Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice yet Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe helped Paris Saint-Germain defeat Riyadh All-Stars 5-4 in a thrilling friendly.

The exhibition at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday saw 21 shots on target, nine goals, a red card for Juan Bernat and a penalty miss from Neymar.

Having had his debut for new club Al Nassr delayed due to a domestic ban carried over from his time at Manchester United, Ronaldo's first game since moving to Saudi Arabia came for a hybrid XI that also contained players from Al Hilal.

It set up a reunion with long-time rival and fellow multiple Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi in what was their first meeting on the pitch of any sort since Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 in the Champions League group stage in 2020.

Messi came out on top in terms of scoreline in this 37th encounter between the pair, with PSG pulling away in a game that the hosts levelled on three occasions, but Ronaldo outscored the 2022 World Cup winner.

Neymar, Mbappe and Messi all combined for the latter to open the scoring inside the opening three minutes, but Ronaldo equalised from a penalty he himself won after being caught in the face by Keylor Navas.

PSG lost Bernat to a straight red card for his last-man challenge just inside the opposition half, though they were soon back in front through a close-range Marquinhos finish from Mbappe's assist.

Neymar missed the chance to extend PSG's lead when having a tame penalty saved, and that proved costly when Ronaldo glanced in a trademark header on the stroke of half-time.

PSG still could not shake off their opponents after Sergio Ramos' strike, teed up by Mbappe, was cancelled out by Jang Hyun-soo's header less than three minutes later.

Mbappe capped an impressive display with a goal of his own from the penalty spot on the hour mark. He was then subbed off, along with Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo.

The tempo of the game dropped from that point but the entertainment continued until full-time as Anderson Talisca pulled back a late goal after Hugo Ekitike had seemingly put PSG out of sight, though the Riyadh All-Stars could not equalise for a fifth time.

Paris Saint-Germain did not lose to Lens simply because Lionel Messi and Neymar were unavailable, according to captain Marquinhos.

The Ligue 1 leaders slipped to a first loss of the season, with goals for Przemyslaw Frankowski, Lois Openda and Alexis Claude-Maurice ensuring a 3-1 defeat at Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Sunday.

Christophe Galtier's side were missing key personnel, with Messi only just returning from a post-World Cup victory break and Neymar banned after a red card against Strasbourg.

However, Marquinhos refused to cite the lack of the former Barcelona pair, instead suggesting PSG were simply outclassed by a superior opponent.

"They are great players who make the difference," Marquinhos told Amazon Prime Video. "But we have already won without them.

"We have to find the cohesion of our team again. I think Lens were more efficient, especially in the first half. They won the duels which made the difference.

"We had opportunities to come back, to score, but we weren't able to be as efficient as they were."

PSG's defeat was their first in Ligue 1 since March last year against Monaco, ending a 25-game streak without a loss in the top-flight.

It marked a first competitive reverse as PSG head coach for Galtier, after succeeding Mauricio Pochettino ahead of this campaign, and he felt his side gave an uncharacteristic account of themselves.

"Lens deserve this victory," Galtier said. "I had a hard time recognising my team. We lacked cohesion, we collapsed as the match progressed.

"We gave a lot of space away, we made a lot of technical errors. There was a lot of surprising wastefulness from my boys. They don't give me that habit usually."

Kylian Mbappe rescued a late victory for Paris Saint-Germain on their return to Ligue 1 action as his injury-time penalty seized a 2-1 win against Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The league leaders had looked destined for a draw at Parc des Princes after captain Marquinhos had cancelled out his opener with an own goal and Neymar had been sent off for consecutive bookings.

But a 96th-minute spot-kick for the France international, just under a fortnight on from his hat-trick in defeat for France in the World Cup final, ensured his side avoided dropping points for the third time this season.

It marked a major reprieve for Christophe Galtier's side, who were without Qatar 2022 winner Lionel Messi in the French capital, and struggled to convert their early dominance into a more comfortable result.

Neymar wants to take time to "mourn" Brazil's World Cup exit as he hailed the team's youngsters for stepping up in the Selecao's penalty shoot-out loss to Croatia.

Brazil, the pre-tournament favourites, are heading out after going down 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw with the 2018 runners-up at Education City Stadium.

Neymar opened the scoring with a wonderful goal midway through extra time on Friday, a strike that took him level with the great Pele on 77 goals for Brazil.

Yet Bruno Petkovic scored with four minutes remaining, with Rodrygo and Marquinhos failing to convert their penalties as Brazil's wait for a sixth world title rolled on.

Neymar did not take a spot-kick, though perhaps would have been in line to take Brazil's fifth had it gone that far.

He had nothing but praise for the team-mates that stepped up, as the 30-year-old conceded he was unsure what is next for Brazil, who will have a new coach after Tite confirmed his time in charge had come to an end.

"The feeling is really bad. It's worse today than what happened in the past," Neymar said.

"Unfortunately, it's hard to find words to describe this moment. We tried, we fought, and I'm proud of all my team-mates.

"I'm proud of their personality, of taking the penalty, of their character, because it's not easy to assume that responsibility.

"Rodrygo is a very young boy and every time they came in and played, I always told them: 'This responsibility is mine, I'm the oldest, you have to play football.' 

"But he's so out of the curve, he's an ace, and he wanted to take responsibility for the penalty. You can only miss if you hit. Unfortunately, the ball did not go in.

"Not only him, but we will all learn from this. I don't know what will happen from now on in the Brazilian team, but now it's time to mourn."

Neymar had been in tears at full-time, and had to be consoled by team-mates on the field.

Richarlison, meanwhile, was crying as he spoke to reporters well over an hour after the final whistle.

"I think we did almost everything right," Richarlison said. "Unfortunately, we will not crown the excellent work we built. Now it's time to suffer a little.

"I have to apologise to our family members and our fans who believed in us until the end. Now it's time to go to the bedroom and cry because we are human beings, we are flesh and blood. We suffered a very painful defeat."

Marquinhos believes the strength of Brazil's squad will allow them to stay at "this level" even as Neymar misses Monday's game against Switzerland through injury.

Brazil impressed in beating Serbia 2-0 in their World Cup opener, but they lost Neymar to an ankle injury following a brutal 80 minutes in which he was fouled nine times.

While the Paris Saint-Germain forward has not been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament, he will not feature in the Selecao's next match.

An injury to Neymar in the 2014 World Cup was followed by Brazil losing 7-1 to Germany, but Marquinhos believes this team – the tournament favourites – can cope with his absence.

"[We are] 100 per cent confident," the defender said.

"We wish we could have Neymar playing with us, we would love to have 26 players fully available, but we are ready and confident we will be able to show our group is strong, well trained, and ready for any difficulties we might face.

"Injuries happen, we must all be aware of these possibilities. We must be wise enough to see everybody has an important role to play, the importance of the ones who were not starting and came in.

"Now we have injuries, it's important that the ones who replace them are ready for the moment so we can play our best. I believe taking into account this talent, we'll be able to keep this level."

Asked how Neymar was feeling, Marquinhos added: "We took some time to digest the situation.

"Right after the game, he was sad. I think that's normal, because he dreamt so much about the World Cup and now he's suffered an injury. As a player, we all understand what he's going through.

"Today, after the tests, the training, the treatment, he's going through physio 24 hours a day, working very hard. It shows how much he wants to be fit and ready.

"We don't know how long it will take. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope he will be fit physically and emotionally very soon."

Marquinhos was also asked about Lionel Messi, another Paris Saint-Germain team-mate, who scored a vital goal for Argentina to keep their World Cup dream alive in what appears likely to be his last finals.

The Albiceleste are Brazil's bitter rivals, but Marquinhos said: "These players... Messi is not just an Argentina player, Cristiano [Ronaldo] not only a Portugal player – they are more than that.

"They are a privilege to football, for all football lovers, so everyone who wants football to evolve and loves football knows how precious they are.

"They do not belong only to their countries. All of us, we enjoy their presence and to see them playing.

"I have played with Messi, Neymar, other great players, and I benefit from their presence. We should all enjoy their presence as much as we can.

"But life goes on, and we know that other generations will come, new great players will come. We have to enjoy the great football as much as we can, keep looking for new players – that's what football is about. Other great players had important moments."

Brazilian players Rodrygo and Marquinhos have warned their teammates about the dangers of buying into their own hype, saying nothing good can come from expecting to win as favourites.

Boasting one of the strongest teams on paper, Brazil's squad includes world-class centerpieces such as Neymar and Vinicius Junior, and they have made two Copa America finals since the 2018 World Cup, winning in 2019 and falling 1-0 to Argentina in 2021.

They will also play in Group G, where they will be joined by Cameroon, Serbia and Switzerland in three matchups Brazil will be heavily favoured in.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Real Madrid's Rodrygo said while he understands the pressure on his side to perform in Qatar, he would prefer to let their play do the talking.

"We know that we have a great national team, that we are among the favourites," he said. "But there are also other very good teams as well.

"It's no use saying we are favourites and then arriving on the pitch and not showing it. We know that everyone was in good form with their clubs and that's why they're here – many good players were left out."

Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Marquinhos agreed, saying they will need to play hungry to fulfill their potential.

"If we think we are favourites, that we are the best, we will not go forward," he said. "We've seen how things are in this competition, which is very difficult. 

"All the teams are ready and very balanced, they can make life difficult. That's the [World] Cup. 

"It's no use coming here and talking about the future. We have to get through the [group stage] first. It will be three very difficult games."

Brazil kick off their campaign on Thursday, November 24 against Serbia.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier was "proud" despite his team being astonishingly beaten to top spot in Champions League Group H by Benfica, an outcome that left captain Marquinhos frustrated.

Goals from Kylian Mbappe and Nuno Mendes at Juventus, either side of Leonardo Bonucci's equaliser, on Wednesday seemed to have Galtier's side on course to win the group courtesy of a 2-1 triumph.

However, Benfica scored five unanswered second-half goals at Maccabi Haifa to win 6-1, with Joao Mario's 92nd-minute effort snatching first place on away goals scored.

PSG and Benfica could not be separated by their head-to-head record, goals scored or conceded, making the away goals scored tie-breaker a Champions League first.

Finishing second means the Ligue 1 champions will face one of the group winners in the last 16, but Galtier generally seemed content, acknowledging how unusual and unfortunate it was to be pipped in such fashion.

"Of course, we have to value our campaign," he told reporters. "We beat Juventus twice, we got 14 points, we scored a lot of goals and in the end we finished second on the number of goals scored away from home, and that's how it is.

"But obviously I'm still very proud of my group, of my team in this group stage. We had a tough match, we knew we were going to have a difficult match, but we still managed to win, and then there is this scenario [Benfica scoring their sixth goal] that happens in the 92nd minute.

"Nobody could have imagined that. We finished second on the number of goals scored away from home. That's incredible."

But Marquinhos was rather more subdued as he struggled to hide his irritation despite claiming he was attempting to be optimistic.

"We're trying to take the positives out of it," he told reporters. "There were obviously two feelings, because we won against Juve in a difficult match, but we finished second, whereas the aim was to get this first place. Unfortunately, we didn't succeed.

"You have to look at the good aspects of things, there are good things to take away from this group stage, even if there are things to improve.

"In the Champions League, this first phase was important, but it is really played out in the second half of the season.

"That's when we have to perform well, be decisive, be good, because it's all about the end of the season."

Nevertheless, Marquinhos did value PSG's ability to see out an important win against a big club even though their performance was hardly spectacular.

"We have already seen teams win without necessarily being the best or playing the most beautiful football, but knowing how to be effective," he continued. "If we manage to be effective in these decisive moments, we can do great things.

"Even if there were difficult moments in this match, we managed to score and that unlocks a match. So, when we win a match like this, even if it wasn't our best game, we have to tell ourselves that it's important to know how to play like that too."

Richarlison scored twice as Brazil beat Ghana 3-0 in Le Havre, an early tease of the Selecao's strength before they go after a sixth World Cup title.

Neymar pulled the strings in the first half, setting up both of Tottenham frontman Richarlison's goals after Marquinhos put them into an early lead.

There was a late booking for Neymar after he took too firm a nibble at Mohammed Kudus, the player who scored for Ajax against Liverpool in the Champions League.

But nothing could spoil Brazil's night in Normandy as Tite's team wrapped up a convincing win.

The opening goal came in the ninth minute when Raphinha's devilishly powerful corner from the right swung in and was met with a thumping header from Marquinhos.

Raphinha, Neymar and Vinicius Junior failed to take chances before Richarlison showed how it is done in the 28th minute, sweeping a crisp and low first-time shot into the bottom-right corner from Neymar's pass.

Brazil's third arrived in the 40th minute when Neymar took on set-piece duties on the left and whipped a dangerous free-kick into the near post where Richarlison's header gave Jojo Wollacott little chance.

Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams made his Ghana debut, coming on for the start of the second half after switching allegiance from Spain. Brazil also threw on Bremer for a debut, the Juventus central defender taking the place of Thiago Silva.

Ghana went close to pulling one goal back when Andre Ayew headed against the crossbar in the 57th minute, while Williams proved to be a dangerous new presence in the Black Stars' attack.

