Mbappe can't cover for Neymar and Cavani - Tuchel

By Sports Desk February 11, 2019

Thomas Tuchel insists Kylian Mbappe cannot be expected to fill the roles of Neymar and Edinson Cavani when Paris Saint-Germain face Manchester United.

The Ligue 1 leaders visit Old Trafford on Tuesday for the first leg of the much-anticipated Champions League last-16 tie, but will do so without Neymar and Cavani, who are sidelined with respective foot and hip injuries.

France star Mbappe is therefore likely to be PSG's main hope of ensuring they leave England with at least an away goal to take back to Parc des Princes for the second leg on March 6.

But head coach Tuchel does not want the 20-year-old to alter his game to compensate for the absence of his usual attacking partners.

"There's no point putting pressure on Mbappe," he told a news conference on Monday. "It's not his job to replace Neymar and Cavani and do the job of all three of them. 

"He has to play freely. I want us to be able to help him with good passes. He's here to grow and this is the perfect moment for that."

Tuchel admits PSG will inevitably be worse off without Neymar, who damaged a metatarsal during a Coupe de France match last month - the same bone he broke last year.

"Let me put it another way: will Manchester United miss [Paul] Pogba, if he was not there? Will they miss [Marcus] Rashford? Of course they will," Tuchel said when asked if his PSG could replace the Brazil star.

"You cannot replace quality players like this. Neymar is one of the key, key players in Europe and we miss him a lot."

Tuchel is particularly wary of the threat posed by Pogba and Anthony Martial, who between them scored all three goals in United's 3-0 Premier League victory over Fulham on Saturday.

"I don't think there's any surprise Pogba is key," he said. "He's an incredible player with wonderful qualities. He's extremely strong with the ball at his feet. I think he's always dangerous offensively. Him and Martial are a dangerous pairing."

However, Tuchel intends to set his team up to attack United and hopes to score at least once.

"We have our identity and it's not easy to change a team's identity. We play attacking football - it's in our DNA," he said. "We're here to score, maybe more than one.

"I imagine United will be bold and we'll have to be at our best level. I'm sure there will be times tomorrow where we'll be defending deeply. 

"Over 180 minutes, I'd say it's a 50-50 game. At Old Trafford, I'm not sure. We have a second leg in Paris, and we feel very strong and comfortable at Parc des Princes. It's one of these games where the details, you can get a decision from the referee, a yellow, red, anything can make the difference. It's a close game."

Related items

  • Koulibaly not drawn on future after Napoli loss Koulibaly not drawn on future after Napoli loss

    Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly refused to be drawn on his future, but played down suggestions he was too good to be in the Serie A.

    Koulibaly, 27, has been linked with a move to Manchester United and coach Carlo Ancelotti said the centre-back was worth €150million, but not for sale.

    After Napoli lost to Arsenal in the Europa League quarter-finals, the Senegal international was asked if the Serie A was enough for him.

    "Why? I grew up in this league. It's the league that made me the player I am today," Koulibaly said.

    "To me what matters most is to finish the season well, then we'll see.

    "I am sorry because we wanted to go through."

    Alexandre Lacazette's first-half goal saw Arsenal beat Napoli 1-0 in the second leg, wrapping up a 3-0 aggregate success.

    Koulibaly was saddened by his side's defeat and lamented their first-leg performance in London.

    "It's our fault, we should have been a bit tougher, have more anger to score goals, and we didn't have it," he said.

    "But at this level, when you do a wrong first half as we did the first leg, it's hard to come back. We saw it tonight and we are very sorry."

  • Ancelotti backs Napoli squad despite Europa League disappointment Ancelotti backs Napoli squad despite Europa League disappointment

    Carlo Ancelotti still believes in Napoli's squad as he defended his players after their Europa League defeat to Arsenal.

    The Serie A side bowed out in the quarter-finals after a 1-0 loss at home on Thursday saw them suffer a 3-0 aggregate defeat.

    Ancelotti, in his first season at the helm, said Napoli needed to push on despite their European disappointment.

    "I still believe that the squad is full of quality. The players have done all they could but this is football," he told a news conference.

    "At times not everything goes your way. We tried, we look forward, there won't be drama from the players or the club, everyone is united and is trying to bring the club further forward from what we've done this season.

    "I don't think Napoli has managed to reach many quarter-finals in European competitions in the past, so our objective is always to improve."

    Napoli's exit means no Italian clubs reached the semi-finals in either the Europa League or Champions League.

    Ancelotti's focus is still on trying to secure second spot in Serie A, with Napoli seven points clear of third-placed Inter.

    "Obviously we are very disappointed to go out of the Europa League. We've failed in this objective and we know it was going to be difficult," he said.

    "We know there are no Italian teams in the semi-finals of European competitions. We knew from the start it would be tough.

    "This season, on our results, we think we should finish second in Serie A. That's not too little for us.

    "We need to prepare well for next season knowing the team has been renewed, and it will be renewed for next season."

  • Ajax in Champions League semis is 'crazy', says Vertonghen Ajax in Champions League semis is 'crazy', says Vertonghen

    Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen said it was "crazy" to see his former club Ajax in the Champions League semi-finals.

    The Eredivisie giants are into the last four of Europe's elite club competition for the first time since 1997 after an incredible run that has included eliminating Real Madrid and Juventus.

    Vertonghen started his professional career in Amsterdam before making the move to Spurs in 2012.

    The defender said Ajax's run was no longer a surprise as he prepares to face his former club in the semi-finals.

    "Ajax, obviously it's crazy they're there. An even bigger surprise that Ajax is there than us, probably," Vertonghen told UK media.

    "I follow them every game, I speak to the people at the club, I know how good they are, I've watched every game.

    "At the beginning in the Champions League they surprised everyone but now it is not a surprise any more. They are of this level, they are Champions League semi-final quality. That's how it is.

    "I know how good they are, because obviously knocking Madrid and Juventus out is crazy. It will be an unbelievable battle between two positive sides."

    While Ajax shocked Juve, Spurs survived a remarkable second leg against Manchester City, progressing on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate draw.

    Progression was only secured after the VAR ruled out a stoppage-time goal by City attacker Raheem Sterling, who thought he had sent Pep Guardiola's men into the semis.

    "It was crazy, madness, absolute madness. You don't know anything and it's a weird feeling," Vertonghen said.

    "No-one was even appealing for offside, we all thought they had scored. Everyone was on the floor, but there was still two or three minutes left.

    "So it was 'let's try and get the ball in the box and we will see whatever happens'. And then out of nothing, the referee came up with VAR. We didn't even know."

    Tottenham will host the first leg of their semi-final against Ajax on April 30.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.