Angel Di Maria insisted he wanted to finish his career in Europe at Paris Saint-Germain, saying he was happy he did not leave for Barcelona in 2017.

Di Maria, 32, was linked with a switch to Camp Nou three years ago after just two seasons at PSG and with Neymar arriving from the LaLiga giants.

But the Argentina attacker ended up staying in Paris, and said he was happy that had been the case.

"I was very happy in Paris, but people at the club at the time told me some things, which turned out to be lies in the end," Di Maria told L'Equipe.

"Barca tried to get me to come. The two clubs discussed it, but PSG did not want to sell me and it ended there.

"These lies annoyed me a lot but, in the end, not leaving was a good thing because I am very happy in Paris today."

Di Maria, who has scored 12 goals in 37 games this season, is out of contract at PSG next year.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United attacker said he wanted to stay at PSG.

“Ending my career in Europe with PSG is the only thing I want and have in mind," Di Maria said.

He added: "As for the rest, I don't know for the moment. No discussions have been initiated and this is not my intention at this time."

Passing the ball can sometimes look like the easiest thing in the world to do. At least, it does when these guys do it.

Our latest dive into the data of 2019-20 sees us look at the best playmakers in Europe's top-five leagues before the season was called to a halt.

We've deliberately broadened our approach to what constitutes a playmaker here – Gerard Pique doesn't often appear as a number 10, unless Barca are in real trouble – as the idea is to offer a wider consideration of those players who generally use the ball better than most when in possession.

To that end, we've looked at 12 different metrics to come up with the top performers of the campaign, again from among those to make at least 10 league appearances.

While some stars are not exactly strange to see in the list below, there is a handful of more surprising names, too...

 

THE TOP PLAYMAKERS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most successful passes: Sven Bender (1,766)
Highest passing accuracy: Axel Witsel (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Joshua Kimmich (873)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Axel Witsel (92.2)
Most passes ending in final third: Jadon Sancho (576)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Axel Witsel (88.4 per cent)
Most chances created: Christopher Nkunku (65)
Most big chances created: Thomas Muller (24)
Most assists: Thomas Muller (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Dennis Geiger (50 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most successful passes: Gerard Pique (1,688)
Highest passing accuracy: Toni Kroos (93.6 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Sergio Busquets (957)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Toni Kroos (92.4)
Most passes ending in final third: Lionel Messi (698)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Toni Kroos (90.3)
Most chances created: Jose Campana (58)
Most big chances created: Lionel Messi (22)
Most assists: Lionel Messi (12)
Most assists from open play: Portu and Lionel Messi (8)
Most crosses/corners successful: Jesus Navas (43)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most successful passes: Marco Verratti (1,581)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Marco Verratti (956)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Thiago Silva (92.8 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Angel Di Maria (543)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Colin Dagba (86 per cent)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet (87)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Angel Di Maria (14)
Most assists from open play: Angel Di Maria (10)
Most crosses/corners successful: Dimitri Payet (63)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Marco Verratti (54.6 per cent)

 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: John Stones (94 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (23)
Most assists: Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Kevin De Bruyne (14)
Most crosses/corners successful: Kevin De Bruyne (69)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Christian Atsu (47.1 per cent)

 

SERIE A:

Most successful passes: Fabian Ruiz (1,488)
Highest passing accuracy: Marlon Santos (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Fabian Ruiz (932)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: Eljif Elmas (91.5 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Luis Alberto (723)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Walace (89.7 per cent)
Most chances created: Luis Alberto (75)
Most big chances created: Luis Alberto (16)
Most assists: Luis Alberto (12)
Most assists from open play: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez (9)
Most crosses/corners successful: Erick Pulgar (46)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Armando Izzo (54.6 per cent)

 

AND THE TOP 12:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

 

With football no closer to being resumed as the coronavirus pandemic continues, players across Europe's top-five leagues have lots of time to pore over their performances from this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of those ball-playing technicians: the pass-masters.

We have analysed nine key metrics for outfield players to play in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose passing could use some improvement. Those metrics are focused on the number of passes (overall, in a player's own half and their opponent's half), the accuracy of those passes, corners and crosses, and losing possession.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For instance, we have included overall accuracy percentages to give balance to the simple number of passes. A team's playmaker or set-piece taker, for example, is arguably more likely to have a larger number of misplaced passes than team-mates simply because he will be attempting more of them, and often in difficult areas.

It's also worth noting that the number of times possession has been lost excludes 'Hoofs' (which, by their nature, make losing the ball more common), while corner and crossing accuracy is taken only from those to attempt, on average, at least one per game.

