Neymar and Mbappe missing from PSG squad to face Amiens

By Sports Desk February 14, 2020

Paris Saint-Germain will be without both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe when the Ligue 1 leaders take on Amiens on Saturday.

Neymar has not played since suffering a rib injury against Montpellier on February 1, forcing him to miss league wins over Nantes and Lyon, as well as the midweek Coupe de France quarter-final triumph over Dijon.

With Borussia Dortmund coming up in the Champions League next week, PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has opted against taking any risks with the Brazil international.

Mbappe played the entire game in the 6-1 thrashing of Dijon on Wednesday, including scoring his side's second goal just before half-time, but will not be involved at all against Amiens.

"We won't take any risks, obviously, but at the same time we'll put out a strong team," Tuchel had said at his pre-match press conference on Friday, prior to naming his squad.

Abdou Diallo, Presnel Kimpembe, Layvin Kurzawa and Thomas Meunier are also absentees for the game against relegation-threatened opponents, along with Pablo Sarabia.

However, Marco Verratti and Marquinhos are included in a 19-man squad as the reigning champions aim to move 15 points clear of nearest rivals Marseille, who are away at Lille on Sunday.

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    Handball – after matchday three of the 2020-21 Premier League season, that seems to be all anyone is talking about.

    It proved decisive in three different games over the weekend, with Brighton and Hove Albion, Tottenham and Crystal Palace all on the receiving end of controversial decisions – the latter's manager, Roy Hodgson, went on a tirade regarding the "nonsense" rule change.

    But arguably the most vociferous of the hot takes regarding handball – see Jamie Carragher deriding the decision as "an absolute disgrace" – focused on the events at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where in the seventh minute of added time, Eric Dier was penalised via VAR for handball despite having his back to the ball.

    Although Mourinho refused to criticise the decision, in his own unique Jose way he left no uncertainty as to his feelings on the matter – "If I want to give money away, I'll give to charities, not the FA," he told Sky Sports.

    Steve Bruce, whose Newcastle United profited from the decision to clinch a 1-1 draw, gave the impression of being almost embarrassed at having been a beneficiary, effectively suggesting some form of football managers' mutiny against the sport's rule-makers.

    But are they exaggerating the changes? Is handball proving more prevalent? We looked at the Opta data and, as the old adage says, there's no smoke without fire…

    Premier League on course for avalanche of penalties

    Before delving into the data, we have to understand what specifically has changed with respect to handball in the Premier League. Technically, the idea that it is a "new rule" this season is a red herring – instead, the law has been altered in England to bring it into line with those adopted across Europe last season.

    It's a stricter approach that basically means a player will be penalised for handball – in a defensive context – if the struck hand/arm is away from the body or raised, or if the player leans into the path of the ball.

    On top of those points, the International Football Association Board (IFAB, the body in charge of the rules) tightened up the boundaries involved, meaning handball should be given – regardless of intent – if the ball strikes the arm below the bottom of the armpit unless it has come off another part of the player's body first or they have fallen on to the ball.

    The numbers do IFAB and FIFA no favours.

    After 28 matches in the new Premier League season, 20 penalties have been given and six of them awarded for handball.

    That means there has been an average of 0.71 penalties per match this term, a huge increase on the averages from the previous four seasons.

    Last term it was at 0.24 per game – prior to that it stood at 0.27 (2018-19), 0.21 (2017-18) and 0.28 (2016-17).

    "But those figures could be down to an increase in bad tackling!" – don't worry, we thought of that.

    While that stat of six handballs may not sound huge, it's actually the same figure for the entirety of the 2017-18 season, while it also equates to 30 per cent of all penalties this term – in 2019-20, 20.7 per cent of penalties were awarded for handball, 13.6 per cent the year before and 7.5 per cent before that.

    Put into a 'per game' context, penalties for handball are being given every 0.21 matches – almost one in four. The most it reached in the preceding four seasons was 0.05 in both 2019-20 and 2016-17.

    While it is unlikely that penalties will be given at such a frequency throughout the season, it's not impossible.

    If it does carry on, we are on course for 271 in 2020-21, just four fewer than the totals for 2019-20 (92), 2018-19 (103) and 2017-18 (80) combined. Similarly, we would expect 81 of those to have been caused by handball.

    That's 24 more than were given in total across the previous four years.

    How do the figures compare to European leagues?

    Clearly, the change that has been effected in the Premier League is significant, but compared to the other top five leagues, the differences are a little less stark… in most cases.

    Even though the rules are now supposed to be consistent across the top five leagues, we are still seeing a lot more penalties in general.

    Last season, Serie A recorded the highest frequency of penalties at 0.49 per game, with that figure dropping to 0.15 specifically for handball.

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    But specifically relating to handball, the percentages are much closer. In fact, LaLiga (32.2 per cent) and the Bundesliga (30.5 per cent) saw a greater share of spot-kicks awarded for such offences than the Premier League is in 2020-21.

    Ligue 1 (25.8 per cent) and the Bundesliga (24.7 per cent) aren't far behind, either.

    So, while the data would seemingly prove the points of Bruce and Hodgson, IFAB might argue the consistency and black-and-white nature of the law make it better - football managers and players, on the other hand, disagree.

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    Jadon Sancho and Roman Burki have contracted respiratory infections but both have tested negative for COVID-19, Borussia Dortmund say.

    The pair will not travel to Munich for Wednesday's DFL-Supercup against Bayern Munich after developing the infections.

    However, Dortmund stated via Twitter that the two players recorded negative coronavirus tests on Monday.

    Sancho continues to be linked with a possible move to Manchester United but Dortmund have maintained the winger will not be sold.

    The Bundesliga club are said to have set a deadline of August 12 for United to match their valuation of €120million for the England star.

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    Dortmund won their first Bundesliga game of 2020-21, beating Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0, but suffered a 2-0 loss to Augsburg last week.

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    Marco Reus is excited Jadon Sancho will remain at Borussia Dortmund for "at least one more year", with Manchester United seemingly destined to be frustrated in their pursuit of the England forward.

    United's interest in taking Sancho to Old Trafford has been no secret, but Dortmund have been steadfast in their refusal to sell him for anything under their reported €120million (£108m) asking price.

    Sancho is under contract until 2023 and Reus is delighted at the prospect of another campaign alongisde the former Manchester City youth player at Signal Iduna Park.

    "For us it's great. We were all excited that he will stay at least one more year," Dortmund captain Reus told reporters. "Simply because he keeps on delivering goals and assists via which we will collect a lot of points."

    Reus does not yet know the extent of Sancho's potential and is unwilling to say whether he has the promise to perform at the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

    "He's a crucial player for us and if he one day will be as big a player as the other two [Ronaldo and Messi] we will see.

    "He simply needs time, a lot of experience, and there will be times where everything's not going that well and one will see how he will get through that.

    "But I think he has got the necessary confidence and quality to succeed."

    Dortmund face Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup on Wednesday, having suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat to Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

    Sancho was extremely influential as Dortmund finished second in the Bundesliga last season.

    His 17 league goals trailed only Robert Lewandowski (34) and Timo Werner (28). Thomas Muller (21) was the lone player to have more assists than Sancho's 16 in the Bundesliga in 2019-20.

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