Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick and Neymar made his return from a three-month injury lay-off as Paris Saint-Germain began their Ligue 1 title celebrations with a 3-1 win over visitors Monaco on Sunday.

PSG were already confirmed as champions earlier in the day after second-placed Lille could only draw 0-0 with Toulouse, and Thomas Tuchel's men subsequently played with freedom in an emphatic triumph inspired by Mbappe against his old club.

The lethal Mbappe took only 15 minutes to make his mark at the end of a stunning counter-attack and he doubled his tally just before half-time, rounding off another well-worked move.

Neymar – fit again after breaking his foot in January – came on at the interval to a huge cheer, before Mbappe completed his treble in the 55th minute to become the youngest player to score 30 goals in France's top division.

Aleksandr Golovin's late strike proved to be nothing more than a consolation for a Monaco side who still face the threat of relegation.

Monaco's chances took an early blow when they lost goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to an apparent thigh strain, and PSG had the breakthrough soon after – Mbappe collecting Moussa Diaby's pass and finishing into the top-left corner to round off a devastating break.

The former Monaco talisman missed a great chance in the 33rd minute, but he made amends a few moments later, playing a one-two with Dani Alves and neatly finding the bottom-right corner from just inside the area.

PSG introduced Neymar for Layvin Kurzawa at half-time, but still Mbappe led the way, hitting the post after bursting past Kamil Glik in the 52nd minute.

He then grabbed his third, tapping in from close range after Alves raced on to Marco Verratti's pass and squared across the face of goal.

PSG lost Verratti to an injury towards the end and Golovin pulled one back with a tidy finish just inside the box, but the hosts' lead was unassailable and they cruised to victory.

 

 

What does it mean? PSG unshackled after confirmation as champions

PSG's form suggested they may have been easing up as they failed to wrap up the title against Strasbourg, Lille and Nantes, losing to the latter two.

But they did not even have to kick a ball on Sunday to finally clinch a second successive Ligue 1 title, appearing more fluid and cohesive than they have in recent weeks.

Monaco, meanwhile, sit four points above the bottom three.

Mbappe the star

There can be little doubt who inspired PSG on Sunday. Mbappe looked in the mood right from the start and his two first-half goals were excellent. The hat-trick clincher was a rather more straightforward finish, but it allowed him to secure a deserved three-goal haul.

Badiashile's bad day

Young centre-back Benoit Badiashile got a taste of what it takes to face the very best at the Parc des Princes. The 18-year-old's positioning was poor in several key moments, such as the third goal, while he made no tackles and just a single interception.

What's next?

There is another title on the line for PSG next Saturday as they face Rennes – who are also Monaco's upcoming opposition a week on Wednesday – in the Coupe de France final, before returning to Ligue 1 action the following Tuesday at Montpellier.

Neymar made his return from a three-month lay-off with a broken foot during Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 match at home to Monaco on Sunday.

The Brazil star had not played a competitive game since suffering a metatarsal injury in a Coupe de France win over Strasbourg on January 23.

At the time there were doubts whether Neymar would appear again this season, but he returned to training in early April, suggesting he could feature in the run-in.

Thomas Tuchel named the forward on the bench for the visit of Monaco – with PSG confirmed as champions earlier in the day following Lille's 0-0 draw at Toulouse.

And he made his way on to the pitch for the second half with PSG already 2-0 up thanks to Kylian Mbappe's brace, replacing Layvin Kurzawa at half-time.

Mbappe went on to complete his hat-trick soon after his team-mate's introduction. 

Neymar was back training with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday as he stepped up his rehabilitation from a foot injury.

The Brazilian forward has not featured for the Ligue 1 champions since damaging a metatarsal in a Coupe de France win over Strasbourg on January 23.

PSG confirmed on Tuesday the world's most expensive footballer would resume light training work with them the following day and the club uploaded a video of him going through some drills at their facility.

"Neymar Jr's injury continues to respond very positively," said a statement on PSG's website.

"While the rest of the squad had a light morning session ahead of tonight's Coupe de France semi-final [against Nantes], Neymar worked through a number of ball drills with a club physio.

"A medical examination and X-ray will be done in two weeks to determine an eventual date when we can expect to see Neymar back on the pitch."

Thomas Tuchel says Paris Saint-Germain must be patient as Neymar continues his recovery from injury.

The Brazil superstar is working his way back from a foot injury sustained in PSG's Coupe de France clash against Strasbourg on January 23, but no timescale has been put on when the world's most expensive footballer will return to full fitness.

Speaking ahead of his side's Ligue 1 clash with Toulouse on Sunday, Tuchel insists that there is no need to rush the 27-year-old's comeback.

"I have no news except that he feels good, he has no pain," he told reporters.  

"But it's too early to talk about a return. We must be patient. It's very hard for me. It's even more so for him. 

"But the only solution is to be patient with him. He has time to come back. I do not want to give a date."

Neymar is joined on the sidelines for the game at Stadium de Toulouse by Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier and Dani Alves, much to the frustration of Tuchel.

"That means we will be a very small team against Toulouse," he added. "If no player gets injured on Saturday, we will have 14 players and two goalies.