That said, the below gives a good indication of some passing figures that need improvement - and there are one or two surprising names...

THE WORST PASSING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most passes failed: Robert Andrich (291)
Worst passing accuracy: Anthony Modeste (55.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Jamilu Collins (110)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Kai Proger (60.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Sebastian Andersson (215)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Filip Kostic (199)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Filip Kostic (616)

LALIGA:

Most passes failed: Leandro Cabrera (352)
Worst passing accuracy: Enric Gallego (48.6 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Pervis Estupinan (94)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Sergio Leon (57.1 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Joselu (283)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Leandro Cabrera (43.5 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Jesus Navas (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Karim Benzema (0 of 19)
Most times possession lost: Pervis Estupinan (534)

LIGUE 1:

Most passes failed: Issiaga Sylla (281)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Fabien Centonze (111)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Andy Delort (238)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half:  Suk Hyun-jun (44.4 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Mathieu Dossevi (142)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): M'Baye Niang (0 of 11)
Most times possession lost: Angel Di Maria (539)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Christian Benteke (52.4 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Christian Benteke (48 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost:  Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

SERIE A:

Most passes failed: Stefano Sabelli (324)
Worst passing accuracy: Lautaro Martinez (59.5 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Stefano Sabelli (94)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Stefano Sabelli (230)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Florian Aye (58.5 per cent)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Roberto Inglese (54 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Erick Pulgar (134)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Kevin Lasagna (0 from 13)
Most possession lost: Stefano Sabelli (494)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most passes failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (480)
Worst passing accuracy: Suk Hyun-jun (44.8 per cent)
Most passes failed, own half: Cesar Azpilicueta (132)
Worst passing accuracy, own half: Suk Hyun-jun and Matej Vydra (50 per cent)
Most passes failed, opposition half: Trent Alexander-Arnold (359)
Worst passing accuracy, opposition half: Anthony Modeste (42.1 per cent)
Most corners/crosses failed: Trent Alexander-Arnold (246)
Worst corners/crosses accuracy (minimum 10): Wendell and Gabriel Martinelli (0 of 22)
Most times possession lost: Trent Alexander-Arnold (867)

Paris Saint-Germain attacker Angel Di Maria discussed the scary and crazy times people were living through during the coronavirus pandemic.

France has been hit hard by coronavirus, reporting more than 37,500 cases and 2,314 deaths.

The Ligue 1 season was suspended on March 13, with PSG sitting 12 points clear atop the table.

Di Maria admitted it was a scary time, with France's nationwide lockdown extended until mid-April.

"It is something crazy that we are experiencing," he told Telefe on Saturday.

Di Maria added: "We're trying not to do many things, [staying] at home. For our daughters we don't want to get infected.

"I go to the supermarket a lot. I have a normal life because people are respectful. It was only my wife once, she took off all the clothes at the door before entering the house and went to bath.

"You are a little scared of everything. The situation you look at and hear scares you."

PSG were last in action on March 11, beating Borussia Dortmund to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.

Thomas Tuchel said Paris Saint-Germain needed to remain confident and retain belief in their Champions League chances after an impressive win over Dijon.

PSG have faced criticism in the wake of their 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 first leg, but crushed Dijon 4-0 on Saturday.

Tuchel said there was no reason to begin doubting his PSG side, who hold a 13-point lead atop Ligue 1.

"The players want to prove that they are able to take a step forward, that too many criticisms have been said," the PSG coach told a news conference.

"They are having a consistent season, with many wins, with good performances, professional performances, strong performances. They deserved their victories. There were only few draws and one defeat.

"We can't lose confidence in this team, we can't lose confidence in this group. There are two games [first leg and second leg]. The players want to play the second leg. They want to prove what they can do.

"They started to show their abilities in training sessions this week, they showed it in this game, they will continue next Wednesday [in a Coupe de France semi-final against Lyon]."

Kylian Mbappe scored a brace against Dijon to go with goals from Pablo Sarabia and Mauro Icardi, while Angel Di Maria was substituted after just 17 minutes.

Tuchel played down any concerns over Di Maria and said he was "confident" the attacker would face Lyon.

The injury comes less than two weeks out from the second leg against Dortmund in Paris, although fears over the coronavirus continue to impact sporting events.

PSG defender Marquinhos has no interest in playing the second leg behind closed doors, saying it would be better to postpone the clash.

"Playing without fans would be a shame. I think it would be better to cancel the game. They had their fans at home. We want our fans at home," he said.

