Neymar is Lionel Messi's "natural replacement" and would love to return to Barcelona, according to Brazil World Cup winner Mazinho.

Brazil superstar Neymar departed Camp Nou for a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2017-18 season but has consistently been linked with a move back to Barca.

Despite regular speculation ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, Neymar remained in the French capital and has scored 18 goals in 22 appearances across all competitions this term.

Neymar is once again being tipped to join Barca, though it was said at the time he left the club in part to try and escape the shadow of superstar team-mate and now six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

But Mazinho feels the 28-year-old is ready to come back and is capable of taking on Messi's mantle as Barca's talisman.

Speaking to Radio Marca, he said: "[Barcelona] would be delighted if he can return tomorrow.

"He is Messi's natural replacement. There is no other to replace Messi."

Mazinho's son Thiago Alcantara is part of a Bayern Munich side who returned to training this week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bundesliga champions trained in small groups without contact and Mazinho, who was part of the 1994 World Cup-winning Brazil team, said he trusts the club have taken appropriate measures.

"[Playing football amid the coronavirus outbreak] is worrying because it is a complicated situation that we are all experiencing," he added.

"In Germany they are progressing in that sense, with group training.

"You have to be very careful with all this. If Bayern do it, they do it because there is no risk and they are providing security to all their footballers.

"My son must work and be as prudent as possible."

Paris Saint-Germain were firmly on course to claim a seventh Ligue 1 title in eight years before the coronavirus pandemic meant the season was shutdown.

Thomas Tuchel's side had also progressed into the Champions League quarter-finals having edged past a vibrant Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate.

The second leg of that contest saw PSG win 2-0 in the French capital with Neymar netting the opener with a rare header.

It has been a strong season from the Brazil international with 17 goals in 21 games in all competitions.

Here, he picks his top five moments of 2019-20.


5 - The Dortmund comeback (March 11, 2020)

Having lost the first leg of their last-16 tie 2-1 in Germany, PSG needed the kind of comeback that hasn't always been their hallmark in the Champions League.

And it was Neymar who set them on their way with a diving header from Angel Di Maria's 28th-minute corner.

Juan Bernat made it 2-0 on the night as the hosts went through before celebrating wildly with fans that had congregated outside the Parc des Princes, defying orders around coronavirus.

"I was anxious for this game," Neymar told NN Consultoria.

"The days before that were some of the tensest. But I believe that, above all else, the group was united and every player, from the most experienced ones to the youngest, were all essential for this victory.

"The night was special. It looked like the Libertadores! The crowd outside the stadium received us on the streets with an unbelievable party."

 


4 - Lyon crushed (March 4, 2020)

Neymar was happy to play a supporting role as a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick inspired PSG to a 5-1 thrashing of Lyon in the Coupe de France semi-final.

Neymar and Pablo Sarabia also netted as PSG again confirmed their domestic superiority.

"Lyon cause us trouble in every game we play against them," said Neymar.

"The score doesn't show how hard this game was. This game was Mbappe's and he was essential in the victory."


3 - Neymar double honours Kobe (January 26, 2020)

As news of a helicopter crash involving NBA legend Kobe Bryant circulated on social media, Neymar paid his respects with a brace as PSG won 2-0 at Lille.

The former Barcelona star opened the scoring following a one-two with Marco Verratti before adding a second-half penalty.

"Kobe’s death affected me a lot," said Neymar.

"I had the pleasure of meeting him and learning from this star of sport, an idol for me. We got to know what happened during half-time. We were very sad, really sad. It was a tough game and the news, instead of knocking us down, made us bigger."


2 - Late joy at Lyon (September 22, 2019)

PSG moved three points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after Neymar grabbed an 87th-minute winner at Lyon.

The hosts withstood some strong PSG pressure but could do little as Neymar turned beautifully in the box to fire into the corner.

"There was lots of pressure on this game, but at the end of it the goal came," Neymar said.

"I received a pass from Di María and, thanks to God, I made the right option and was very happy. I turned my body around and got it on my left foot. An important goal."

 


1 - Silencing the critics (September 14, 2019)

Having missed the first four Ligue 1 games of the season after attempting to engineer a move back to Barcelona, Neymar made a stunning return.

He was booed by the Parc des Princes faithful when his name was read out, and throughout a tense encounter, but the Brazilian had the final say.

With the game in injury-time, Neymar latched on to Abdou Diallo's cross and conjured up an incredible overhead kick to win the game.

He said: "I needed a goal at any cost, it was very important for me and for PSG. I knew that a goal could change the history of this season, so I chased it with all I had.

"It was almost at the end of the game when Diallo launched the ball, there was no choice other than to try a bicycle kick. God blessed me and the ball went in.

"I put this goal as one of the most important goals of my career."

Luis Suarez views Barcelona's reported interest in fellow forwards Neymar and Lautaro Martinez as an encouraging sign.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar continues to be linked with a return to Camp Nou having won two LaLiga titles and a Champions League playing alongside Suarez during his previous stint at the club.

He is not the only striker reportedly on Barca's radar, though, with Inter's Martinez another attacker thought to be considered an intriguing prospect to the Blaugrana hierarchy.

Rather than see such speculation as a threat to his place in the team, Suarez has given his approval to those pursuits.

"It is difficult to talk about players today," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"As is the situation in the world today, talking about who can come because of how everything is complicated. But I can speak about what these players are like and they are huge players. 

"Obviously, Ney, everyone knows him and we know the appreciation that we have for him in the dressing room, which as a player is indisputable because he still has a lot to give and in the dressing room he would always be welcome because of the affection he has. 

"Lautaro is a player who has been growing a lot in Italy, he is a 'nine' who has movements that are spectacular and that reflects how great a striker he is. 

"It is not that you feel compatible but that you feel happy that the club wants to incorporate players who come to help and fulfil the same objective of everyone - that of wanting to win everything. 

"Then when it comes to healthy competition in the team, which there will always, we will always be on the same side. 

"So players who come to fight for a place and help the team will always be welcome, it will always be better and it will strengthen the group."

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar said he was deeply affected by the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in January, along with seven others in Calabasas, California.

Neymar paid tribute to Bryant at the time, wearing a jersey in honour of the five-time NBA champion, while he dedicated a goal to the 2008 MVP by holding up two fingers on one hand and four on the other – referencing the famous number 24 – in a Ligue 1 victory over Lille in February.

Recalling Bryant's death, Neymar told Vogue Men Arabia: "His death affected me a lot because our lives had much in common.

"I met Kobe personally and the times he came to Paris. When you meet the person behind the athlete, it creates a different relationship and with Kobe, it was very special. Sports and society lost a great guy."

Neymar, who continues to be linked with a return to former club Barcelona, has been hampered by injuries since joining PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

"There is nothing worse for a professional athlete than an injury," the Brazilian forward added.

"I really suffered with injuries these last two seasons and I had many moments of questioning myself.

"Half of the success of an athlete is the mind. If the mind is good, the game flows more naturally."

Barcelona have been warned against pandering to their players' apparent desire to see Neymar return to the club, with former Spain and Real Madrid boss Vicente del Bosque adamant he does not set a "good example".

Neymar spent four years at Camp Nou until 2017, when he left for Paris Saint-Germain as the most expensive player of all time in a €222million move.

While the Brazilian has undoubtedly caught the eye in Paris, scoring 47 goals and setting up another 26 in just 52 Ligue 1 matches, rarely has he appeared happy.

A return to Spain with Barca or Real Madrid has often been mooted, though reports linking him with his former club have been significantly more prominent in the past year.

Del Bosque, a Madrid icon and World Cup-winning coach with Spain, thinks he is a problem and cautioned the Barca hierarchy against caving into the supposed demands of players who reportedly want Neymar back in Catalonia.

"It is the clubs that must decide who to sign and who not to sign," Del Bosque told Mundo Deportivo.

"You should not pay attention to what the players say, for that there are sports directors and technical secretaries. It is very difficult for a footballer to speak ill of another footballer who has been his team-mate. I don't remember almost anyone who has.

"[Neymar] is a difficult boy. For me he is not a good example, and for the record, for me he is great as a player.

"If you ask me to tell you the top five in the world, he is safely on my list, but on the pitch he tries to cheat, he simulates a lot. And also, how did he leave Barcelona?"

Neymar has thanked health workers for their efforts in combating the spread of coronavirus.

Most of the world's population, including footballers such as Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil star Neymar, are being encouraged to remain at home to limit the impact of the global pandemic.

Yet doctors and nurses remain on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.

Earlier this week residents in Italy and Spain, who are in lockdown, showed their appreciation for health personnel by applauding in unison in events coordinated on social media.

Neymar has followed suit with a video of him clapping uploaded onto his social media account.

His caption read: "A big round of applause to all health professionals.

"Thank you for risking your lives #StayHome"

There have been over 246,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the world and over 10,000 people have died.

Liverpool's Champions League title defence is in the balance ahead of Wednesday's last-16 second leg with Atletico Madrid, but Jurgen Klopp's home record with the Reds highlights the task facing Los Colchoneros.

The Spanish side won 1-0 thanks to an early Saul Niguez effort at the Wanda Metropolitano, with Atletico producing a quintessential Diego Simeone display as they fought to cling on to a slender win.

Their approach is unlikely to change at Anfield, but Klopp boasts an impressive record on Merseyside.

In the other of Wednesday's games, Borussia Dortmund take a 2-1 lead over Paris Saint-Germain to Parc des Princes, setting the second leg up tantalisingly with Erling Haaland eying a slice of history - though there will not be any fans in attendance due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Below are the key match facts, courtesy of Opta, ahead of the two finely-poised contests.

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid

2 - On each of the previous two occasions Liverpool have lost away from home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie, they have progressed to the next round; the Reds eliminated Chelsea and Barcelona in the semi-finals in 2006-07 and 2018-19, respectively.

0 - Klopp is yet to lose a home Champions League game with Liverpool (W11 D4). His most recent two home defeats in the competition have been in last-16 matches with Borussia Dortmund in 2013-14 (1-2 v Zenit) and 2014-15 (0-3 v Juventus).

1 - Atletico have won just one of their previous nine away Champions League knockout games (W1 D2 L6), a 4-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen in February 2017.

7 - Roberto Firmino has been directly involved in seven goals in five Champions League knockout appearances at Anfield (3 goals, 4 assists), averaging a goal involvement every 54 minutes.

37 - Atleti's Jan Oblak has conceded just 37 goals in his first 49 Champions League appearances. The record for the fewest goals conceded by a goalkeeper in his first 50 appearances is held by Dida (35), followed by Victor Valdes (38).

Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund

0 - PSG have never progressed to the next stage of the Champions League after losing the first leg of a knockout tie, going out against Milan in 1994-95, Barcelona in 2014-15 and Real Madrid in 2017-18.

4 - Borussia Dortmund have always progressed to the next stage of the Champions League after winning the first leg of a knockout tie, doing so on all four previous occasions. The only team with a better 100 per cent progression rate after winning the first leg is Juventus (11/11).

5 - PSG have lost five of their previous six Champions League knockout matches (W1), losing each of their past two at the Parc des Princes against Real Madrid in March 2018 and Manchester United in 12 months later.

10 - Haaland is one of only five players to score 10 or more goals in their debut European Cup/Champions League campaign. The only player to score more than 10 was Claudio Sulser, who netted 11 goals in six appearances in 1978-79 for Grasshopper Zurich. Haaland also has the best minutes-per-goal ratio (one every 46 minutes) of any player in the competition's history to feature for at least 250 minutes.

