Football: Ney, it's not a big problem for PSG

Dani Alves, PSG dfender
Dani Alves, PSG dfenderPHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Alves backs Neymar-less team to reach latter stages of Champions League, demands focus

PARIS • Paris-Saint Germain fans could be forgiven for feeling deflated after talisman Neymar was ruled out for up to three months following surgery on his broken metatarsal on Saturday.

But team-mate Dani Alves has insisted PSG cannot afford to wallow in self-pity ahead of today's Champions League last-16 second leg at home against Real Madrid.

"We always have two options - either we sit down and cry, or we get up and do what we have to do," said Alves when asked about the absence of his compatriot, who is recovering in his native Brazil.

"With Neymar, PSG are stronger, and without Ney, we are still strong because there are other players.

"For sure, we will feel his absence. But I insist that between sitting down and crying and getting up and getting on with it, I always opt for the second option."

The hope for PSG is that they might be able to get their €222 million (S$361 million) world-record signing back for the latter stages should the player make a faster-than-expected recovery.

But in order to first make it to the quarter-finals in mid-April, they will need to overturn a 1-3 deficit against the defending champions following their defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu last month.

TEAM EFFORT

With Neymar, PSG are stronger, and without Ney, we are still strong because there are other players. For sure, we will feel his absence. But I insist that between sitting down and crying and getting up and getting on with it, I always opt for the second option.

DANI ALVES, PSG defender, on how his team have enough strength in depth to cope with the loss of injured star Neymar.

The French Ligue 1 leaders have never advanced beyond the quarter-finals since being bought by their Qatari owners in 2011. They have also lost their last five return legs in Europe's elite club competition.

Asked if he had been in touch with his international colleague, Alves said: "I speak with him practically every day so, yes, we have agreed between us that we would see each other again later on in this competition."

In Neymar's absence, winger Angel di Maria is likely to start against his former club, alongside forwards Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani in a rejigged front three at the Parc des Princes.

"When one player is missing, it opens the door for someone else, and I know that whoever comes in will do so with all their force," said PSG coach Unai Emery.

He is confident that centre-back Marquinhos, midfielder Marco Verratti and both Mbappe and Cavani would be ready after minor fitness concerns, with only midfielder Javier Pastore a doubt.

Emery is also hoping that the home crowd can act as their 12th man to compensate for the loss of Neymar.

"You play a game with your head and your heart. Tomorrow, the heart will be the most important thing," said the Spaniard.

"And we will be playing with 12 players tomorrow because we will have the backing of the crowd.

"Our team, even without Neymar, is able to beat the best Real team."

If they are to shake up the established order of European football's elite, PSG will need to be more focused than they were during the first leg, where they conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes.

"In the first leg we played better, had the best opportunities. But this time, we need to do that for 90 minutes, not just 80," Alves said.

Real midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, who have both been struggling with injury, travelled to the French capital with the rest of the squad yesterday.

Left-back Marcelo, who was vital in helping Zinedine Zidane's side score their two late goals against PSG, appears to have won his fitness battle, while right-back Dani Carvajal will also play after being banned for the first leg.

Forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all participated in Saturday's 3-1 Spanish LaLiga win over Getafe and the attacking triumvirate will be expected to start.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2018, with the headline 'Ney, it's not a big problem for PSG'. Print Edition | Subscribe