"I hope it won't happen. If a decision is made to play behind closed doors, we will ask to cancel the game, to play later in front of our fans."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 4-0 victory over Dijon on Saturday to re-establish their 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.

Spain midfielder Pablo Sarabia opened the scoring early in the game as he netted his ninth goal in all competitions since the start of 2020.

Mbappe added a second after the break with a composed finish before he set up substitute Mauro Icardi at the Parc des Princes.

France international Mbappe then put the gloss on the result in injury time when he tapped in his 18th league goal of the season after Julian Draxler's initial shot had been blocked.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani scored his 200th goal for the club in all competitions during their Ligue 1 clash with Bordeaux on Sunday.

The Uruguay international, who celebrated his 33rd birthday this month, equalised for PSG with a powerful header from Angel Di Maria's curling cross.

It was Cavani's seventh goal of the campaign for PSG having found himself in and out of the starting line-up under head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Cavani joined PSG from Italian side Napoli in July 2013 and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

He became PSG's all-time top goalscorer in January 2018 when he surpassed the record of 156 held by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Lucien Favre says Borussia Dortmund cannot afford to focus all their attention on Neymar as the world's most expensive player prepares to return to the Paris Saint-Germain team on Tuesday.

Neymar has been out of action since suffering a rib injury against Montpellier on February 1 but, alongside Kylian Mbappe, who missed the weekend draw at Amiens, he was named in the PSG squad for their Champions League last-16 first leg at Dortmund.

The Brazil international has made just a single appearance for PSG in the knockout stages of Europe's elite competition since joining in 2017, with injuries curtailing his campaigns as the Ligue 1 giants suffered consecutive last-16 defeats.

But Neymar also played only twice in this season's group stage as Thomas Tuchel's men topped the table and defeated Real Madrid.

Favre is therefore well aware of the other threats PSG might pose at Signal Iduna Park, including World Cup winner Mbappe, who scored three goals against Dortmund for Monaco in the 2016-17 quarter-finals.

"All the players have great qualities at PSG, but they have won against Madrid without him [Neymar]," Favre told a pre-match news conference on Monday.

"Neymar is very, very good, but there is also Mbappe or [Angel] Di Maria. I could count 10 players.

"They have high qualities in winning the ball and going forward very quickly. You play with counter-pressing, but you can also wait to counter."

Dortmund have quality of their own, though, and are boosted by the January arrival of Erling Haaland, who has nine goals in six games since joining from Salzburg.

Haaland netted eight times in the Champions League for Salzburg in the first half of the campaign, and Favre is optimistic the 19-year-old can continue this outstanding form against PSG.

"He adapted very quickly and showed his strengths: his strength and his running," Favre said. "He always wants to develop, even in training. He has a great mentality.

"He has already taken a great path here, even though he is only 19 years old. It's different in Dortmund than in Salzburg, of course, but he also played in the Champions League and scored goals there. I hope he does the same with us."

Dortmund and PSG have had trouble in defence in recent weeks, the Bundesliga side conceding four at Bayer Leverkusen on February 8 while the French champions let in the same number at Amiens in an epic draw on Saturday.

An exciting attacking encounter is therefore anticipated, but Favre – who will be without midfielder Julian Brandt – would be happy to see a tighter affair.

"I prefer to see a nice game, but sometimes a nice game is about good defensive play," he said. "Sometimes I have nothing against winning 1-0 or playing a 0-0.

"If there is an offensive style of play, people are happy – but not always the coaches."

Substitute Edinson Cavani scored his first Ligue 1 goal since August as Paris Saint-Germain held off a second-half Lyon fightback to win 4-2 on Sunday and open up a 12-point lead at the summit.

The runaway leaders took a two-goal advantage into half-time at the Parc des Princes thanks to strikes from Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe, and Marcal then comically put into his own net to further extend PSG's advantage following the restart.

But Thomas Tuchel's men were in trouble by the time of Cavani's 76th-minute introduction, Martin Terrier and Moussa Dembele scoring in quick succession as Lyon roared back.

PSG held on in tricky, windy conditions, though, and added a fourth through record goalscorer Cavani, with just his second touch, to ensure an eighth win in a row in all competitions and a healthy gap to second-placed Marseille.

Anthony Lopes thwarted Mbappe early on but was soon caught out by Di Maria, the PSG ace cutting inside from the right past Marcal and finding a gap at the near post.