37 - Neymar has been directly involved in 37 goals in 27 home Champions League appearances (20 for Barcelona, seven for PSG), scoring 25 goals and assisting 12. The Brazilian has never ended on the losing side in a home game in the competition (W24 D3).

Past problems between Neymar and Strasbourg players will not prevent Thomas Tuchel from including the Brazil star in Paris Saint-Germain's starting line-up this weekend. 

Neymar suffered a fractured metatarsal in a Coupe de France clash last year after being fouled three times in quick succession, with Strasbourg's Anthony Goncalves telling the forward "don't come blubbing afterwards". 

That injury kept Neymar out for three months, which meant he missed the Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester United, who progressed on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw. 

This weekend's fixture against Strasbourg comes just four days before the second leg of the clash with Borussia Dortmund, who won the first leg 2-1 to leave PSG facing another potential last-16 exit. 

Tuchel revealed Neymar is carrying a knock from the Coupe de France win over Lyon in midweek but, if he is fit, the PSG boss will not rest the player this weekend just because of his history with Strasbourg. 

"No, it's a football game and anything can happen," Tuchel told a news conference on Friday. 

"We can't protect them. We have a past with Strasbourg, but I can't think they can do weird things. I am not afraid. 

"He took a hit against Lyon, so we have to decide. If he's ready, he'll play." 

However, Tuchel is looking ahead to the return fixture with Dortmund when it comes to the fitness of Neymar's compatriot Thiago Silva. 

The defender has missed PSG's last two fixtures with a hamstring injury that was initially expected to force him out of the second leg against the Bundesliga side. 

Yet he has returned to training ahead of schedule, giving Tuchel hope he could actually have his captain available in the Champions League. 

"I am more optimistic," Tuchel said. 

"He has no more pain. It's the timing for him. It was possible that he might play 45 minutes [against Strasbourg]. 

"[But] it's too big a risk for Saturday with just one training session. We will have more intensity Saturday and Sunday for him here. 

"I'm waiting for Monday; we will decide after. 

"I speak with Thiago almost every day. He's completely preparing for Wednesday's game. He absolutely wants to play. 

"We will decide Tuesday or Wednesday. This is the plan. We cannot push, be impatient." 

Neymar is back in the Brazil squad for their first World Cup qualifiers, but goalkeeper Alisson is missing despite only being ruled out for a week by Liverpool with a hip injury.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed on Friday that Alisson is set to miss the Reds' next two matches against Bournemouth and Atletico Madrid after sustaining a hip problem in training.

Klopp said the situation will be clear after next week, but Brazil have left him off their list for matches against Bolivia and Peru, to be played on March 28 and April 1, respectively.

Brazil coach Tite confirmed in his news conference Alisson has been excluded from the selection due to injury.

Neymar returns, however, after he missed their previous matches in November due to fitness issues of his own, though Tite seemed frustrated when asked about the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

"Hopefully all high-level athletes are at their best and that I have to answer 300 questions about why one player and not the other," he said.

"I want to have difficult decisions all the time, that everyone is in good form, Neymar included."

Notable inclusions are Bruno Guimaraes, Felipe and Everton Ribeiro.

Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is in line for his first cap, Felipe is hoping to get only his second and Flamengo's Everton Ribeiro has not represented the Selecao since the 2015 Copa America.

"In the case of Everton, he returns because he has great form in his creative process," Tite said. "Bruno Guimaraes had a great championship last year for Athletico Paranaense, we followed him in the Under-23s and in Lyon, this consolidates, strengthens.

"It is likewise with Felipe. We followed two games that were emblematic of Atletico Madrid, against Liverpool and Valencia."

Brazil squad in full:

Weverton (Palmeiras), Ederson (Manchester City), Ivan (Ponte Preta); Dani Alves (Sao Paulo), Danilo (Juventus), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain); Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool); Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo), Everton (Gremio), Richarlison (Everton), Bruno Henrique (Flamengo).

