich, PSG turned up the heat on the holders and the French giants are hot favourites for the return in Paris.

“If we had shown the killer instinct that often characterises us, we would have seen a completely different game,” fumed goal-scorer Mueller.

While Bayern failed to take their chances, PSG took all theirs as clinical passes from Brazil star Neymar saw the visitors racing into a 2-0 lead with early goals by Mbappe and PSG captain Marquinhos.

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring the 2-3 goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in Munich, southern Germany, on April 7, 2021. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

 

Bayern clawed their way back to 2-2 with headed goals by Lewandowski’s under-study Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Mueller, but Mbappe’s superb shot midway through the second-half sealed PSG’s win.

“We’ve made our bed, now we have to lie in it and chase down the deficit,” Mueller added with Bayern needing at least two goals in Paris.

– ‘Nothing is won yet’ –
The holders must do so without Lewandowski, who is sidelined by a knee injury and says he will not be ready for the return leg.

“It’s too early,” the Poland striker said, “I’m doing everything to get back on the pitch, but only if I feel really good and sure about my health.”.

While both Mbappe (“nothing is won yet”) and PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino (“everything is still open”) are talking up Bayern’s chances in the return, the holders are under intense pressure.

PSG ended Bayern’s 19-match unbeaten run in Europe and while Flick suffered his first Champions League defeat as head coach, Bayern’s boss remains defiant.

“We are still in good spirits,” he insisted.

“If you look at our game, you can look positively to Paris.

“We will try everything there to get to the semi-finals.”

Flick substituted midfielder Leon Goretzka for the pace of Alphonso Davies and swapped Niklas Suele for the more experienced Jerome Boateng in the first half as Bayern fought back.

Behind the scenes, tensions appear to be brewing with Flick implying he is unhappy with the decision to not extend the contract of 32-year-old Boateng, who will leave at the end of the season.

Mueller says whoever starts Tuesday’s return leg must do their job to ensure Bayern take their chances at PSG’s Parc des Princes.

“We didn’t expect to lose Goretzka and Suele during the game, but all the players who are here have what it takes to keep up in the big games,” said Mueller.

“If we put this performance on the pitch in Paris, we will get the chances again.

“Then we have to be there (to take our chances).”

AFP

Mbappe Double Gives PSG Edge Over Holders Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich’s Austrian defender David Alaba (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in Munich, southern Germany, on April 7, 2021. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

 

 

Kylian Mbappe insisted Paris Saint-Germain still have it all to do after he scored twice in a thrilling 3-2 win at holders Bayern Munich in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg, in a repeat of last year’s final.

Bayern had their 19-match unbeaten run ended in the Champions League with their first European defeat since March 2019 as head coach Hansi Flick suffered his first loss in Europe.

PSG raced into a 2-0 lead after just 28 minutes behind closed doors at the Allianz Arena as Neymar created goals for Mbappe and Marquinhos.

Bayern, whose top scorer Robert Lewandowski is sidelined by a knee injury, drew level with headed goals by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Mueller.

However, Mbappe showed his class with a superb second goal to give the visitors an advantage for the return leg in Paris.

“We used all our chances and had a bit of luck, but nothing has been decided,” Mbappe told Sky, with the return leg to come in Paris on Tuesday.

PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas played a key role with a string of saves as Bayern peppered his goal with 31 shots compared to the French club’s six.

“We have to score a lot more goals,” said Mueller. “If it had ended 5-3 or 6-3 for us, no one could have complained based on the chances.”

“We scored the goals at the right times,” said PSG forward Julian Draxler.

“We had a lot of hard work to do because the way they play is dangerous – with or without Lewandowski.”

This was a record 19th appearance in the Champions League quarter-finals for Bayern, but there was little for the Bavarian giants to celebrate at the final whistle.

– Marquinhos scores and limps off –
Covid-19 cast its shadow over both teams with Bayern winger Serge Gnabry, plus PSG pair Alessandro Florenzi and Marco Verratti quarantined after testing positive.

Heavy snow fell in the first half in Munich as the visitors put the heat on the holders.

The opening goal came after Neymar sprinted through a gaping hole in the defence and laid the ball off for Mbappe, whose shot flew into the net through Manuel Neuer’s legs.

PSG’s Germany forward Draxler had a goal disallowed with Mbappe offside in the build-up as the visitors kept up the pressure.

Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka powered a header into the feet of Navas just before the hosts fell two goals behind.

A clearance kick only got as far as Neymar, whose ball over the top found Marquinhos unmarked in the area to stroke his shot past Neuer, shortly before the PSG captain limped off injured.

