Thomas Tuchel

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Champions League: History looms over Liverpool, PSG comeback bids

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Liverpool is hoping lessons from its history can lead it back from a first-leg deficit in the UEFA Champions League, while Paris Saint-Germain hopes to expel its UCL demons.

Both sides trail heading into home second legs on Wednesday. PSG brings an away goal to the Parc des Princes, while Liverpool was blanked by Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Liverpool star Virgil Van Dijk says the Reds can lean on their history, including the remarkable comeback over Barcelona in last year’s tournament.

The Reds knew they weren’t bringing any away goals home to Anfield for that second leg, and that hill was a much steeper climb. From The Liverpool Echo:

“We couldn’t give any chances away against Barcelona, either,” Van Dijk said. “We will go with the same mindset as always. … We have to get everyone going from the first second to the last. Things can happen and they could be the better team but we all want to show why we want to go through with our qualities and deserve to be in the next round.”

Liverpool will have captain Jordan Henderson back in the fold, a significant lift for a side that has endured relative struggles since the first-leg loss.

As for PSG, it is looking to get over a historical hump. The Ligue 1 outfit has lost in the last three Round of 16s after losing in four-straight quarterfinals between 2013-16.

PSG has health concerns of its own down 2-1 after the first leg loss to Borussia Dortmund in Germany.

The good news is that Kylian Mbappe tested negative for coronavirus. The bad news is that he’s been sick nonetheless.

More bad news? The match will not feature PSG’s home faithful.

“We cannot explain what this difference means, being without our fans is something enormous,” said manager Thomas Tuchel. “We must be capable of adapting. The situation is bizarre. We are sad to play without our fans. The atmosphere at the Parc des Princes can be amazing, it can help, it can put a lot of pressure on our opponent. We must deal with it alone. We are happy to be able to play this match. We are preparing things tactically, technically, we are confident in our capabilities, our qualities and the team to be able to win this match.”

Both matches kickoff at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Neymar out of French squad for injury, not birthday party

Neymar injury
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Thomas Tuchel was unimpressed by the timing of Neymar’s annual big birthday blowout, but that’s not why the Brazilian will not play at Nantes on Tuesday.

Paris Saint-Germain’s manager says Neymar suffered a rib cartilage injury and will not be fit to participate in the Ligue 1 match. PSG leads the league field by 12 points through 22 matches.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

So Tuchel is not risking the ire of one of his biggest stars, though many would jump to that conclusion after disapproving comments regarding Neymar holding a birthday party between matches.

“I always protect my players, and I really love my team,” he said. “With this party, I accept that it is a bit difficult to protect the players, but the context is not simply black or white. It is a shame because we are giving people the chance to speak badly of us. We need to adapt to the situation, but I am not going to leave a player on the bench or at home because they went out and celebrated.”

The club cannot avoid controversy in recent weeks. Even in this weekend’s blowout 5-0 win, the headlines were Kylian Mbappe’s confrontation with Tuchel after being subbed out of the win.

Neymar was injured in the defeat of Montpellier, and Tuchel insists there are no problems between him and either star striker.

Reports that PSG wants to lock Neymar down to a new deal add intrigue to the coming fallout. The Brazilian has been flirting with Barcelona and Real Madrid since summer (and possibly earlier).

The PSG job sometimes feel like a poisoned chalice, with the players having incredible power at the Parc des Princes and expectations always sky high.

PSG meets Lyon at the weekend before playing the French Cup quarterfinals on Feb. 12 and starting its UCL Round of 16 tie with Borussia Dortmund six days later.

Where to next for Mauricio Pochettino?

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Following official word of Mauricio Pochettino being relieved of his duties as Tottenham Hotspur manager, we’ve already discussed how things got to this point and who is likely to replace Pochettino. Now it’s time to consider where the Argentine will work next.

[ MORE: Pochettino paid the price for Levy’s mistakes ]

The public perception — and perhaps honest truth — is that Pochettino faced nearly impossible odds to win trophies at Tottenham due to the financial limitations placed upon him by chairman Daniel Levy, therefore much of the outside world is likely to see Pochettino as still having loads of untapped potential as a manager.

“With the right resources, he could achieve absolutely anything,” the obvious line of thinking will go. Thus, he will almost certainly have his pick of any number of top jobs, depending on whether or not he would like to take a short break from employment and cash the first of many checks which will ultimately pay him more than $16 million to no longer manage Spurs.