Thomas Tuchel praised hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe for his response after finding it "difficult" against Borussia Dortmund, with the forward's partnership alongside Neymar crucial to Paris Saint-Germain.

With PSG lining up in an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation, Mbappe struggled to make an impact during the first leg of the last-16 Champions League tie away in Dortmund last month.

However, since the 2-1 defeat in Europe, France international Mbappe has flourished in domestic action, scoring six goals in three games.

Mbappe's hat-trick on Wednesday helped PSG progress to the Coupe de France final in style, with head coach Tuchel delighted at the 21-year-old's display in the 5-1 thrashing of Lyon.

"Mbappe's been very strong these last few weeks. He had a tough time in Dortmund playing in a different position. It was clearly difficult for him against Dortmund," Tuchel told the media.

"With Neymar, they're very strong together. After Dortmund, Mbappe showed a great reaction after every training session and during the games against Dijon and Lyon.

"He's very strong, he uses his speed very well, he's very decisive. He's really in good shape."

Neymar also scored in the rout, converting a second-half penalty after Marcal was deemed to have handled the ball inside the area midweek.

The Lyon defender received a second yellow card as punishment, allowing PSG to cut loose against 10 men. Mbappe added two more goals following his first-half equaliser, while Pablo Sarabia also scored late on.

Tuchel pointed to Neymar as the catalyst for the team to produce such "extraordinary performances", the Brazilian benefiting from playing regularly after returning from a rib issue.

"Neymar was very strong, he's still dangerous. For him, the most important thing is that he plays," the former Dortmund boss said.

"He's a player who helps us to do extraordinary performances, with extraordinary results. He has to play, and it's good that he played 90 minutes.

"It is also good to have another game to play before Dortmund against Strasbourg. He needs that, he has the ability to play a lot, and when he plays a lot, he is super strong."

Neymar scored PSG's goal against Dortmund but criticised the way the club managed his injury following the defeat, insisting he had wanted to play prior to the trip to Germany.

Thomas Tuchel is counting on Neymar ahead of a "decisive phase" of the season, believing he has mellowed since criticising Paris Saint-Germain's use of him prior to the defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

Neymar had hit out at the club for not playing him in any of their previous four matches before the trip to Germany, aiming to limit the risk of injury.

The Brazilian insisted such a decision had nothing to do with him, pointing the finger at the club and their doctors, as he claimed he had felt well enough to play.

Having served a suspension during PSG's 4-0 thrashing of Dijon on Saturday, Neymar is back in contention to face Lyon in the Coupe de France semi-final on Wednesday.

And Tuchel says he has mellowed since venting his frustration with the club, while the coach is relying on the forward ahead of a potentially critical part of the season, with PSG set to face Dortmund in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next week having lost 2-1 at Signal Iduna Park.

"He [Neymar] is calmer now," Tuchel told reports on Tuesday. "In Bordeaux he had a good match, unfortunately with a red card. It was not good, but it was like that.

"I have a feeling that he is calmer. He's getting ready for tomorrow's game, he's going to play, it's necessary.

"The most important thing is that he plays, that he is with us in this decisive phase. I am happy to play with him in Lyon.

"I have the feeling that he is really ready, that he is calmer, more confident, and that he has found his rhythm."

Thomas Tuchel admitted he was "very surprised" by leaked footage that showed Paris Saint-Germain's players partying into the early hours of the morning this week.

A number of PSG's first-team stars attended a lavish joint-birthday party for Edinson Cavani, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria in Paris on Thursday.

The extravagant bash was held two days after the French champions' 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Footage on social media showed some players, including forward Neymar, topless and bouncing around the room.

And with a Ligue 1 clash against Bordeaux to come on Sunday, Tuchel has questioned the actions of his players.

"I was really surprised yesterday afternoon when watching the video," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. 

