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Neymar back for PSG in time for decisive week

neymar back for psg in time for decisive week

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar warms up during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 2, 2020. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain are heading into a potentially decisive week in their season, with Mauricio Pochettino’s side facing Ligue 1 title rivals Lille on Saturday before a trip to Germany for a rematch of last season’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich.

The quarter-final first leg away to a Bayern side missing Robert Lewandowski is already dominating headlines in France, as PSG seek revenge for their 1-0 defeat in the final in Lisbon last August.

The absence of Lewandowski could even swing the tie PSG’s way, especially as the French giants have Neymar fit again after a recent spell on the sidelines.

He has played just 20 minutes since early February but is fresh after the postponement of South American World Cup qualifying fixtures meant he was not needed by Brazil last week.

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However, before heading to the Allianz Arena, PSG have domestic matters to deal with as the top four in Ligue 1 remain separated by just four points.

PSG lead Lille in second only on goal difference, with Lyon three points back in third and Monaco another point behind in fourth.

Monaco can close the gap when they host Metz early on Saturday, while Lyon go to Lens later.

“All the teams are stronger this season which has made the league harder to win and created more suspense,” Parisian midfielder Leandro Paredes suggested to PSG TV.

Pochettino’s men nevertheless have the momentum, having won 4-2 in Lyon last time out after beating Lille 3-0 in a French Cup tie a few days previously.

However, they may not have playmaker Marco Verratti, at least against Lille, after he returned from international duty with Italy carrying a knock.

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Lille had been top before a shock defeat by struggling Nimes in their last outing which left them with just two wins in their last six league games.

It could be difficult for them to recover in the event of another defeat, at a time when reports are linking coach Christophe Galtier with a move to rivals Lyon in the summer.

Player to watch: Stevan Jovetic
The 31-year-old former Manchester City striker has emerged as a key player in a Monaco side who remain title contenders. Jovetic has scored five times for the principality club in 2021, despite starting on just three occasions since the turn of the year.

Almost always consigned to the role of substitute, he was chosen ahead of French international Wissam Ben Yedder for the 4-0 win at Saint-Etienne last time out and duly scored the opening goal.

He built on that by scoring three times in three games for Montenegro in World Cup qualifying and will now hope to be selected by coach Niko Kovac for Saturday’s clash with Metz as fourth-placed Monaco look to extend a run of one defeat in 15 outings.

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“It is going to be an important day, but I don’t think anyone will be out of the running if they lose,” Kovac said of Saturday’s games in the title race.

Key stats
25 – Lille have not won away to PSG in the top flight in 25 years, since a 1-0 victory in April 1996.

200 – If he plays against Lille, PSG captain Marquinhos will make his 200th appearance in Ligue 1. The Brazil centre-back was signed from Roma aged 19 in 2013.

100 – Kylian Mbappe scored his 99th and 100th Ligue 1 goals in PSG’s last outing at Lyon. Aged 22, he has needed just 142 games to reach the landmark.

10 – Bottom side Dijon have lost their last 10 Ligue 1 games.

Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)
Saturday

Monaco v Metz (1100), Paris Saint-Germain v Lille (1500), Lens v Lyon (1900)

Sunday

Angers v Montpellier (1100), Bordeaux v Strasbourg, Lorient v Brest, Nantes v Nice, Reims v Rennes (all 1300), Nimes v Saint-Etienne (1505), Marseille v Dijon (1900)

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