Mauro Icardi then had a delightful chipped finish ruled out for offside, but there was to be no denying Mbappe, who delicately lifted the ball over Lopes when a desperate Marcelo lunge failed to cut out Thomas Meunier's centre.

PSG had another goal disallowed just before half-time, with Icardi again marginally offside before teeing up Mbappe to tap in, but their third arrived 89 seconds into the second half.

Meunier's initial cross was cut out by Thiago Mendes but his second was rifled into the net in farcical fashion by Marcal just inside the six-yard box with no PSG player nearby.

Lyon pulled one back against the run of play as Terrier's shot squirmed under Navas, before Dembele rounded off a slick team move - teed up by influential substitute Karl Toko Ekambi - to leave PSG sweating.

The visitors were without Memphis Depay and Maxwel Cornet but should have been level after 63 minutes, only for Dembele to fire off target from a glorious position.

Cavani made certain of the points three minutes after being introduced from the bench, though, his clinical finish a first goal in all competitions since the January transfer window closed.

Serie A strikers Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile lead the line in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week.

Lukaku and Immobile are two of the form front men in European football, and the duo have earned recognition following their latest goalscoring exploits.

Inter striker Lukaku grabbed both goals in a 2-0 away win at Udinese on Sunday.

And Immobile matched that haul as Lazio thrashed SPAL 5-1, the Italy international's brace taking his 2019-20 league tally to 25 already.

The duo are far from the only big names in this week's selection, however, with Roberto Firmino, Jadon Sancho and Hugo Lloris also among the new in-form cards.

Find the full squad below.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) - 89

CB: Matthijs de Ligt (Piemonte Calcio/Juventus) - 87

LB: Alex Telles (Porto) - 87

CB: Yerry Mina (Everton) - 84

CM: Daniel Parejo (Valencia) - 88

RM: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain) - 88

CAM: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) - 87

CM: Santi Cazorla (Villarreal) - 86

CF: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) - 88

ST: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) - 90

ST: Romelu Lukaku (Inter) - 88

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Steve Mandanda (Marseille) - 83

CB: Kaan Ayhan (Fortuna Dusseldorf) - 81

RM: Robert Snodgrass (West Ham) - 81

ST: Francesco Caputo (Sassuolo) - 84

RW: Daniel Ginczek (Wolfsburg) - 82

ST: Kasper Dolberg (Nice) - 81

LW: Oussama Idrissi (AZ) - 81

RESERVES

CM: Alexandru Maxim (Gaziantep) - 79

CM: Alexandru Cicaldau (Universitatea Craiova) - 78

LM: Ahmet Engin (Duisburg) - 76

LM: Nathan Thomas (Carlisle United) - 74

LW: Said Benrahma (Brentford) - 80

Angel Di Maria intends to see out his career in Europe at Paris Saint-Germain, hailing Thomas Tuchel for being influential in what he believes has been his best season.

Di Maria has been in sensational form in 2019-20, scoring 10 goals in all competitions and providing a division-high eight assists in Ligue 1.

It could easily have been different for Di Maria, who has confirmed he was debating leaving PSG in 2018 before a talk with Tuchel convinced him to stay at the Parc des Princes.

The 31-year-old is out of contract in 2021 and, though discussions over a new deal have not yet begun, he hopes to end his time in European football with PSG before possibly returning to Argentina to see out his playing days.

"I haven't spoken to anyone in the club [about a renewal]," said Di Maria.

"I am not really thinking about that now, I still have a year ahead of me. I am very confident. I keep working.

"I said that I want to end my career in Europe here at PSG and I am very happy here. Then, maybe I will see if I want to play in Argentina again."

Di Maria added that Tuchel is one of the coaches who has had the most faith in him.

"He has shown me a lot of trust and has given me confidence. He talked to me in Barcelona before the World Cup in 2018," he said.

"He really tried to convince me to stay at PSG and I think this is why I decided to stay. My family and I were feeling good.

"It has been hard because [former PSG coach Unai Emery] said I was going to play and I didn't, which hurt as a player.

"But the coach gave me 100 per cent trust. I think I had a few coaches like that, they all gave me trust and this is a very nice thing."

Tuchel, meanwhile, is thrilled to have a player of Di Maria's quality at his disposal.

"It just works, I really like him. I have been watching him for a few years and at Real Madrid, I was a huge fan," said the German.

"The way he is when he plays football, he is reliable, he doesn't quit, he works for the team. He is the first one to arrive at the training centre. He is really competitive and tries everything to be decisive.

"He is working a lot and is a super professional, a great guy. We talked for the first time in Barcelona and for me, it was like a spark. Since the beginning, we found a chemistry.

