Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel is looking for the Brazilian superstar to lead his side through a busy few months, starting with the visit of EA Guingamp in the Coupe de la Ligue quarters on Wednesday night.
Wednesday, 9 January 2019
Coupe de la Ligue, quarter-finals
Parc des Princes, Paris
Paris Saint-Germain - EA Guingamp
Fresh from a business-like 4-0 win over fifth-division Pontivy in the Coupe de France round of 64 on Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain now switch gears to take on Ligue 1 Conforama side Guingamp as they wade into a stretch of a match every three or four days that will culminate with the Classique at home to Marseille in mid-March.
Coach Thomas Tuchel will have to manage his stars' game time, and is duly tipped to rest the likes of Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos, but fit-again Neymar Jr is set to play a key role - against Guingamp and into this marathon stretch, which includes a UEFA Champions League double-header against Manchester United - after taking an early break in Brazil.
Neymar Jr 'A leader for Paris Saint-Germain'
"I think he's very happy. He is very professional and makes the difference in every match he plays. He has a great attitude and is happy on and off the pitch. He is very disciplined as well at training," declared Tuchel in his pre-match press conference. "I think he wants to show that he's capable of being a leader for Paris Saint-Germain. He is in great form, but not yet 100%. He will be in top form in a few days or weeks. He's important because he's a key player, capable of making the difference."
The Parisian number ten is likely to have Kylian Mbappé - recently named the world's most valuable player - in front of him in the lone-striker's role in a 4-2-3-1, with youngsters Christopher Nkunku and Moussa Diaby out wide and defensive utility Thilo Kehrer partnering Thiago Silva in the centre of defence.
Guingamp's son of a gun
Meanwhile Guingamp, on an upswing since Jocelyn Gourvennec returned to the helm in November and coming off three-straight wins in all competitions, will be looking to young striker Marcus Thuram to do the damage.
The 21-year-old son of France legend Lilian Thuram clinched Couple de France qualification with a brace in the 4-2 win away to Stade Pontivyen on Saturday and the Brittany club, who have been rooted to the bottom of the Ligue 1 Conforama table since Week 3, will doubtless go all-out to cause an upset in the capital.
Paris Saint-Germain: Areola; Meunier, Kehrer, Thiago Silva (c), Bernat; Verratti, Draxler; Nkunku, Neymar, M. Diaby; Mbappé
EA Guingamp: Johnsson; Che. Traoré, Kerbrat (c), Eboa Eboa, Rebocho; Phiri, Didot, Blas; Coco, Al. Mendy, Thuram