French football

Coupe de France: Pochettino says no Neymar for last-16 clash with Lille

Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar, who has been out of action since 10 February, was due to return to the team at the start of March
Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar, who has been out of action since 10 February, was due to return to the team at the start of March NICOLAS TUCAT AFP/Archives

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday ruled out the return of star striker Neymar to the side's line-up for the rescheduled last-16 Coupe de France clash against Lille. The Brazilian will remain on the sidelines as he recovers from last month's muscle injury.

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PSG, who are holders of the trophy, go into Wednesday afternoon's game at the Parc des Princes on the back of Sunday's shock 2-1 home defeat to relegation-threatened Nantes.

Victory would have allowed PSG to usurp Lille at the summit of Ligue 1 on goal difference.

However after the setback, they remain three points behind Christophe Galtier's team.

The last-16 cup game should have been played on 6 or 7 April. But competition organisers brought it forward after PSG advanced to the last eight of the Champions League following a 5-2 aggregate victory over Barcelona.

Last Wednesday's second leg against the Spaniards at the Parc des Princes raised question marks over PSG's solidity. Despite holding a 4-1 lead from the first leg, Pochettino's players failed to assemble any fluency and were flattered by the 1-1 scoreline.

After taking the lead on Sunday night against Nantes and dominating possession, PSG struggled for incisiveness and eventually succumbed to two second-half goals.

Repeat

An array of commentators highlighted the absence of Neymar for the team's travails.

But the 28-year-old Brazilian will remain on the sidelines as he recovers from the muscle injury that has kept him out of action since the Coupe de France tie against Caen on 10 February.

"The aim is to have Neymar back with us as soon as possible," said Pochettino. "But we have to get on without him and we are going up against a Lille side that is having a very good season."

Pochettino will also be without midfielder Pablo Sarabia who has a problem with his right hip and defender Juan Bernat who is nursing an injured knee.

But the Argentine will be able to field striker Moise Kean, who has recovered from the coronavirus as well as defender Alessandro Florenzi and midfielder Ander Herrera who have both been out with leg injuries.

Quest

Galtier's side are seeking their first Coupe de France since winning it in 2011 along with Ligue 1.

PSG have accomplished four such doubles since QSI took over the club in 2012.

Lille midfielder Benjamin André was in the Rennes team that deprived PSG of the Coupe de France in 2019 to go along with their Ligue 1 title.

"We've got a side that has depth and quality," Benjamin said. "We have played well in virtually all of our matches. The Coupe de France is a different thing altogether - it's how you are on the day and having won it, I know just how important it is.

"We're in two competitions and we're in a good position to win something."

Lille pursue their Ligue 1 quest on Sunday afternoon at home to second-from-bottom Nimes while PSG play at third-placed Lyon on Sunday night.

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