Neymar
UEFA Champions League

Crunch time for PSG… and Neymar

Publish on 18/02/2020 at 11h00 - S. WILLIS

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Fit to play in the Champions League last 16 for the first time since arriving in Paris in 2017, Neymar has the perfect opportunity to justify his hefty €222m price tag away to Dortmund on Tuesday night.

Borussia Dortmund - Paris Saint-Germain

>> Kick-off at 21:00 CET

Neymar is often referred to as the world third-best player - behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - and Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel will be hoping his Brazilian superstar can live up to the billing as he makes just his second last-16 appearance in his third season with the capital club.

Finally

Neymar has been prone to injuries early in each new year, and although he picked up a knock to the ribs in Paris Saint-Germain's 5-0 hammering of Montpellier in Round 22, he has been given plenty of time to recover and is now ready to return to action at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund for the biggest match of the season so far.

>> Five reasons PSG will beat Borussia Dortmund

"Without any doubts it will be a great game for those who love football. We are two teams who like to attack, two teams who qualify thanks to the players," Neymar said in the lead-up to the match. "Borussia have players that can make the difference. We all know how difficult it will be for us here at Dortmund. We are hoping to play a good game to get a good result back to Paris."

On the front foot

So it is with Neymar return in mind that Tuchel is tipped to continue using his 4-4-2 formation. Neymar will take his customary spot on the left side of midfield, Angel Di Maria on the right and Kylian Mbappé - rested for Saturday's 4-4 league draw in Amiens - through the middle along with either Pablo Sarabia or Mauro Icardi.

>> Three key battles that point to a PSG win over Dortmund

Such a front four should pose plenty of problems to Dortmund's back three of Lukas Piszczek, Mats Hummels and Dan-Axel Zagadou, while the inclusion of Marquinhos in midfield alongside Marco Verratti should provide Paris with a bit more muscle to take on the imposing likes of Axel Witsel and Emre Can in the centre of the park.

Questions at the back

It's in defence, however, where question marks were raised at the weekend, when fit-again captain and stopper Thiago Silva was seen to be at fault on numerous occasions as Amiens went 3-0 up before the break.

While the absences of key creative Dortmunders Marco Reus and Julian Brandt is a huge bonus for PSG, the likes of Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and Erling Haaland still provide a pacy and razor-sharp threat to Tuchel's back four of Thomas Meunier, Thiago Silva, Presnel Kimpembe and Layvin Kurzawa. Thus, if the capital club are to stretch their unbeaten run to 24 matches in all competitions - and take an option on progress to the quarters for the first time in four seasons, Les Quatres Fantastiques will need to do their part in defence as well as going forward.

Tuchel: 'Need to be intelligent'

But for Tuchel - who is going up against the club he coached from 2015 to 2017 - the return of Neymar will be invaluable in terms of that most evanescent of commodities - confidence.

Mbappé, Neymar strike again

"Being confident will be absolutely vital," said the German, who is well aware of the maniacal support from fans and the electric atmosphere in Signal Iduna Park. "If we aren't, we won't survive in this stadium, in front of these fans. The spirit of the team will be important. Dortmund have quality, are very good with their counter-press and have impressive stats. We will need to be intelligent. That will be our challenge."

Probable teams

Borussia Dortmund: Bürki; Piszczek (c), Hummels, Zagadou; Hakimi, Can, Witsel, Guerreiro – Sancho, Haaland, T. Hazard

Paris Saint-Germain: Navas; Meunier, Thiago Silva (c), Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Di Maria, Verratti, Marquinhos, Neymar; Sarabia, Mbappé