Football: Neymar, Kylian Mbappe well rested ahead of Anfield visit for Champions League

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has to prepare for his side's Champions League opener against French champions Paris Saint-Germain knowing their star forwards Neymar (far left) and Kylian Mbappe, seen during a training session in Paris, were wrapped i
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has to prepare for his side's Champions League opener against French champions Paris Saint-Germain knowing their star forwards Neymar (left) and Kylian Mbappe, seen during a training session in Paris, were wrapped in cotton wool for their last league game to keep them fresh to face the Reds at Anfield.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Mohamed Salah outshone Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on the Champions League stage last season, but as Paris Saint-Germain's star duo head to Anfield today seeking to burnish their striking credentials, the Egyptian is struggling to match the heights of his debut campaign at Liverpool.

Salah's failure to hit top form - at least by his high standards - dates back to his last Champions League appearance in May's final, when his record-breaking 44-goal campaign was abruptly cut short by a shoulder injury as Real Madrid went on to lift their 13th European Cup.

That started a difficult few months for Salah as he was also robbed of being fully fit for Egypt's first World Cup in 28 years, with the Pharaohs exiting at the group stage.

And the hangover has carried on into the new season, with Salah scoring just twice in Liverpool's opening five Premier League games and missing chances that he would have buried last season.

So far, Salah's wayward finishing has not cost Jurgen Klopp's men after a summer of shrewd investment to build on the already substantial progress made under the German.

But Klopp remains unperturbed by his star forward's patchy form. Speaking after Liverpool extended their 100 per cent record to five league victories on the spin, he said: "Of course, it's important that we don't have only one goalscorer. Five games, fantastic we've won all of them, we have improved."

He also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the star-studded French champions, insisting that unlike the Reds, Thomas Tuchel's men have it easy in Ligue 1.

 
 

"We play in the Champions League and the Premier League, the two toughest competitions in world football. But we want it like that," Klopp said, ahead of the second of six games in 19 days in an exacting schedule that will also see his team face off against Southampton, Chelsea (twice), Napoli and English champions Manchester City.

"We watched PSG (beating St-Etienne 4-0) on Friday night, but two of their main men (Mbappe and Neymar) weren't involved. We will try to be ready, but PSG are really good, a very interesting project.

"I am not going to stand here and say, 'Oh my God, we have to play all these teams'. That's how it is, that's why we are all together, to try to do our best at it."

Despite Mbappe and Neymar being given ample rest to gear up for the trip to Merseyside, Liverpool also represent the hardest challenge of the new campaign for PSG, who can also boast five wins from five league games so far.

The Qatari-owned club have made winning the Champions League for the first time their primary ambition, but history is against them, with only one French club, Marseille, having gone all the way in 1993.

PSG's early exit to winners Real in the last 16 last season cost Unai Emery his job and Tuchel knows a positive result at Liverpool will show they mean business.

"We know Anfield is one of the toughest trips in Europe. St-Etienne was a good rehearsal. It was good for our confidence ahead of Tuesday's match against Liverpool. It will be a big test for us," said the German, who will be without the suspended Marco Verratti.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2018, with the headline 'Neymar, Mbappe well rested ahead of Anfield visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe