TFC test for PSG ahead of Real clash
By D. Crossan
All of Europe is waiting with bated breath for Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League match at Real Madrid on Wednesday, but first the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders have Saturday’s trip to improving Toulouse.
PSG captain Thiago Silva promises the club are taking each game as it comes, even if the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu looms large. He said: “All the games we play are decisive and difficult in the second half of a season. We must focus on the next match, against Toulouse. After that we will think of Real, and then we’ll move onto the next game. The match at Toulouse is not decisive but it is important. Last year we lost there and we’ll need to play well to win.”
PSG carried an 11-point lead at the top into Week 25 and set up a Coupe de France quarter-finals date with Olympique de Marseille by seeing off Sochaux on Tuesday night. Unai Emery has Kylian Mbappé and Marco Verratti available for the Toulouse match, although both players will be suspended when PSG finally return to their Parc des Princes home to face Strasbourg in the league on February 17.
Di Maria in great nick
Toulouse is a last chance for Emery to have a look at his squad before selecting his team to take on Champions League holders Real. Angel Di Maria is pressing hard for a berth against his former club, having scored nine goals in 10 games in all competitions in 2018. The Argentinian’s prime form boosts Emery’s options in Spain, though it would still be a major surprise were Emery not to go with the MCN.
The Spanish coach feels PSG are better equipped this season than they were when knocked out by Barcelona in last season’s round of 16. In an extensive interview with Spanish paper Marca, Emery said: “We’re going to be at the centre of the universe. This match could easily have been the final of the competition. We’re ready to play these sort of massive clashes. We’ll be better prepared than when we faced Barça a year ago. I can’t wait to take on Real Madrid, the winners of three of the last four editions. For PSG to be up to that level is a big challenge.”
Emery: "Calm down Ney"
Emery also revealed how he manages Neymar, the world’s most expensive player: “He’s got a big heart and the discussions with him are always positive,” said the coach. “He has a huge responsibility in our play, even if sometimes we need to limit his excesses. We tell him ‘calm down Ney’. When the team needs to accelerate or score he tries to do it himself because he has that ability. Neymar is not a ‘free spirit’ in the team. When you watch the highlights on TV then all you’ll see are his nutmegs and bicycle kicks. My analysis is more comprehensive and I look at how he fits into the team.”
Debève: "We need to keep a close eye on Neymar"
PSG beat Toulouse 6-2 back in August and Neymar scored a double to mark his home debut. Michaël Debève, then assistant to Pascal Dupraz and now in the number one job, knows keeping the gifted Brazilian star quiet is key. Debève said: “There’s always an anti-Neymar plan. We’ll be doing things to try to limit the influence of this exceptional player who is capable of making the difference at any time. Paris have so many options that you cannot have a plan for each player, but we do need to keep a close eye on Neymar.”
1-0 wins over Troyes and Nice have lifted TFC out of the drop zone, but collecting points against the leaders would be an even greater achievement. Debève’s side will hope PSG are distracted by thoughts of the Spanish capital.
Toulouse: Lafont; Yago, Diop, Amian, Moubandjé; Imbula, Cahuzac, Blin; Mubele, Sanogo, Gradel
Paris Saint-Germain: Areola; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Berchiche; Verratti, Diarra, Lo Celso; Di Maria, Mbappé, Neymar