Brazil had riches in reserve though, and Tite withdrew Richarlison, Vinicius and Casemiro just after the hour mark, with Fabinho, Antony and Matheus Cunha coming on.

Raphinha could not quite reach a dangerous ball across goal from Lucas Paqueta, and Cunha saw a close-range effort deflect over the bar, as Brazil chased in vain for a fourth late in the game.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier insists he has never thought about taking the captaincy away from Marquinhos, pushing back at the Brazilian's critics.

Under the former Lille and Nice boss, the Ligue 1 champions have enjoyed a bright start to the new season, aided by revived performances from Neymar and Lionel Messi in attack.

It has not always been the same story at the back, though, with Marquinhos coming in for some criticism amid suggestions the club would be better suited with another captain on the pitch.

Speaking ahead of his side's final match ahead of the international break against Lyon, Galtier said he has not considered changing captains and defended the centre-back's performances.

"The captaincy, I have never thought of taking it away from him," he stated. "He knows everything. He can talk. He is irreproachable.

"He knows when he can come to see me to share certain points of view. He is a very good relay for me. In the field, I have several relays with him - Sergio Ramos, Presnel Kimpembe, Kylian Mbappe.

"On his performances, I am surprised by your analysis. I do not share it. He must assimilate to a new system, that is all."

Marquinhos was included in Brazil's squad for their final set of fixtures ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Arsenal and Zurich held a minute's silence following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, with the news being confirmed during the half-time interval of the Gunners' 2-1 Europa League win.

The sides were drawing 1-1 at half-time at AFG Arena on Thursday after Mirlind Kryeziu converted a penalty to cancel out Marquinhos' 16th-minute opener.

It was decided that a period of reflection would be held ahead of the second half, with Arsenal playing the remainder of the Group A contest with black armbands.

Eddie Nketiah – heavily involved at both ends – put Arsenal back ahead after the hour mark in Switzerland and the visitors saw out their sixth win in seven matches this season.

Zurich are winless in seven league matches in what has been a poor start to the season and were behind early on against Arsenal.

Nketiah carried the ball down the left and picked out Marquinhos, who thumped an impressive first-time finish into the roof of the net.

Having played a big part in that opener, Nketiah went from hero to zero when bringing down Fidan Aliti to concede a penalty, which Kryeziu slotted in to level up the contest.

After a sombre start to the second period, Arsenal soon got going and regained their lead through an Nketiah header – Marquinhos turning provider with his cross from the right.

Arsenal were unable to find a third goal, but they held their opponents firmly at bay to respond to Sunday's loss against Manchester United in the best way possible.

Marquinhos savoured a "perfect evening" for Paris Saint-Germain as Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick and Angel di Maria signed off in style in a 5-0 rout of Metz.

Mauricio Pochettino's side relegated Metz by dishing out on a thrashing in their final game of the season after Mbappe signed a new contract.

It was announced before kick-off at Parc des Princes on Saturday that France forward Mbappe had snubbed Real Madrid in favour of putting paper on a new three-year deal with the Ligue 1 champions.

Meanwhile Di Maria, who left the field in tears when substituted late on, marked his final appearance for the club after seven years in the French capital by rounding off the scoring.

Marquinhos told Prime Video Sport: "The tribute to Di Maria is deserved for everything he has done. Kylian [Mbappe] scores and announces his extension, it's a perfect evening."

And the skipper is well aware of the significance of keeping hold of Mbappe following so much talk that he was on his way to Madrid.

He added: "[Kylian] was strong; he didn't say anything, he showed nothing. When we were in the dressing room, this ceremony [when his new deal was revealed] boosted us for the game.

"[His extension] is a big step, but there is still a lot to do, we have to analyse what has been good and not so good this season."

Marquinhos also paid tribute to the outgoing Di Maria, who is heavily linked with a move to Serie A giants Juventus.

"[Angel is] a great, he's a gentleman. He's a big game player," he continued.

"He has always made a difference for us – me especially; he gave me a lot of passes. 

"It touches when you see players like that leave; it's part of my story here.  It hurts to see him go, we just have to thank him."

Palmeiras midfielder Danilo has been granted his first call-up to the Brazil squad, while Tite selected Fabinho for the upcoming friendlies in June despite injury concerns over the Liverpool star.

Brazil announced a 27-man squad on Wednesday for friendlies against Korea Republic, Japan and South American rivals Argentina next month.

Fabinho is one of 13 Premier League players called up, despite the midfielder limping off in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday after suffering a muscle injury.

Reports suggest Fabinho will miss the upcoming FA Cup final against Chelsea, along with league games against Wolves and Southampton, as he faces a race against the clock to feature in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28 as Liverpool hunt an unprecedented quadruple.

Fellow midfielder Danilo was the other notable inclusion by Tite, with the Palmeiras man earning his maiden call-up after impressing at the Club World Cup, where his side were defeated in the final by Chelsea.

On Danilo's inclusion, Tite told reporters: "Danilo is one of those players that we have been following, we are always attentive to players that are emerging. 

"Danilo played well at the Club World Cup in games that we followed live and made visits to the club. We were looking at a series of things on how he performs so we could justify his selection."

Fabinho's Liverpool team-mate Alisson also made the list, along with fellow goalkeeper Ederson, while Manchester United duo Alex Telles and Fred were named alongside Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes.

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes was again selected by Tite and will look to add to his six caps, but there was no room for Magpies team-mate Joelinton, who has impressed since dropping into midfield under Eddie Howe.

Casemiro could partner Guimaraes in the middle alongside Lyon's Lucas Paqueta, while Weverton and Guilherme Arana were the only other two players to feature from Brazil's domestic league.

Tite will have vast experience in the backline to call upon as well, with the likes of Alex Sandro, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos to select from.

Up top, Gabriel Jesus will look to carry over his scoring form from his exploits with Manchester City, with Neymar, Vinicius Junior and Real Madrid's Champions League hero Rodrygo part of a star-studded attacking line-up.

The upcoming friendlies are part of Brazil's penultimate preparations for the 2022 World Cup, where Tite's side are placed in Group G alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon.

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Alex Sandro (Juventus), Alex Telles (Manchester United), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Danilo (Juventus), Guilherme Arana (Atletico-MG), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain) and Thiago Silva (Chelsea); Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Danilo (Palmeiras), Fabinho (Liverpool), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon) and Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa); Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Raphinha (Leeds), Richarlison (Everton), Rodrygo (Real Madrid) and Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain threw away a two-goal lead for a second successive league game as Troyes battled back to earn a 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes.

The hosts looked to be in control when Marquinhos and Neymar gave them a comfortable first-half lead, but a series of defensive errors allowed the visitors to fight back in an entertaining affair.

Having surrendered a 3-1 advantage in last week's 3-3 draw with Strasbourg, PSG were on the wrong end of another turnaround when Ike Ugbo and Florian Tardieu scored either side of the break.

Neymar also had two goals disallowed as PSG laboured to another underwhelming result, as the pressure on head coach Mauricio Pochettino continues to mount.

The hosts looked on course for a routine win when Marquinhos turned in Angel Di Maria's excellent cross to open the scoring after five minutes, with Neymar doubling the lead from the spot 20 minutes later after Erik Palmer-Brown clumsily felled Kylian Mbappe.

But Troyes were soon gifted a route back into the game when Ugbo intercepted Nuno Mendes' terrible pass to fire into the bottom-left corner after half an hour.

PSG went close to re-establishing their two-goal advantage when Lionel Messi side-footed against the post, only for Neymar to be ruled offside when smashing home the rebound.

The visitors punished another PSG error when Presnel Kimpembe hauled down Renaud Ripart after the interval, allowing Tardieu to execute an audacious panenka to level the scores, before Neymar saw another goal chalked off after Mbappe's foul in the build-up.

Marquinhos sent a firm header wide and Messi crashed a long-range shot against the bar as the hosts chased a late winner, only for the disciplined visitors to claim a point at a frustrated Parc des Princes.

What does it mean? PSG drop rare home points

While PSG remain unbeaten in 21 Ligue 1 home games (18 wins, three draws), they have now gone two home matches without a win for the first time since doing so between February and April 2021 (three consecutive defeats).

The result will do little to disquiet the discontent around Pochettino's team, with the Argentine under severe pressure despite wrapping up PSG's 10th Ligue 1 title last month.

Neymar continues fine form

Despite PSG flattering to deceive in the second half of the season, Neymar's strong individual performances have proven crucial to their title win.

After converting his first-half penalty, the Brazilian has contributed to goals in each of his last six league games (seven goals and three assists in total).

Tardieu on the spot

In a contest which revolved around two spot-kicks, Tardieu kept his nerve to beat Keylor Navas with a sumptuous lob as the visitors earned a creditable draw.

The 30-year-old has scored four Ligue 1 goals this season, each of them from the spot.

What's next?

PSG travel to Montpellier for the penultimate outing of the Ligue 1 season next Saturday, while Troyes host Lens on the same day.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino and centre back Marquinhos have criticised the home fans at Parc des Princes for their lack of support in Sunday's 2-1 Classique victory against Marseille.

All three goals came in an action-packed first half, with Neymar breaking the deadlock in the 12th minute, before Duje Caleta-Car equalised when he forced home a corner from Dimitri Payet nearly 20 minutes later.

On the stroke of half-time, PSG were awarded a questionable penalty after a hopeful Neymar ball was deflected into the elbow of a Marseille defender, with VAR awarding Kylian Mbappe the penalty to head into the sheds leading 2-1.

The second half was largely controlled by Marseille, with over 60 per cent possession, and they thought they had equalised in the 85th minute when William Saliba got on the end of a Payet free kick, but VAR ruled it out for offside.

With the win, PSG are now 15 points clear of second-placed Marseille with six games remaining, but Pochettino said the support from the crowd did not feel like they were a team cruising to a league title.

"We are still waiting for the supporters to be able to expend the energy to support us," he said.

"They show their disappointment – and as I always say, there is freedom of expression, it is their way of expressing themselves, and we have to respect it. But we would like to always have the support of the supporters.

"Winning a 10th title in the history of the club is not trivial, and we would like to [enjoy the] experience with them."

It is reported that the club's main supporter group, Virage Auteuil, are continuing to protest the lack of changes at a boardroom and management level after a disappointing Champions League exit against Real Madrid, but Marquinhos said it still caught him by surprise.

"I wasn’t expecting it. It wasn’t the right time to do that," he said.

"I understand if they haven’t gotten a response, [but] they should have put their pride to one side. As a player, I don’t agree with it."

Neymar merely needs to find his rhythm to rediscover his best form, so says Mauricio Pochettino.

Brazil star Neymar has endured another injury hit campaign for Paris Saint-Germain, with the 30-year-old having made just 22 appearances across all competitions.

That is 16 fewer than Kylian Mbappe, who has arguably outshone the former Barcelona forward since they both arrived in Paris in 2017.

Neymar served up a reminder of his qualities with two fine goals in PSG's 5-1 thrashing of Lorient last time out, though it was again Mbappe who stole the show with a pair of superb strikes and three assists, with the final star of Pochettino's attacking trio, Lionel Messi, also netting.

It was not for a lack of trying from a creative standpoint for Neymar, though, as he led the way for key passes (five) and had as many shots on target (three) as Mbappe, while his double took him to within one goal of his 200th in European football since he joined Barca from Santos in 2013.

Neymar's 12 direct goal contributions this season pales in comparison to Mbappe (45), though Pochettino is confident that his fellow South American will be able to return to his peak form sooner rather than later.

"PSG signed Neymar because of his quality, and it has been there for all to see," Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Clermont.

"He has had runs of injuries, there are ups and downs. Neymar suffered an injury soon after [I] arrived [at PSG].

 

"We have worked hard to get him back and like every attacker he needs rhythm, he needs to play to feel confident.

"I have no doubt that Neymar will keep showing his quality. He will be aiming for more."

Another of PSG's Brazil regulars to have struggled for his best form in recent weeks, albeit at the other end of the pitch, has been Marquinhos.

The centre-back has been a consistent performer during his time in the French capital yet had a horror show along with the rest of PSG's defence in the capitulation to Real Madrid in the Champions League on March 9.

Marquinhos has only made one error that led to a shot this season, yet it came against PSG and resulted in Karim Benzema scoring in that famous comeback win for Los Blancos.

He has made 33 starts this season, tallying up 2,952 minutes and helping PSG to 12 clean sheets, though he was unusually sloppy against Lorient.

With Marquinhos and his partner having welcomed a child this week, and the 27-year-old dealing with minor injury issues, Pochettino has elected to rest him.

"Everyone has been affected by the game in Madrid and getting knocked out of the Champions League," Pochettino said.

"If we analysed all of that game, we were better than Madrid but in the end it didn't go our way. Marquinhos will not be involved in the Clermont game. He’s had a few injuries and we have decided to give him a rest.

"Every player goes through different stages throughout the season, but the Marquinhos is a consistent player. He has very high standards, he is our captain and a top player.

Marquinhos' absence may mean that Sergio Ramos comes into the side.

"That is something I am thinking about now Marquinhos is unavailable," Pochettino said.

Page 1 of 3
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.