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Friday, 23 July 2021

Preview: PSG lifted by crucial Champions League success as Neymar courts Messi

PSG are pondering how to deal with Neymar's contract, and that of Kylian Mbappe, which both expire in 2022

AFP , Friday 4 Dec 2020
Paris Saint-Germain
Neymar scored twice in Paris Saint-Germain's crucial 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Champions League in midweek. AFP
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Paris Saint-Germain this week averted a crisis by beating Manchester United to revive their Champions League campaign and the club's followers might even be getting giddy at the possibility of seeing Lionel Messi in the French capital next season.

Neymar scored twice in Manchester and then publicly stated his wish to team up again with his old Barcelona teammate next season, telling ESPN: "I want to play with him for sure, next year we have to do it."

With Messi having spent the last close season trying to engineer a move away from Barcelona, who are suffering badly from the economic impact of the coronavirus, Neymar perhaps feels a reunion in Paris is more likely than his return to the Camp Nou.

Meanwhile PSG are pondering how to deal with Neymar's contract, and that of Kylian Mbappe, which both expire in 2022.

The Qatar-owned club are also feeling the effects of the pandemic, which has slashed ticket revenue in particular, with games in France being played behind closed doors.

Qualifying for the Champions League last 16 would provide a financial boost. Thomas Tuchel's team only require a draw at home to Istanbul Basaksehir next week to seal their progress.

"I didn't come to Paris to play in the Europa League," Neymar told Brazil's Esporte Interativo.

However, Tuchel warned: "We have almost qualified, which means we have not qualified yet. That is the reality. Being almost pregnant does not mean you are pregnant."

Last season's Champions League runners-up are a work in progress and they have allowed the chasing domestic pack to catch up.

A loss at Monaco and a draw with Bordeaux in their last two matches have left PSG just two points clear of Lille, Lyon, Monaco and Montpellier in Ligue 1.

PSG go to Montpellier this weekend knowing a defeat would knock them off top spot.

Montpellier, though, are without their top scorer Andy Delort after he tested positive for coronavirus for the second time in three months.

One to watch: Patrick Vieira

The France 1998 World Cup-winning midfielder has been lauded for the steady work he has done in the last two years at Nice, taking the Cote d'Azur side to seventh and then fifth place and European qualification last season.

Vieira's side were expected to kick on this season following considerable investment from the club's British owners Ineos.

Instead, hampered by the loss of captain Dante to a serious injury, Nice are in the bottom half of Ligue 1 after a shock home defeat by struggling Dijon last weekend and they have disappointed in the Europa League. That has turned up the pressure on ex-Arsenal star Vieira.

"When I was a player I had very difficult moments in my career and I never gave up," Vieira said this week.

"I have always fought and hung on in there. What I am going through now will not change me.

"I know results are not good but I will keep working hard and being even more demanding of myself."

Key stats

4 - The number of points separating the top six in Ligue 1. Marseille, in sixth, are four points behind leaders PSG but have two games in hand on the teams above them.

3 - If PSG fail to win at Montpellier they will have gone three Ligue 1 games without winning for the first time since April 2019.

9 - Lyon have injected life into their season on a run of nine games without defeat, leaving them just two points off top spot.

Fixtures (Kick-offs GMT)

Friday

Nimes v Marseille (2000)

Saturday

Rennes v Lens (1600)
Montpellier v Paris Saint-Germain (2000)

Sunday

Lille v Monaco (1200)
Angers v Lorient, Bordeaux v Brest, Dijon v Saint-Etienne, Nantes v Strasbourg (all 1400)
Reims v Nice (1600)
Metz v Lyon (2000)

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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