"I am really happy that he changed his mind, that he stayed, gained confidence and he found his quality again because he is a really important player for PSG.

"He could play in every team in the world. Sometimes, you have to calm him down in order to avoid doing too much, but our relationship is great."

Thomas Tuchel said he was "totally happy" with Mauro Icardi after Paris Saint-Germain's comfortable win over Monaco on Wednesday.

Icardi was substituted during the second half of the 4-1 victory, in which Kylian Mbappe scored a brace to go with Neymar's penalty and a Pablo Sarabia goal.

But Tuchel praised the forward, who has scored 17 goals in 21 games during his loan spell from Inter, despite his quieter display.

"He is used to touching just a few balls per game. We have Angel [Di Maria], Neymar, Kylian who touch many balls, so it's a good mix," the PSG head coach told a news conference.

"Mauro is used to working for us, staying in the spaces with discipline and creating some spaces for his team-mates which is important for us.

"Now he didn't score in his last two games, but he worked defensively so much. It was very important and impressive. No doubt of Mauro.

"We decided to let Kylian and Neymar as strikers for 70 minutes to use the speed of those two on counter-attacks and stay dangerous on our offensive transitions, but I am totally happy with Mauro."

Di Maria was also unable to get on the scoresheet against Monaco, but the attacker provided an assist for Mbappe.

The 31-year-old was also hailed by Tuchel as PSG moved eight points clear atop the Ligue 1 table.

"During the first half [Di Maria] was exceptional without the ball. He won many challenges and helped everyone," Tuchel said.

"I am very happy he made one or two assists. During previous games he made a lot of the last passes before the assist.

"So it's like that with him, when we want something special from him he always gives a lot of intensity. Sometimes he gives too much and loses his patience to find quick solutions, but he runs and finds intensity.

"As I said, during the first half he had an exceptional game to win a lot of balls and challenges. It was good."

Neymar wants Paris Saint-Germain to stick with their all-out attacking approach despite Monaco twice coming from behind to claim a thrilling 3-3 Ligue 1 draw at the Parc des Princes.

Neymar was on sparkling form, scoring twice and forcing Fode Ballo-Toure's own goal but Monaco gave as good as they got in an absorbing contest in Paris on Sunday.

Gelson Martins and Wissam Ben Yedder overturned Neymar's early opener to give Robert Moreno's Monaco the lead inside 15 minutes and Islam Slimani smuggled in another equaliser 20 minutes from time.

Neymar and Angel Di Maria flanked Mauro Icardi and Kylian Mbappe in attack but PSG's backline was frequently exposed.

Nevertheless, Neymar – the world's most expensive footballer – is backing head coach Thomas Tuchel's strategy.

"We scored three goals. I think that it worked well," Neymar told reporters.

"We have quality, we know it. I think you made a mistake with this question but I responded."

Neymar believes Sunday's test will stand PSG in good stead as they once again compete for multiple honours, with Tuchel's old employers Borussia Dortmund their last-16 opponents when the Champions League resumes next month.

"This was a very difficult match," the Brazil international added. "We knew that we were going to encounter difficulties because they have a good team, with quality.

"It was a good test. We are happy. This was not the best match of our season. We are going to improve each time to pull off a great campaign."

Paris Saint-Germain cruised into the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue after Mauro Icardi scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory over 10-man Saint-Etienne.

The 2017-18 champions were in control of a one-sided contest before Wesley Fofana received his marching orders, leaving his team-mates to face an onslaught from PSG's four-pronged attack.

Icardi opened the scoring early in the first half and, after Neymar dinked in the second and goalkeeper Jessy Moulin bundled a third into his own net, the former Inter striker fired a second-half brace.

Not to be left out of the goal glut, Kylian Mbappe scored a sixth before Yohan Cabaye's late strike proved little consolation for Claude Puel's men, who bowed out with their tails between their legs.

Thomas Tuchel can reflect on another rampant attacking performance from his side, who have scored 29 goals in their last six games in all competitions, and remain very much in contention for silverware on four fronts.

Saint-Etienne were carved open with ease after two minutes when Thomas Meunier's slide-rule pass into the box found Icardi, whose angled shot Moulin would have saved had the visiting goalkeeper stood tall but it flashed over his crouching frame and high into the net.

Having earlier been booked for handball, Fofana was sent off after he caught Angel Di Maria's heels as the Argentina winger sprinted towards goal, and the 10 men were powerless to stop Neymar chipping Moulin for PSG's second after Di Maria threaded the assist.

