Brazilian superstar Neymar is set to miss out on Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg, after the club confirmed he had suffered a fractured metatarsal.
PSG will host Real Madrid on 6 March, and need to overturn a 3-1 deficit to progress in the competition. But the odds are firmly against the French side, and even more so with their talisman’s likely absence. Progressing to the latter stages of the Champions League will be the Parisians’ key objective for this season, as it appears that Unai Emery’s side have already wrapped up the league title.
The 3-0 home victory over Marseille this weekend moved PSG three points closer to lifting the coveted Ligue 1 trophy. An early finish from Kylian Mbappe, an own goal from Rolando and a superb spin and shot from the scintillating Edinson Cavani wrapped up another comfortably win for the club, and dented the visitors’ hopes of securing automatic European qualification.
Mbappe’s goal set the tone for the rest of the fixture very early. A terrific disguised pass from the veteran Dani Alves released the young Frenchman in behind Marseille’s backline, and Mbappe’s finish was unerring and demonstrated yet again his tendency to perform in the most important games. Despite being shunted out onto the flanks by his manager, Mbappe’s determination to get in on the act makes him an invaluable asset to a side already bursting with attacking talent.
The own goal from Rolando may have been a moment of misfortune, but the hard work done to create the mistake stemmed from Neymar’s trickery and Adrien Rabiot’s keen eye for a pass. As demonstrated in countless highlight reels, the Brazilian’s ability to grace across a football pitch and pick apart a defence with almost nonchalant ease makes him one of the most talented sportsmen to have ever been witnessed. Once again, he breezed between Marseille’s centre-half partnership, latched onto Rabiot’s pass and appeared to be unselfishly squaring across goal before Rolando inadvertently intervened.
With the two goal cushion, PSG began to grind through the gears once again at a frightening pace. Neymar carved out the goal scoring opportunity once again, racing down the channel and digging out a cross for Cavani to control beautifully and drill into the bottom corner.
However, it still remains to be seen whether PSG are able to play such free-flowing football against defending Champions League holders, Real Madrid. Despite a gritty showing in the Bernabeu, Giovani Le Celso appeared out of his depth on the European stage and poor defending from the visitors presented Los Blancos with far too many openings. And now the French side must overturn a two goal deficit and shut out the array of classy forward players at Zinedine Zidane’s disposal.
But while the Champions League is still very much up for grabs, the Ligue 1 title race has effectively been over for a number of months. That leaves the teams below PSG to battle for European qualification for next season. Currently, Monaco are the best of the rest, with Marseille hot on their heels. The team who finishes second will automatically enter the Champions League group phase next campaign, whereas the third-placed side would have to come out on top in a two-legged knockout phase.
While teams at the summit of the table look to pick up as many victories as possible to compete with some of the continent’s finest sides, those rooted to the bottom of France’s top flight will be playing for points for a very different reason. The combination of teams jostling for positions, aiming to remain above the drop zone come May-time, has made this year’s Ligue 1 campaign one of the most high-scoring and memorable seasons – long may it continue.