Fans around the globe may be divided in their opinions of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar Jr, but the Brazilian’s presence on the pitch can certainly change the outcome of a match.
In an interview with Le Parisien (as captured by ligue1.com), former PSG performance director Alexandre Marles has estimated that Neymar will be fit for his side’s upcoming quarter-final clash against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. The 29-year-old experienced adductor problems back in February and subsequently, missed both legs of Round-of-16 tie against former club Barcelona.
He recently returned to the pitch after missing out on action for a month, making a 20-minute cameo in the Parisians 4-2 win over Olympique Lyon before the international break.
Marles indicated that the Brazilian is “ready”, for he could have only seen the pitch if the club staff felt that he is fully fit.
“If he hadn’t been in the group against Lyon, we could have said: yes, there are still 15 days to bring him back physically well, so that he regains confidence in everything he does” said Marles. “There, by letting him in [against Lyon], it means that he’s ready.”
Unlike his European teammates, Neymar hasn’t been on International duty due to the cancellation of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers. Yet Marles believes that this break isn’t much of a help, as match practice is what Neymar truly lacks.
“From the moment they decided to bring him in, it was because they felt [Neymar] was ready, already operational, and just lacking playing time,” he explained. “So, the international break does not bring him much in terms of preparation.”
“Nothing” would be a slight overstatement as the Brazil International will have two weeks of rest and recovery, a boon particularly in this pandemic-affected schedule. Moreover, he will get to study his UCL opponents and put in extra training shifts under newly-appointed coach Mauricio Pochettino; something Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng could also be doing with coach Hansi Flick at Säbener Straße.
“The Parisian staff may have wanted to rush things by saying: we will play 20 minutes against Lyon, a half-time or 60 minutes against Lille and like that, he can start against Bayern,” remarked Marles (as caught by Parisfans.fr).
Despite Neymar’s absence, PSG were able to eliminate Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, with France International Mbappe running the show from left wing. His comeback from injury has made things all the more tougher for Flick’s men.
Bayern, of course, were able to shut him off seven months ago. This time, however, the Bavarians’ right-back situation has been relatively unstable. Recently, with Benjamin Pavard struggling for consistency, coach Flick experimented by deploying center-back Niklas Sule as outside-back, the position Joshua Kimmich manned when he held-off Neymar in last season’s UCL finale. Whatever the case, Die Roten’s full-backs will have to be at top of their game to stop the terrifying combination of Neymar and Mbappe.