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Monday, April 22, 2024

Champions League: Boost for PSG as Neymar returns against Real Madrid

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Reports in France say Neymar could play his first game for Paris St-Germain (PSG) since November when his side play Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Neymar is back in training for PSG after suffering an ankle injury, ex-Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos is PSG’s only absentee as he continues to struggle with a calf problem.

Pochettino’s side lost in the semi-finals to Manchester City last season and the pressure is growing on the former Tottenham boss to deliver a first European title to the French side.

The Qatar-owned club lost 2020 final to Bayern Munich but before that had gone out in the last 16 in three straight seasons.

Read Also: European Super League: UEFA seeks peace with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus

Lionel Messi, who signed from Barcelona in the summer, has scored five of his seven goals for the club in the Champions League and also netted a record 26 times against Real Madrid during his time at Barcelona.

“PSG have been trying to win this trophy for 50 years, so we are the challengers,” said Pochettino, whose team are 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.

“We have so much respect for Real Madrid as one of the best teams in the world. You don’t win 13 European Cups thanks to your coaches, that is down to the overall strength of the club.

“We are the challengers, a lot of effort has gone into building a squad to achieve our dream but we’re still the challengers and Real Madrid are the ones who have a habit of winning the Champions League.”

Real have issues of their own, with French duo Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema has been absent since picking up hamstring injuries in their 2-2 draw against Elche in January.

“I am always prepared to force it for my team, otherwise I would have stayed back in Madrid, but I am not going to risk injuring myself again either,” Benzema said.

In his absence, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have scored just one goal in three games and Gareth Bale was brought in for Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Villarreal in La Liga – his first appearance since August.

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