Any hopes Puel had of rallying his team at the interval were spoiled when Mbappe's audacious backheel put Di Maria through for a cross that ricocheted off two defenders' shins before rebounding off the post, onto Moulin's legs and into the unguarded net.

Di Maria started the move that delivered PSG's fourth just four minutes after half-time, his pass releasing Mbappe whose cross deceived Moulin and left Icardi to fire into an empty net.

Saint-Etienne failed to cope with Mbappe's pace down the left and he burst clear before squaring to Icardi for the hosts' fifth shortly before the hour mark, and Icardi returned the favour 10 minutes later when he met Di Maria's long pass with a volley that played Mbappe in to score at close range.

Substitute Edinson Cavani had the ball in the net 10 minutes from time but he was flagged offside, compounding the Uruguayan's frustrations at missing out on much of a prolific period for PSG.

After Di Maria felled substitute Edmilson Indjai Correia in the box 20 minutes from time, Cabaye had a penalty saved by Sergio Rico but the midfielder met the rebound with a header that glided over the goalkeeper and into the net.

What does it mean? Icardi catching Mbappe

With few teams able to go toe-to-toe with PSG this season, their forwards are competing among themselves and Icardi's treble takes him to within two goals of catching Mbappe's tally of 19 in all competitions as the club's leading goal-scorer.

What a difference a year makes

It seems hard to believe that little short of a year ago Icardi was injury plagued, unsettled and facing an unclear future at Inter.

His revival under Tuchel has been spectacular and here he was back to his clinical best.

Juan to forget

On a night when Saint-Etienne barely got a sniff of the ball, Juan Bernat's overplaying at the back still threatened to allow them back into the game early on and he was wasteful with the ball going forward.

What's next?

PSG will likely face a stiffer test when they entertain Monaco in Ligue 1 on Sunday, while Saint-Etienne are at home against fifth-placed Nantes.

Kylian Mbappe scored for a sixth game running as Paris Saint-Germain eased into the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue with a 4-1 win over Ligue 2 side Le Mans at MMArena on Wednesday.

The Ligue 1 champions made eight changes from their 4-0 win over Saint-Etienne on Sunday but proved too strong for Le Mans, who were the last remaining team from outside the top flight in the competition.

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Mbappe were all on target in the first half for PSG, who added a fourth goal through Angel Di Maria in the 47th minute.

Substitute Harrison Manzala pulled one back for the hosts, but Thomas Tuchel's men - record eight-time winners of the competition - saw things through to make it five wins in a row in all competitions.

Sarabia timed his run well to get on the end of Di Maria's left-sided cross and fire PSG ahead, with Pierre Patron getting two hands to the ball but failing to keep it out.

Le Mans eliminated Nice in the last round but their hopes of causing another upset took a hit when Mbappe squared the ball to Choupo-Moting after being played in by Marco Verratti's quick free-kick.

Mbappe added a third for the visitors 87 seconds later by taking Verratti's pass in his stride, holding off Pierre Lemonnier and beating Patron to extend his scoring run.

Some slack defending and goalkeeping early in the second half gifted PSG a fourth goal, Di Maria's attempt from range squirming through Patron's grasp.

Manzala cut inside and guided a shot away from Sergio Rico to give Le Mans something to celebrate, but it was plain sailing for the Ligue 1 giants in a quiet end to the match.

 

What does it mean? Much-changed PSG cruise through

Marquinhos, Di Maria and Mbappe were the only three survivors from the win over Saint-Etienne at the weekend as PSG boss Tuchel heavily rotated his side.

Despite the mass changes, the visitors eased through and will now be looking to improve on last season's shock quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual runners-up Guingamp.

Verratti at the heart of everything

Verratti caught out Le Mans with his quick thinking for PSG's second goal, which Choupo-Moting rounded off following some unselfish play from Mbappe.

The Ligue 2 strugglers were still coming to terms with that strike when Verratti again showed his quality by picking out Mbappe with a ball over the top for his side's third goal.

Poor performance from Patron

Keeping the likes of Mbappe and Di Maria quiet is difficult on a normal day, never mind when your goalkeeper gifts the opposition a couple of goals. 

Patron was caught out by Sarabia and Di Maria on their goals, making his only two saves of the match in second-half stoppage time.

What's next?

PSG return to Ligue 1 action with a home match against Amiens on Saturday, the same day Le Mans travel to the French capital to face Paris FC in their next Ligue 2 outing.

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