Flick responded by bringing on Alphonso Davies to provide pace on the flanks and moved David Alaba into defensive midfield.

The hosts pulled a goal back when Mueller’s cross was headed past Navas by Choupo-Moting to make it 2-1 at half-time.

Neymar and Mbappe had efforts saved off the line, while Leroy Sane went close at the other end for Bayern as both teams had their chances after the break.

Bayern then equalised when Mueller nodded in a superb Joshua Kimmich free-kick on the hour.

However, the wintry night in Munich belonged to Mbappe, who showed his class by turning Bayern defender Jerome Boateng inside and out before driving his shot past Neuer with 22 minutes left.

Bayern went down fighting as Alaba and Mueller both fired agonisingly wide in the dying stages.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring the 2-3 goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between FC Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in Munich, southern Germany, on April 7, 2021. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

Bayern Draw PSG, Real Face Liverpool In Champions League Quarter Finals

In this handout picture taken and made available on March 19, 2021, by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the quarter-final teams are displayed on the screen before the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals draw at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon. Valentin FLAURAUD / UEFA / AFP

 

Holders Bayern Munich will face last year’s beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals of this season’s Champions League, while Friday’s draw for the last eight also threw up a clash between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

The draw also pitted Premier League leaders Manchester City against Borussia Dortmund, with Chelsea set to play Porto in the other tie.

Bayern defeated PSG 1-0 behind closed doors in Lisbon last August to win their sixth European Cup and remain the team to beat in Europe, having won 18 and drawn one of their 19 games in the Champions League since the beginning of last season.

The first leg is set to be played in Germany on April 6 or 7, with the return in Paris a week later.


Draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, made on Friday:

Quarter-Finals

Manchester City (ENG) v Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Porto (POR) v Chelsea (ENG)

Bayern Munich (GER) v Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)

Real Madrid (ESP) v Liverpool (ENG)

First legs April 6/7, second legs April 13/14


Meanwhile, the meeting of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Real is another re-run of a recent final, with the Spaniards beating the Reds 3-1 in Kyiv in 2018 to win the last of their record 13 titles to date.

Liverpool bounced back from that to lift the trophy for the sixth time in Madrid in 2019.

Klopp’s side are due to be away from home in the first leg, but it remains to be seen where that match will be played.

Atletico Madrid’s home leg against Chelsea in the last 16 ended up being moved to the Romanian capital Bucharest due to restrictions imposed on travel to Spain by British authorities.

The winner between Liverpool and Real will go onto a semi-final against either Chelsea or Porto, throwing up the possibility of an all-English last-four tie.

Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semi-finals in 2005 and again in 2007.

Unbeaten in 13 games since the appointment of Thomas Tuchel as coach in late January, Chelsea will be expected to get the better of Portuguese champions Porto, who ousted Juventus in the last 16.

However, that tie could also be relocated given travel restrictions between the United Kingdom and Portugal which prompted both legs of last month’s Europa League clash between Arsenal and Benfica to be played at neutral venues, in Italy and Greece.

Meanwhile, City will be strong favourites against Dortmund, with the winner of that tie going through to a semi-final showdown with either Bayern or PSG.

Travel restrictions between the UK and Germany could also have an impact on City’s tie against Erling Braut Haaland’s Dortmund.

Both legs of City’s last-16 tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach were played in Budapest, as were both legs of Liverpool’s tie against RB Leipzig in the last round.

This season’s semi-finals are due to be played in late April and early May, with the final scheduled for May 29 in Istanbul.

AFP

Paris Saint-Germain Beat Lille To Reach French Cup Quarters

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (R) runs with the ball past Lille’s Portuguese defender Tiago Djalo to score a goal during the French Cup round of 16 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

 

Paris Saint-Germain cruised into the quarter-finals of the French Cup on Wednesday while striking a psychological blow in their pursuit of the Ligue 1 title, as they beat top-of-the-table Lille 3-0.

It was the perfect response from PSG after their shock weekend home loss to struggling Nantes, which was overshadowed by thefts at the homes of Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos during the match.

“We have had a difficult last few days, the players and their families,” said PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino gestures during the French Cup round of 16 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

“Nobody is prepared for this kind of situation. The players did a great job to stay focused, their state of mind was extraordinary. Angel and Marquinhos felt good to play.”

In the first of two meetings between the teams at the Parc des Princes either side of the international break, the difference was a series of mistakes by Lille at key moments.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian midfielder Marco Verratti (R) vies for the ball with Lille’s French midfielder Benjamin Andre during the French Cup round of 16 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

“It’s always the same, against Paris it’s in the zones of truth that it counts,” said Lille midfielder Benjamin Andre.

