Pochettino laments Neymar injury, unconcerned by ghosts of 2017
Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino expressed his disappointment that Neymar could not return in time for their Champions League clash with Barcelona on Thursday morning (March 11, Singapore time), adding his side should try to forget about their huge advantage in the tie.
Neymar missed the first leg of the last-16 tie against his old side due to a thigh injury but his absence barely affected PSG, who romped to a 4-1 win at the Nou Camp thanks to a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick.
The Brazilian had hoped to return for the return leg at the Parc des Princes, but misses the game as he continues his recovery, although Angel di Maria and Alessandro Florenzi are available to play after missing the first leg.
“All the medical staff and fitness coaches made a big effort to get him back for this game and to return overall. It’s a shame because he was very excited about playing this game,” Pochettino told a virtual news conference on Tuesday.
“He doesn’t just want to play in the Champions League, he wants to be fit and help us achieve objectives in the Cup and league too. It’s a difficult moment for him as he expected to recover, but he needs a few more days and we hope he can return as soon as possible to help the team.”
PSG threw away a four-goal lead in a 2017 last-16 tie with Barcelona by losing 6-1 in the second leg, but Pochettino said that match was irrelevant to him while stressing the importance of his side making a good start to the game.
“I’m not conditioned by what happened in the past or have any emotion about it,” said the Argentinian, who reached the 2019 Champions League final with Tottenham Hotspur and succeeded Thomas Tuchel as PSG coach in January.
“We just have to try to win the game to get to the next round and that’s what we’ll try to do from the first minute. How we both start the game is crucial. There are still 90 minutes to play and we have to be consistent throughout the game and imagine that we are starting the tie at 0-0.” – REUTERS