Kylian Mbappe

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Choupo-Moting leading PSG in absence of big three

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Three years ago, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting finished a dismal season at Schalke with a torn ACL. Two years ago, he couldn’t cut it at relegated Premier League side Stoke City. One year ago, a surprise move to Paris Saint-Germain saw the Cameroonian stuck on the bench behind three superstars.

Now, with each prong of the three-headed monster shelved, the 30-year-old is right where PSG needs him to be.

With Kylian Mbappe on the shelf with a hamstring tear, Edinson Cavani also sidelined with a hip injury, and Neymar nowhere to be found as he looks for a way out, Choupo-Moting is suddenly the man of the hour at Parc des Princes. The Stoke reject struck for PSG’s second as the French side topped Metz 2-0 on the road, one match after his brace led the way in a 4-0 rout of Toulouse.

It’s a small sample size against less than blistering competition, and it doesn’t get any easier from here as PSG gets set to face Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage opener after the international break, but it’s a positive start from an unlikely source. Before this season, since moving to Schalke in the summer of 2014, Choupo-Moting has just 26 goals in 124 league games across Bundesliga, Premier League, and Ligue 1 play.

Thomas Tuchel described Choupo-Moting as “cover for Edinson Cavani” when he made the shocking move to PSG from then-relegated Stoke, but it’s not likely he ever envisioned the Cameroon international carrying the defending French champions in the absence of the entire star-studded attack. With Cavani down for three weeks, Mbappe sidelined a month, and Neymar’s return completely in doubt, there’s still work to be done, but there are promising signs from the unlikeliest of sources for Tuchel to carry them through tough times.

PSG star Mbappe to miss three weeks; Cavani out for USMNT friendly

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One of the top players in the world will be on the sidelines for a while.

Well, two, actually, and both play for the same club.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe is out for three weeks and Edinson Cavani a month, the latter missing a friendly against the USMNT next month.

[ MORE: Not time for Man Utd panic ]

The injuries come as PSG boss Thomas Tuchel grouses about healthy Neymar’s refusal to play for the club while trying to engineer a transfer to either Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Will the Brazilian turn up for his team? Probably not.

PSG lost at Rennes and has won twice early this season. Mbappe will miss Friday’s match at Metz and the Sept. 14 visit from Strasbourg and is a question for the start of the UEFA Champions League group stage (Sept. 17-18).

Any setbacks would mean he’d be out for a monumental tilt at Lyon on Sept. 22.

Ligue 1 wrap: Mbappe, Cavani limp off in PSG’s 4-0 Neymar-less win

Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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PARIS (AP) After being involved in one of the most comical moments in European football last season, striker Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting distinguished himself with a fine goal and scored a second as Paris Saint-Germain beat Toulouse 4-0 in the French league on Sunday.

The resounding win came at a price, however, as PSG forwards Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, clutching the back of his left leg and grimacing, limped off.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said the players will have tests Monday to determine the extent of their injuries.

Despite being match fit, record signing Neymar remains unavailable as he seeks to push through a move away from the club – a situation which appears increasingly exasperating for Tuchel.

“Today was the occasion (for him to play) … it’s certain he could have played today,” Tuchel said in French on Canal Plus television. “It’s not a clear situation and it should be clear.”

Tuchel then went as far as to suggest he has little or no say as to whether Neymar can play against Metz on Friday – just days before the transfer window shuts.

It was Choupo-Moting, then, who replaced Cavani in the 13th minute and he will not enjoy many nights like this.

Receiving a pass from Angel Di Maria, the Cameroon striker burst into the penalty area, span around with one touch to move inside two defenders and drilled the ball into the bottom left corner with the next touch in the 50th minute.

It was only his fourth goal in 23 league games since a surprise move from unheralded English side Stoke last season.

In April, Choupo-Moting was widely mocked on social networks for an extraordinary passage of play in a 2-2 home draw against Strasbourg. Amid disbelieving looks from teammates, he somehow prevented a goal for his team despite the ball being about to cross the goal-line, gently nudging the ball onto the post before it was cleared by defenders.

He was only on the field on Sunday night due to an injury to Cavani, who limped off with what appeared to be a leg muscle injury. Midway through the second period, Mbappe left the field after appearing to hurt his hamstring.

After a first half in which Mbappe missed good chances, Choupo-Moting’s opener was a welcome breakthrough. Five minutes later, it was 2-0 when Toulouse defender Mathieu Goncalves turned Pablo Sarabia’s cross into his own net.