When Di Maria swung a low cross into the near post after nine minutes, Lille defender Tiago Djalo took a wild swing. Goalkeeper Mike Maignan lunged at the deflected ball, only pawing it towards his own goal. Mauro Icardi just needed to gather his wits before rolling into the empty net.

Icardi limped off on 36 minutes to be replaced by Kylian Mbappe, who had started on the bench.

Four minutes later, Mbappe meandered along the edge of the Lille penalty area until Zeki Celik took the bait, stuck out a knee and brought the striker down.

After outraged Lille protests, Mbappe smacked the spot-kick into the roof of the net.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts after scoring this team’s third goal during the French Cup round of 16 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

“Our first half was timid, I think we watched them play a bit too much,” said Lille coach Christophe Galtier, who made clear he thought the referee had also had a bad first half.

“They have the control, the experience, they have the ability to put everyone to sleep, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone.”

Lille had a chance when they won a penalty of their own with 13 minutes to play, after Jeremy Pied’s cross from the byline struck Layvin Kurzawa’s outstretched hand.

Again Lille wavered as Keylor Navas dived to save Yusuf Yazici’s tame penalty.

“Keylor is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, his level is incredible,” said Pochettino.

Three minutes into added time, Djalo, on the halfway line, misjudged a PSG clearance. Mbappe pounced, raced away from the Lille defender and drilled the third past Maignan.

“We didn’t play a cup game,” said Galtier. “In the cup, at the end you either qualify or you’re out. The score may seem harsh, but we can’t compete with Paris if we only play one half.”

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s players celebrate after their Paris Saint-Germain’s Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas blocked a penalty kick during the French Cup round of 16 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s players celebrate after winning the French Cup round of 16 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lille (LOSC) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

PSG, the defending champions, trail Lille by three points in Ligue 1 and a return date is on the horizon. After PSG visit third-place Lyon on Sunday while Lille host struggling Nimes, the pair meet again at the Parc des Princes after the international break.

“On April 3, it will be another approach, another competition,” said Pochettino. “We have Lyon on Sunday and then in the two weeks after that, we’ll have to recharge our batteries after these first two months of madness.”

PSG Loss Overshadowed By Thefts At Di Maria, Marquinhos Homes

File COMBO of Marquinhos-Di-Maria

 

Paris Saint-Germain forward Angel Di Maria was the victim of a burglary during Sunday’s loss to Nantes, while robbers also targeted the family home of captain Marquinhos, the latest in a spate of thefts at the club.

Thieves stole jewellery and watches from the house of Argentine international Di Maria in the western Paris suburbs, but “there was no violence” involved, sources told AFP on Monday.

According to the police’s special anti-robbery squad, the player’s family was home at the time but “didn’t come across” the thieves, a source close to the case explained.

They “didn’t hear anything” during the ransacking of a safe located upstairs in the home in Neuilly, a police source added. The value of stolen goods has yet to be assessed but is said to be less than 500,000 euros ($600,000).

Di Maria last week signed a one-year extension to his PSG contract until 2022. He was replaced an hour into the 2-1 loss to Nantes following a discussion between sporting director Leonardo and coach Mauricio Pochettino.

The family home of Brazil international Marquinhos was also robbed in the Paris region.

The player’s father and two sisters were home during the break-in. A police source said the father was struck in the ribs by the attackers but no injuries were sustained. Several bags containing valuables were stolen, the contents of which have yet to be determined.

PSG forward Mauro Icardi was the victim of a break-in at his home last month. Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting were also robbed in recent years while playing for the club.

The commotion off the field seemed to affect PSG’s players as Nantes dealt the French champions a seventh Ligue 1 defeat of the season.

“It’s not an excuse but there has been an unusual drop in energy,” Pochettino said after the match. “We spoke with the players but not about what happened in terms of the football.”

“There are situations outside the game which must be considered.”

Di Maria previously admitted that an attempted robbery on his family’s home during his one year at Manchester United, in 2014-15, had left him keen to leave the Premier League club.

-AFP

Messi Misses Penalty As Barcelona Fail In Latest PSG Comeback Attempt

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian midfielder Angel Di Maria (R) kisses Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

 

Paris Saint-Germain reached the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday after a 1-1 draw with Barcelona gave them a 5-2 aggregate last-16 win, with Lionel Messi scoring but then missing a penalty for the Spanish giants.

PSG were in front after half an hour when Kylian Mbappe converted a penalty to become the youngest player to score 25 goals in the tournament.

Messi, however, levelled for 1-1 with a 25-yard drive which flew past Keylor Navas in goal.