"It's been several games that we have only 14 or 15 players with us and it's not a pleasant situation."

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders beat Dijon and Marseille before the international break and Tuchel wants to see his side pick up where they left off. 

"A Ligue 1 match after a break is always a little complicated," he said. "Not only because of the absentees but it is always difficult to find the style, the rhythm. 

"I'm happy because we had a good training session on Friday. It was good because I was not sure we could find our quality so quickly. In Toulouse, our challenge will be to show more beautiful things and win."

Paris Saint-Germain may have suffered Champions League elimination at the last-16 stage for the third successive year, but they can console themselves with the self-proclaimed title of Instagram 'champion'.

The Ligue 1 giants were dumped out of Europe's elite competition this month by Manchester United, with Marcus Rashford's controversial late penalty securing the Red Devils a 3-1 win in Paris which saw them progress on away goals.

Despite the shock exit, PSG are still bringing in followers on social media and they dubbed themselves the 'champion' of Instagram after surpassing the 20-million mark on Friday.

"The Parisian club is making dazzling progress and exceeds the milestone of 20 million followers," their statement read.

The announcement came on the same day star man Neymar – who was injured for the defeat to United – was charged with "insulting/molesting acts against a match official" on the same social media platform after Rashford's contentious spot-kick.

To compound matters, PSG are also seven million followers behind United on the photo and video-sharing social networking service.

Eight weeks is an awfully long time in football.

When the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League was made on December 17, Jose Mourinho was in charge of Manchester United and had presided over just two wins in the club's last eight fixtures.

A 3-1 loss to Liverpool less than 24 hours earlier left United 19 points adrift of their rivals in the Premier League. Optimism was scant at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel's then-unbeaten PSG side boasted a 10-point advantage at the Ligue 1 summit, with two games in hand, and they had entered the Champions League draw having topped a group that included Liverpool and Napoli.

Tuchel declared himself "neither satisfied nor unsatisfied" at his team being pitted against United in the first round of the knockout stages, yet, privately at least, he must have felt there was little to fear about a team lacking identity and fight.

Then, on December 18, United's hierarchy pulled the trigger, sacking Mourinho and changing the course of their campaign.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was handed the reins until the end of the season and a revitalised United side reeled off eight straight wins in all competitions, including victories at Tottenham and Arsenal.

The United side PSG will face in Tuesday's first leg is now a different beast. They are unbeaten in 11 games under Solskjaer and key figures like Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, seemingly subdued and stifled under the previous regime, are playing with the type of confidence, freedom and attacking verve that may cause Tuchel to reconsider his view on whether he is satisfied with drawing United or not.

On the other hand, PSG are still 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with two games in hand, but the air of invincibility that surrounded them is no longer there, even for teams in France.

Guingamp shocked the capital club in the Coupe de la Ligue last month and after Lyon handed PSG their first league loss of the campaign on February 3, Tuchel's side needed extra time to overcome third-tier Villefranche in the Coupe de France last week.

The world's most expensive footballer was absent for the Lyon and Villefranche games and Tuchel will be without Neymar for both legs of the United tie too, while the club's record scorer Edinson Cavani could also be missing on Tuesday due to a hip injury.

Solskjaer, and Mourinho before him, might have worried about facing the man who scored five times in the group stages but PSG's attack appears far less daunting without Neymar.

There is a mental aspect for PSG to overcome too. They have not progressed past the Champions League quarter-finals in any of the previous six seasons and Tuchel knows that it is on the continent, rather than domestically, where he will be judged.

The Champions League may hold the key to Solskjaer's long-term future too. The man who delivered the trophy with his last-gasp goal in the final 20 years ago has aspirations to be the permanent boss at United and knocking out PSG would be a significant boost for his CV.

That CV did not even include the job title 'Manchester United manager' when this draw was made, but these two clubs are evidence of how swiftly the footballing landscape can alter.

Marco Verratti could return to action for Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday's Coupe de France match against Villefranche, head coach Thomas Tuchel has confirmed.

The Italy international resumed training on Monday after missing the last three matches with an ankle injury.

Tuchel is prepared to play the midfielder in the cup trip against their third-tier opponents, provided he comes through their latest practice session unscathed.

"We have to decide today [Tuesday] if it's possible for him to play again," he told a news conference.

PSG will definitely be without Neymar, who is out for 10 weeks with a foot injury, and his absence coincided with their first Ligue 1 defeat of the season against Lyon last Sunday.

Despite missing the Brazil star's creativity, Tuchel has ruled out asking Kylian Mbappe to adapt his game and try to fill in for his team-mate.

"I don't want Kylian to play like Neymar and keep the ball," he said. "Kylian is incredibly dangerous in the final move and I want him to stay that way."

Tuchel expects his senior players to make sure PSG do not show any complacency against Villefranche, who knocked out last season's surprise finalists Les Herbiers in the last round.

"I expect a match with great domination and possession of the ball. They're going to want to play on the counter-attack. We must play with seriousness and vigilance," he said.

"It's a decisive match, we definitely want to win and it's our responsibility to win.