[ MORE: Mourinho to replace Poch? ]

A few jobs which are likely to see the managerial post come available in the coming weeks and months, and appeal to a candidate of Pochettino’s caliber (in no particular order)…

  • Manchester United (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) – Man United have severely underperformed in their first 12 games this season (nine points back of fourth place), leading to plenty of speculation that Solskjaer could be fired if the right replacement came available. United reportedly courted Pochettino after Jose Mourinho departed last season, but he remained loyal to Spurs.
  • Bayern Munich (Hans-Dieter Flick, interim) – Niko Kovac was fired earlier this month and the seven-time defending Bundesliga champs currently sit third, four points behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach. Bayern is a squad mixed with veteran and youthful stars, a balance Pochettino might find attractive when considering both the long- and short-term prospects of his next employer.
  • Real Madrid (Zinedine Zidane) – Like United, the links to Madrid have been around for quite some time. While he’ll undoubtedly have far more to work with budget-wise in the Spanish capital, one thing to consider: if Pochettino found working with Levy a challenge, what might he call working for Florentino Perez?
  • Paris Saint-Germain (Thomas Tuchel) – PSG have to be considered anytime a high-profile manager comes available, because they’re not only willing to spend whatever it takes to get their man, but they change managers as frequently as anyone. Tuchel isn’t having the best of times (three losses from their first 13 games), though his side still sit eight points clear of the Ligue 1 pack. The league title is in the bag, but PSG’s owners have Champions League ambitions, and Pochettino is only five months removed from managing in that competition’s final.
  • Borussia Dortmund (Lucien Favre) – Dortmund currently sit sixth, though just two points back of second place. Favre’s side crumbled down the stretch when last season’s title was theirs to be lost. This is a job that’s probably only in play if Pochettino decides to take a brief sabbatical, as Dortmund are unlikely to have an itchy trigger finger.
  • Napoli (Carlo Ancelotti) – Napoli spent wildly (by their standards) this summer. Through 12 games all it’s gotten them is seventh place, and Ancelotti has come under fire of late. Much like Spurs when he took that job, Napoli represents a club with plenty of potential — and romantic dreams — which could very well appeal to Pochettino.

Tuchel keeps hammering Neymar’s PSG exit narrative

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Thomas Tuchel just can’t let it go.

It seems like as long as the Paris Saint-Germain manager keeps getting Neymar questions, he’s going to keep talking about the past rather than move on.

Ahead of PSG’s Champions League opener against Real Madrid, for which Neymar will be sidelined due to suspension alongside the injured Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, Tuchel reiterated his idea that Neymar will be jeered by pretty much everyone this season, even his own fans.

“He did not want to be here. He tried everything that was in his power [to leave the club],” Tuchel told DAZN (via BeIN Sports) prior to the match. “That did not help make him popular. You could feel that and I can understand it, if the crowd are angry, even permanently.”

This follows up Tuchel’s comments following Saturday’s last-gasp win in Ligue 1 play over Strasbourg. After Neymar’s spectacular stoppage-time winner to earn PSG a 1-0 result, Tuchel said that every match the Brazilian plays will be “like an away game” for him.

We know Neymar wanted to leave, the player himself confirmed as much and we’ve been hearing about it for months. It’s somewhat surprising that Tuchel continues to double- and triple-down on this narrative instead of insisting the media move on. Managers can strongly control the narrative surrounding their players, and if Tuchel refuses to talk any more about Neymar’s desire to leave, he can somewhat squash the talk around his unhappiness, at least until the winter picks up. Neymar isn’t even able to play in the club’s first three Champions League group stage matches due to his suspension, so the fact Tuchel is even addressing Neymar while previewing the club’s upcoming European match is surprising in and of itself.

Tuchel did admit that he appreciates Neymar’s demeanor now that the saga is over with for now. “Nevertheless, there is also a side between me as a coach and him as a player,” Tuchel said. “There was never a break or a discrepancy. That’s why it was very easy for me to let him play. He has always trained professionally. I feel that the decision was a relief to him, even though it fell against his wish.”

“He has to withstand it now, that’s the reality. He has to go through, we have to go through all in the home games a bit. The best thing is to come to terms with it.”

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

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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.

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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.

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