Goncalves was harshly judged to have conceded a penalty soon after, slipping over in the area and powerless to stop Sarabia’s cross hitting his left arm. Referee Jerome Brisard still gave it, despite a video review. With Cavani injured and Neymar absent, Di Maria took the spot kick and saw his effort well saved by goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet.

Choupo-Moting confidently drove home a cross from left back Juan Bernat in the 75th and Brazil defender Marquinhos headed in Di Maria’s corner from the left late on for the fourth goal as PSG climbed up to third place with six points – three points behind leader Rennes.

Lyon can move back top on goal difference with a win at Montpellier on Tuesday.

OTHER MATCHES

Rennes won 2-0 at Strasbourg.

Confidence was high after last Sunday’s 2-1 home win against PSG, and goals from midfielder Clement Grenier in the first half and powerful center forward M’Baye Niang soon after the break made it nine points from three games.

Monaco, meanwhile, is still seeking its first win after drawing 2-2 at home to Nimes.

New signings Wissam Ben Yedder and Islam Slimani scored to put Monaco 2-0 up at halftime.

But after Brazilian defender Jemerson’s 55th-minute sending off, Nimes hit back through midfielder Romain Philippoteaux and 18-year-old forward Kevin Denkey.

Jemerson was shown a yellow card for a tackle from behind on Philippoteaux, but the referee changed it to a red following a video review.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Rennes stuns PSG with two-goal comeback

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No Neymar, no problem? No, problem.

Stade Rennes continued to trouble Paris Saint-Germain with a 2-1 comeback win over the defending champions. The visitors struck first as Edinson Cavani pounced on a miserable back-pass from Damien da Silva that left goalkeeper Romain Salin caught out, putting PSG up 1-0 on 36 minutes.

That lead would not last long though as Stade Rennes, who beat PSG in the Coupe de France final at the end of last season and gave them a battle in the in the Trophee de Champions two weeks ago, would bracket halftime with a pair of goals that would win the match.

The first came in the 44th minute as M’Baye Niang rifled a vicious turn-and-shoot into the back of the net to level the score on the stroke of halftime. Not three minutes after the break, a chipped ball into the box found the head of Romain del Castillo who beat Thomas Meunier to the delivery for a headed finish and a 2-1 lead.

Without Neymar, who was left out of the squad for the second match due to uncertainty surrounding his transfer status, PSG was held to just four shots on target as Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe struggled to create chances. PSG completed just six of 23 passes inside the penalty area, including a 1-for-13 performance by the wide duo of Di Maria and Mbappe. French publication L’Equpie awarded both players a “3” for the match in their famously harsh player ratings.

Mbappe and Di Maria, along with Julian Draxler who also turned in a miserable performance, were locked down in part thanks to the fabulous performance of 16-year-old Eduardo Camavinga who got the only “8” handed out by L’Equpie. The young Frenchman put himself on the map with a stunning performance in defensive midfield, completing 40 of 41 passes and assisting the winning goal.

With Philippe Coutinho completing his loan move to Bayern Munich, it’s possible that Neymar finds an opening at his old club Barcelona, but PSG has so far stood firm on wanting the same $246 million they paid for the Brazilian in return for any late swoop. The transfer window closes September 2 for both La Liga and Ligue 1, so any deal would have to be completed by then or Neymar will end up returning to Parc des Princes whether he likes it or not.

Mbappe ‘admires and respects’ Neymar, wants him to stay at PSG

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Kylian Mbappe has spoken out in support of current teammate Neymar amid rumors flying of the Brazilian’s discontent at Paris Saint-Germain.

With Neymar reportedly wanting out of PSG and hoping to force a move, Mbappe has gone public in the hopes of convincing his teammate that a move is unnecessary to achieve his goals.

“He has a situation that everyone knows,” Mbappe said with the team in Shenzen, China where they are preparing to face Rennes in the Trophee des Champions, confirming what all fans could tell about the Brazilian’s unhappiness. “Of course I want him to stay. I spoke with him. He knows what I think of him and his situation. Everything is going well between us. We have a relationship based on honesty and respect. He knows that I respect him and that I admire him.”

Neymar has rejoined the squad for the event after missing nearly all of preseason, looking to rest his ankle injury but also push his way out. He cannot participate in the match, however, as he is suspended after his outburst against a fan in the aftermath of the Coupe de France final loss than ended last club season.

“When Neymar trained, he was excellent, in form. He had plenty of quality, like always,” PSG boss Thomas Tuchel said when speaking to the media. “Everything was great yesterday. Neymar is in good spirits. It’s unfortunate that he’s suspended because it would have been good to have him with us.”