Neymar merely needs to find his rhythm to rediscover his best form, so says Mauricio Pochettino.
Brazil star Neymar has endured another injury hit campaign for Paris Saint-Germain, with the 30-year-old having made just 22 appearances across all competitions.
That is 16 fewer than Kylian Mbappe, who has arguably outshone the former Barcelona forward since they both arrived in Paris in 2017.
Neymar served up a reminder of his qualities with two fine goals in PSG’s 5-1 thrashing of Lorient last time out, though it was again Mbappe who stole the show with a pair of superb strikes and three assists, with the final star of Pochettino’s attacking trio, Lionel Messi, also netting.
It was not for a lack of trying from a creative standpoint for Neymar, though, as he led the way for key passes (five) and had as many shots on target (three) as Mbappe, while his double took him to within one goal of his 200th in European football since he joined Barca from Santos in 2013.
Neymar’s 12 direct goal contributions this season pales in comparison to Mbappe (45), though Pochettino is confident that his fellow South American will be able to return to his peak form sooner rather than later.
“PSG signed Neymar because of his quality, and it has been there for all to see,” Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Clermont.
“He has had runs of injuries, there are ups and downs. Neymar suffered an injury soon after [I] arrived [at PSG].
“We have worked hard to get him back and like every attacker he needs rhythm, he needs to play to feel confident.
“I have no doubt that Neymar will keep showing his quality. He will be aiming for more.”
Another of PSG’s Brazil regulars to have struggled for his best form in recent weeks, albeit at the other end of the pitch, has been Marquinhos.
The centre-back has been a consistent performer during his time in the French capital yet had a horror show along with the rest of PSG’s defence in the capitulation to Real Madrid in the Champions League on March 9.
Marquinhos has only made one error that led to a shot this season, yet it came against PSG and resulted in Karim Benzema scoring in that famous comeback win for Los Blancos.
He has made 33 starts this season, tallying up 2,952 minutes and helping PSG to 12 clean sheets, though he was unusually sloppy against Lorient.
With Marquinhos and his partner having welcomed a child this week, and the 27-year-old dealing with minor injury issues, Pochettino has elected to rest him.
“Everyone has been affected by the game in Madrid and getting knocked out of the Champions League,” Pochettino said.
“If we analysed all of that game, we were better than Madrid but in the end it didn’t go our way. Marquinhos will not be involved in the Clermont game. He’s had a few injuries and we have decided to give him a rest.
“Every player goes through different stages throughout the season, but the Marquinhos is a consistent player. He has very high standards, he is our captain and a top player.
Marquinhos’ absence may mean that Sergio Ramos comes into the side.
“That is something I am thinking about now Marquinhos is unavailable,” Pochettino said.
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