"We have experienced players like Gianluigi Buffon, Dani Alves and Thiago [Silva]. They play every match with the same state of mind."

Kylian Mbappe made the difference in the absence of Neymar, scoring the only goal of the game as Paris Saint-Germain beat Nantes 1-0 to end 2018 in victorious fashion.

Brazil star Neymar had been allowed to travel back to his home country to rest following recent struggles with a groin injury, and while PSG missed his craft, they scraped the win nonetheless.

Angel Di Maria looked PSG's biggest threat in the first half, though his two best strikes did not quite hit the target as the hosts failed to make the most of their superiority.

PSG remained the controlling force after the interval and finally broke the deadlock through Mbappe in the 68th minute, and that proved to be enough as the hosts' first Ligue 1 game since December 5 – due to the 'gilet jaunes' demonstrations – ended with a triumph.

It took less than a minute for PSG to threaten, as Di Maria saw a controlled volley go just agonisingly over Ciprian Tatarusanu's crossbar.

But that failed to usher in a period of PSG bombardment, with their next opportunity not presenting itself until the 25th minute, when Julian Draxler shot over from 20 yards after Mbappe's cut-back.

Di Maria went close again a few moments later, his 25-yard strike flying past the right-hand post with Tatarusanu looking beaten.

PSG continued to threaten from distance after the break, with Di Maria – again – and Mbappe shooting just off target in the first 12 minutes.

Draxler thought he opened the scoring after an hour, but VAR proved the ball went out of play in the build-up, despite Marco Verratti's best efforts.

There was no denying Mbappe 22 minutes from time, though, as he turned in – via the crossbar – from close range after Marquinhos flicked on Di Maria's corner.

Di Maria saw another effort thud against the crossbar but it mattered little as PSG secured victory to open up a 13-point lead over Lille - beaten 2-1 by Toulouse - at the top of the table.

What does it mean? PSG lacking sharpness

It is fair to say PSG looked a little off the pace on Saturday, and it is easy to understand why, given the only teams they have faced since December 5 were Red Star Belgrade and Orleans. Considering the circumstances and the absence of Neymar, they will surely be happy to get this one out of the way.

Di Maria provides PSG's spark

With Neymar not featuring, Di Maria took on the mantle of PSG's creative hub and he was certainly lively, seeing several shots go close. He was unable to get a deserved goal, but there is no doubt about the quality he showed.

Cavani blends into the background

Perhaps the service to him was lacking, but Edinson Cavani did little to make any openings for himself and rarely featured in build-up play before being hooked towards the end.

What's next?

After the winter break, PSG have games against Pontivy and Guingamp in the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue, respectively, before then returning to Ligue 1 action on January 11 at Amiens. Nantes will host Chateauroux in the Coupe de France, then Montpellier in the league four days later on January 8.

Former France star Robert Pires thinks Barcelona would be unwise to offload troublesome winger Ousmane Dembele in order to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

Dembele arrived last year as a replacement for Neymar, who joined PSG in a world-record €222million deal.

Injuries had a particularly damaging impact on Dembele's first season, while his time in Spain has also been plagued by suggestions of a poor attitude and bad timekeeping.

His latest misdemeanour reportedly came last week when the 21-year-old was said to have turned up late for training, yet Dembele has still impressed at times, scoring in each of his two most recent outings against Espanyol and Tottenham.

Neymar has been strongly linked in recent months with a return to Camp Nou, leading to speculation about Dembele's future, but Pires is convinced Barca are better off with his compatriot.

"I love him [Dembele] very much," he told Mundo Deportivo. "We always talk about [Lionel] Messi, but this guy is very good.

"He's young but what he does we all did as kids. What you must do is self-impose discipline in your life, but he is young and with his quality and talent, he can help Barca to win the Champions League and also the league, as we have seen against Tottenham and Espanyol with great goals.

"If I had to choose, I would not change Dembele for Neymar. Ousmane is 21, plays with the left and the right [foot] with a lot of quality with the ball. He has a lot of potential, more than what we've seen so far."

Adrien Rabiot is another PSG player to have been linked with Barca, and Pires thinks the France international would fit in well to Barca's midfield alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic.

"I do not know what will happen, but he has qualities for it [playing at Barca]," Pires added. "Barca has Busquets and Rabiot is like him because he plays simple and does not move much, but Rabiot can also play on the left while Rakitic plays on the right [of Busquets].

"He has very good technique, he is left-footed and he is competitive like the other two."

Paris Saint-Germain will still have the weapons to hurt Liverpool even if Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are ruled out of their Champions League meeting due to injury, according to Reds centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

Carlo Ancelotti believes his Napoli side will be coming up against the heirs to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi when hosting Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Paris Saint-Germain's winning streak at the start of the Ligue 1 season was extended to 10 games in the rested Neymar's absence as the reigning champions scored three late goals in a 5-0 win over Amiens. 

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus caught the eye as Brazil claimed a 2-0 friendly win over 10-man Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Friday. 

Lionel Messi, Neymar and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe are among the final players named on the 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist. 

Neymar heaped praise on "winner" Thomas Tuchel and warned the best is yet to come from Paris Saint-Germain as they seek Champions League success.

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