Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino said on Monday his side remained “excited” for this week’s Champions League last 16 first leg at Barcelona despite the absence of Neymar.
The world’s most expensive player as well as fellow attacker Angel Di Maria will miss Tuesday’s trip to the Nou Camp with injuries.
“You can see the excitement throughout the club, for PSG it is an obvious goal to win the Champions League and we understand the responsibility,” said Pochettino, who took over from the sacked Thomas Tuchel in January, at his eve-of-match press conference
“It is clear that absences like those of Neymar or Di María are significant, but we have a group of players who are eager to play this game and I am sure that whoever plays tomorrow will fulfill their role,” he added.
PSG midfielder Marco Verratti is also a doubt for the game after missing the weekend’s win over Nice with a hip problem.
“We go step by step, we will analyse Marco in today’s training, which will not be demanding,” said Pochettino.
Pochettino has won eight and drawn one of 10 games so far, but none of the teams he has come up against yet are near the level even of the current Barcelona.
The absence of Neymar is an enormous blow, especially when added to that of Angel di Maria. Marco Verratti is a doubt, and Pochettino is still trying to put his stamp on the team.
Kylian Mbappé, with four goals in Pochettino’s 10 games, has not consistently produced his electrifying best for some time. The new coach has chopped and changed formations too.
“We want the team to be confident playing in different systems, but it’s not always easy to get a lot of work done in just 40 days,” he insisted after Saturday’s win against Nice.
“We have to be ready, and the team will be ready.”
The fixture is a re-run of Barca’s 6-1 victory in 2017 after the Parisians, runners-up last season, won the first leg 4-0 at the Parc des Princes
“We’re calm, history is history, we’re a different coaching staff, with different players,” said Pocchetino, who lead Tottenham to the 2019 final.
“We really want to play and try to beat Barcelona, two teams who want to win the Champions League. But only one can.”
PSG have reportedly been interested in signing Barca’a Lionel Messi for a while.
In Catalunya this week, Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes will have to mark his fellow countryman.
“We speak a lot about Messi, I prefer to let things be said and focus on my game tomorrow,” Paredes said.
“Messi’s presence against me changes my defensive responsibilities a lot, I will try and be at my best so that the game falls in our favour,” he added.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)