Messi then missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time as he exited the tournament just 24 hours after fellow veteran star Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus was also knocked out.

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian midfielder Angel Di Maria (R) kisses Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (L) celebrates after scoring a penalty kick during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on March 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

Neymar Loses Battle To Be Fit For Barcelona Showdown

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar looks on during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 9, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar looks on during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 9, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Neymar will not be available for Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League decider with Barcelona after failing to shake off a thigh injury, the French champions said on Tuesday.

In a statement, PSG said that Brazil forward Neymar “will continue his individual training”, saying that a new assessment would be made “in the coming days”.

The 29-year-old had begun training with the squad again last week but will not return in time for Wednesday’s last 16, second leg clash with his former club at the Parc des Princes.

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Neymar has been out of action since mid-February after picking up the thigh injury in PSG’s French Cup victory over Caen.

The injury meant he also missed the first leg at the Camp Nou, which PSG won 4-1.

PSG Suffer First Defeat Under Pochettino After Lorient Comeback

Lorient’s Nigerian forward Terem Moffi (C) shoots and scores a goal with during the French L1 football match between FC Lorient and Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade Yves-Allainmat stadium, in Lorient, western France, on January 31, 2021. (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain suffered their first defeat under Mauricio Pochettino as lowly Lorient fought back to claim a dramatic 3-2 victory on Sunday and prevent the defending champions from retaking top spot in Ligue 1.

Neymar scored two penalties but the visitors collapsed late on at the Stade du Moustoir, as Nigerian Terem Moffi netted an injury-time winner.

The loss saw PSG stay one point behind league leaders Lyon, although third-placed Lille could go two points clear when they host Dijon later on Sunday.

“We have to keep the positive aspects and move forward,” said former Tottenham manager Pochettino.

“Accidents happen in football. We have to keep working. It makes us realise that it can happen if we don’t play at 100 percent.”

It was the first defeat in six games as PSG coach for Pochettino since he took over from the sacked Thomas Tuchel.

The win takes struggling Lorient into the relegation play-off spot.

“(Moffi’s goal) was magical. Against PSG, it’s even crazier,” said Lorient’s Laurent Abergel, who scored the opening goal.

“For a Marseille fan like me, the first dream is perhaps to play for OM and the second to beat PSG.”

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Lorient started brightly and had the first real shot in anger in the 30th minute, as Adrian Grbic’s long-range strike had to be pushed away by PSG goalkeeper Sergio Rico.

The hosts did take the lead six minutes later, though, as PSG failed several times to clear and Abergel picked out the top corner with the outside of his left boot.

Neymar levelled on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot with his fifth league goal of the season.

PSG improved after the break and took the lead in the 57th minute as Houboulang Mendes, who also conceded the first penalty, brought down Mauro Icardi and Neymar again made no mistake.

It was the first time since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2015 that a PSG player had netted two spot-kicks in a Ligue 1 match.

The visitors pressed for a third, but Lorient goalkeeper Matthieu Dreyer made an excellent stop to keep out an Icardi header.

That proved to be crucial, as the stubborn home side equalised in the 80th minute.

Substitute Yoane Wissa scored an excellent individual goal, his sixth of his first full campaign as a top-flight player.

PSG went in search of a winner, but the closest they came saw full-back Layvin Kurzawa’s drive fly narrowly wide.

They over-committed in the second minute of added time, leaving no defenders within 60 yards of their own goal as Moffi was sent racing clean through.

The 21-year-old, on as a sub, slotted the ball into the bottom corner to spark wild celebrations for the home team.

PSG Confirms Sack Of Tuchel, Pochettino Favourite To Take Over

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 29, 2019 during a press conference at the Camp des Loges in Saint-Germain-en-Laye shows German coach Thomas Tuchel who has been sacked as Paris Saint-Germain’s head coach on December 24, 2020. – The French champions declined to make any comment when contacted by AFP to confirm the reports carried by L’Equipe newspaper and RMC and German tabloid Bild. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday confirmed the sacking of coach Thomas Tuchel, who had been at the club since July 2018, but did not name his successor.

“After an in-depth analysis of its sporting situation, Paris Saint-Germain decided to terminate Thomas Tuchel’s contract,” the French giants announced in a statement.

Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino, the ex-Tottenham coach and a former PSG player, is widely reported to be the favourite to take over.

Tuchel, whose axing was widely reported but unconfirmed last week, managed PSG 127 times in all competitions, with 95 wins, 12 draws and 20 defeats.

His trophy haul featured two Ligue 1 titles (2019, 2020) as well as the French Cup and French League Cup in 2020.

