Football

Buffon: Neymar’s absence could be a ‘big problem’

Paris Saint-Germain's veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon admits the absence of talisman Neymar could prove a "big problem" for his side when they take on Manchester United tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The Brazilian forward, who scored five goals in the group stage, is out until April with a metatarsal injury and will miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie.

To compound PSG's woes, fellow striker Edinson Cavani will also miss tomorrow's clash at Old Trafford, and possibly the return leg in Paris on March 7. Right-back Thomas Muenier will also be missing tomorrow due to a slight concussion.

"I think this (Neymar's absence) is a problem for us," Buffon, 41, told CNN yesterday.

"I'm not sure if it's a big problem or a little one.

"I hope it's only a small problem and that we are nevertheless a team that can thrive without him, it would give us great strength and confidence.

"But I must say that without a player of Ney's calibre, it's going to be heavy going...

"But nevertheless, we have to do our best in order not to have any regrets and play the quarter-finals and semi-finals with Ney back.

"This would be the best present we could give to him, and I'm sure he would return the favour by playing in those two matches."

When the last-16 draw was made last December, PSG were seen as heavy favourites, but since then United have sacked Jose Mourinho and his interim replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won 10 of his 11 matches in charge.

Former Red Devils defender Laurent Blanc, who yesterday told The Times of London that he was sounded out by United when they sacked David Moyes in 2014, said PSG have to be "convinced" they can beat United without Neymar.

The former PSG boss told French TV programme Telefoot: "There are no favourites. Things have rebalanced since the draw...

"The injury to Neymar worries me because Neymar is a world-class player and PSG are less good without Neymar. But they have to be convinced that even without Neymar they can beat Manchester United.

"For two or three years now, PSG are one of the four teams who could win the Champions' League."

Football