Requiring crutches himself on the sidelines, Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel’s greater concern seemed to be Kylian Mbappé’s fitness.
The sight of the forward with the ball back at his feet in training was a welcome one for the French treble winners on the eve of the Champions League quarterfinal against Atalanta on Wednesday.
“If he trains well today, and nothing special happens, he will be on the team sheet tomorrow,” Tuchel said before the training session at Benfica’s stadium.
“We are also happy that Kylian can be in the group, maybe we can finish the game with him and Neymar, because it gives him a player that he likes to play with.” It would be a rapid recovery for Mbappé, two weeks after being ruled out for around three with an ankle ligament injury sustained in the French Cup final.
With 30 goals in 34 appearances this season, Mbappé could be key to ousting Serie A’s top-scoring team, which is in the Champions League for the first time.
“Atalanta, it’s clear they play a very unique style,” Tuchel said. “They play almost one vs. one on the whole pitch. They attack with seven players in the opposite side. It’s a unique style as I said. It’s difficult and complicated to play against them. They have also scored a lot of goals.” Tuchel will be looking for goals as well from Mauro Icardi, with Edinson Cavani out of the squad since his deal expired earlier in the summer after the coronavirus pandemic saw the season extended.
“Mauro is super important especially with Kylian’s injury and Edi Cavani gone,” Tuchel saiad. “It’s of paramount importance that he plays well. He needs to show his personality, that he is a fighter in the big games. He is never afraid, he can always score.
“He is very reliable defensively. He is very well-integrated in this group. It was also not too complicated for him as there are several South Americans in the squad. It’s the moment for him to show that he can send us in the semifinal.” PSG hasn’t reached the semifinals in 25 years, long before the influx of Qatari investment in the French capital club in 2011.
Neymar has experience in going even further, though, lifting the European Cup with Barcelona in 2015.
Now it’s time for the world’s most expensive player to deliver in the Champions League again, just as he did in the round of 16. The Brazilian scored in both legs as PSG overcame Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate.
“I feel like he always plays with pressure ... but he likes it,” Tuchel said. “We can’t imagine the amount of pressure. I feel like it’s always like this. He can deal with it, he likes that. He likes big decisive games, he is always reliable in the big games, that’s where he is at his best.
“I’m absolutely convinced that he will have a great game, that he will be the key player for us tomorrow. He has the quality and the mentality for that sort of situations.”