"You can be sure that we talked internally. I don't want to talk about it now, but we talked about it within the club and it has to stay that way."

He added: "You can be sure that we are not happy with this image. We talked together as a team and it is now an internal matter.

"I am here to improve my group. I cannot give advice to the club, that is not my role."

Marquinhos was in attendance at the exclusive Pavillon Dauphine and defended the decision to throw the triple birthday party.

"The leaked footage was a mistake," he told reporters. "However, it had been planned for a long time. We needed to get together. 

"We must be careful, though, as there are people who travel miles to follow us.

"There has been frustration at the result and poor performance [against Dortmund]. We know our strengths, especially at home.We must work hard and with a good mentality."

Neymar suggested after the loss to Dortmund that he has been unhappy with PSG's management of his rib injury, insisting he was ready to return to action earlier.

However, Tuchel has reiterated that he cannot risk the Brazil international's fitness at a key point in the season.

"As I said before, it was a discussion between the club, medical staff and myself. With each injury we have to make many decisions, that's the way it is," he said.

"Imagine if we let him play, the injury got worse and he was out for three months. You would have asked the same questions, whether it was a mistake to play him.

"We have to think about why we are making these decisions and you have to trust me. We have talked a lot and it is the same with every player.

"Obviously I want him to play every game and we have to make decisions together. This is the decision we made between us. Now he needs to regain his rhythm."

Tuchel also confirmed Thomas Meunier and Colin Dagba are out of Sunday's clash with Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes, where he is hoping for a quick response from his side.

"It is never easy to start again after a defeat, but that is the challenge," he said. "I have the impression that all the players want to prove themselves.

"Sometimes the players are more competitive when things aren't comfortable. That is exactly the mindset we are looking for."

Neymar will be absent when Paris Saint-Germain tackle Dijon in the Coupe de France on Wednesday.

That confirmation came on the morning of the quarter-final fixture as PSG named their travelling squad, with Neymar staying behind in Paris as he continues to recover from a rib injury.

The Brazil striker was checked by coach Thomas Tuchel in training after Tuesday's media conference, when it was made clear PSG would take no risks with the former Barcelona player.

"Neymar is injured, we have to be patient and careful with him," said Tuchel.

Neymar has missed PSG's 2-1 win at Nantes and 4-2 victory over Lyon since suffering his injury against Montpellier on February 1.

He returned to training last Friday, but the last thing PSG would want is for Neymar to aggravate the problem, given they return to Champions League action at Borussia Dortmund next Tuesday.

Ahead of that first-leg match at the last-16 stage, former Dortmund coach Tuchel will hope to have his key players available.

Neymar was joined on the list of non-travellers for the Dijon game by Marquinhos, who is recovering well from a calf injury, along with Idrissa Gueye, Presnel Kimpembe and Marco Verratti.

In Neymar's absence, PSG remained replete with fire-power as Tuchel took Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Edinson Cavani on the trip to the Stade Gaston Gerard.

PSG are hoping to go one better than last year in the Coupe de France, having lost the 2018-19 final on a penalty shoot-out to Rennes.

Rennes reached this year's semi-finals on Tuesday with a 3-0 win over fourth-tier minnows ASM Belfort.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel is thrilled by Kylian Mbappe's ambition to win a "triple-whammy" of the Champions League, Euro 2020 and the Olympics football tournament this year.

Mbappe, 21, has already won nine trophies in senior football, including the 2018 World Cup, in which the striker scored four times.

PSG again look on track to dominate French football this season, as they lead Ligue 1 and remain in the hunt in the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue.

But the trophy that has continued to elude them since Qatar Sports Investments took over as majority shareholders in 2011 is the Champions League, and Mbappe wants to finally end that wait this season, before then going on to enjoy Euro 2020 and Olympics success with his country.

While this ambition is not new to Tuchel, the German feels such belief will stand him in good stead.