READ ALSO: Croatia Hit By Powerful 6.4 Earthquake

The 47-year-old German also led the Parisian club to their first ever Champions League final last August, which they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

Despite appearing to be adept at man-managing PSG’s squad of superstar players such as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Tuchel reportedly upset the Qatari-backed club after complaining about an apparent lack of recognition at leading PSG to the Champions League final.

“I would like to thank Thomas Tuchel and his staff for all they have contributed to the club,” said PSG chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi.

“Thomas has put a lot of energy and passion into the job, and we will of course remember the good moments we shared together. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Less than three months on from the final defeat to Bayern Munich in Lisbon, Tuchel has become the first PSG coach to leave mid-season since Antoine Kombouare was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in December 2011.
– Barca date looms –

Tuchel departs the Parc des Princes having secured a last 16 Champions League clash with Barcelona and PSG sitting third in Ligue 1 — a point shy of leaders Lyon — despite being plagued by injuries, suspensions and coronavirus infections.

Should Pochettino take over, his opening match in charge will be January 6’s trip to Saint-Etienne on Ligue 1’s resumption after the winter break.

Then, on February 16, the Argentinian could face his first massive test against his compatriot Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, with the return leg on March 6.

Pochettino was let go after five and a half years at Tottenham in the aftermath of leading the north London side to their first ever appearance in a Champions League final against Liverpool in 2019.

Although he has yet to win any silverware the former PSG defender’s stock is high in managerial circles.

The Parisians will be keen to complete his signing and avoid missing their man who has been linked to the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barca in recent months.

Importantly, Pochettino, like Tuchel, is at ease in man-managing a dressing room crammed with a galaxy of stars.

Neymar has been at the centre of new controversy this week after Brazilian media reported that he is organising a huge New Year’s Eve party despite the coronavirus pandemic — claims his lawyers have denied.

Pochettino is the son of a farmer from Murphy, in the north of Argentina.

He is known as a stickler for detail, which coupled with his tactical acumen, devotion to an attractive style of play and his popularity amongst Parisian fans, makes him a potentially ideal fit as the new occupant of the PSG dugout.

He would have under his wing several compatriots such as Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes.

His anticipated arrival before the winter transfer window will allow him to bring in new faces, potentially one former Spurs charge, Inter Milan’s attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen.

And looking further ahead, given their Argentine ties, Pochettino may be the catalyst for six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi to start regarding PSG as potential new employers when he is free to move from the Camp Nou at the end of the season.

AFP

PSG Sack Coach Tuchel, Pochettino Likely Replacement

This file photo taken on April 29, 2019 during a press conference at the Camp des Loges in Saint-Germain-en-Laye shows German coach Thomas Tuchel who has been sacked as Paris Saint-Germain's head coach on December 24, 2020. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
This file photo taken on April 29, 2019 during a press conference at the Camp des Loges in Saint-Germain-en-Laye shows German coach Thomas Tuchel who has been sacked as Paris Saint-Germain’s head coach on December 24, 2020. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain have fired their coach Thomas Tuchel with former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino lined up as his replacement, according to various media reports on Thursday.

The French champions declined to make any comment when contacted by AFP to confirm the reports carried by L’Equipe newspaper and RMC and German tabloid Bild.

The 47-year-old German arrived at the Parc des Princes on a two-year contract in 2018, and guided PSG to their first ever Champions League final last season.

READ ALSO: Neymar Set For PSG Return In January

But now, if the reports are confirmed, less than three months on from that final against Bayern Munich in Lisbon, Tuchel has become the first PSG coach to leave mid-season since Antoine Kombouare was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in December 2011.

Pochettino left Tottenham in November 2019, six months after leading them into their first Champions League final.

This season Tuchel has led PSG to a last 16 date with Barcelona in the Champions League, while on the domestic front the Qatari-backed side are one point off the top of the table in Ligue 1.

 

AFP

Neymar Set For PSG Return In January

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar reacts after being injured during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lyon (OL), on December 13, 2020 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Neymar is “expected” to make his return from an ankle injury next month, Paris Saint-Germain announced on Saturday.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel had said he was hoping Neymar might be fit to play a part in Sunday’s clash with Ligue 1 leaders Lille, but the Parisians said in a statement the Brazil attacker would be out until the New Year.

“There is some bruising to the bone and he continues to undergo treatment at the training ground,” the French champions said in a statement.

“He is expected to make his return in January.”

That would see the world’s most expensive player return comfortably in time for PSG’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona on February 16.

Neymar, who has scored nine goals this season, suffered a sprained ankle after a challenge from Lyon midfielder Thiago Mendes earlier this month.

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)