"Well, okay, that is good," Tuchel told reporters when asked about Mbappe's declaration. "It means that we can work, it is a great challenge, three great challenges and goals.

"But with him, it's always like that. He is convinced of that and I think it's a good thing because it means he is very confident and you need confidence to achieve such goals.

"I hope, at least for PSG, that he will be able to achieve the first [the Champions League] and then the second and third for France."

Since initially joining on loan from Monaco in 2017, Mbappe has scored 59 goals in 70 Ligue 1 matches and forged an impressive partnership with Neymar, who boasts a haul of 45 from 49 outings across the same period.

The pair appear to have an impressive understanding of each other on the pitch, though Tuchel insists PSG do not train in an attempt to improve Neymar and Mbappe, but rather learn how best to capitalise on their brilliance.

"We always work with the positions during training, and together they train during possession games, for example," Tuchel said. "They like to play alongside each other. They are very smooth in their movements and there is a great partnership between the two of them.

"But it's not on us to improve them because they have the quality to do that. We have to find spaces and create a structure and the formation where both are free to attack.

"Maybe we have to create an understanding of when and where they can take risks or when and where they have to be more careful, but both are brilliant."

PSG travel to Reims in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals on Wednesday, with Mbappe and Neymar expected to feature after being rested during Sunday's 1-0 Coupe de France victory over Ligue 2's Lorient.

Pablo Sarabia's header 10 minutes from time ensured Paris Saint-Germain did just enough to beat Ligue 2 side Lorient 1-0 and book their place in the last 16 of the Coupe de France.

Thomas Tuchel's men were far from their best at Stade du Moustoir and extra-time appeared to be on the cards, but Sarabia was decisive in the 80th minute to end Lorient's hopes of an upset.

While Tuchel did use the opportunity to rest some of his key players, PSG still had an exceptionally strong starting XI – but they offered very little spark or imagination in the first half, with Lorient actually crafting the best chance.

The contest was more open after half-time, particularly in the final 20 minutes, and Sarabia produced a well-placed header late on to seal the victory, as PSG look to go one better than last season in the competition, having finished runners-up in 2018-19

Although PSG managed eight shots in the first half, there was a distinct lack of goalmouth action and the Parisians struggled to test Paul Nardi in the Lorient goal.

The only major opportunity of the opening 45 minutes fell to the home side just past the half-hour mark – Yoane Wissa heading Jimmy Cabot's cross just wide from close range.

PSG were no more of a creative threat after the interval, with Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler and Sarabia underwhelming in their attempts to supply Mauro Icardi with good service.

Icardi was finally presented with a chance in the 67th minute, latching on to Sarabia's looping header at the back post, but Nardi just managed to get in the way when the opening goal looked a certainty.

Chances began to flow a little more in the final 15 minutes, as Thiago Silva cut out a potentially goal-bound shot from Vincent Le Goff and Nardi made a fine save to thwart Sarabia.

But the former Sevilla winger was not to be denied soon after, peeling off his marker to head home Silva's delivery.

 

What does it mean? PSG persist but lack of decisiveness a concern

It is not often that PSG struggle to break their opponents down. With a slightly altered supporting cast for Icardi, the Parisians often appeared short of ideas on Sunday. Perhaps it came down to a lack of focus - if so, Tuchel will need to stamp that out quickly if they are to enjoy a successful season across all fronts.

Nardi a safe pair of hands

He perhaps did not come under quite as much pressure as he might have expected, but Nardi still produced a commanding performance in Lorient's goal. His save to deny Icardi in the second half was excellent, while he looked confident when dealing with crosses and high deliveries.

Di Maria disappoints

The most experienced player in PSG's attack on the day, Di Maria certainly cannot be accused of going missing, but very little of what he did was positive. Only one of his seven shots was accurate and he produced a solitary key pass – hardly decisive.

What's next?

Another cup tie awaits PSG, as they go to Reims in the Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday. Lorient return to league action two days later as the Ligue 2 leaders host Nancy.

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