It is testing times for Paris Saint-Germain at the moment. In Ligue 1 they are at risk of losing their long-time domination like Juventus in the Italian Serie A while in the Champions League they need to script a comeback at the Etihad Stadium against an in-form Manchester City led by the master tactician Pep Guardiola. Now, they are waiting anxiously for the fitness issue of Kylian Mbappe, who have been in form this season in this mega-show.

Manchester City, though, successfully shut Mbappe down on his home turf of Parc des Princes last week, still, Mbappe has a hat-trick against Barcelona then a double against defending champions Bayern Munich in successive knockout trips make him an essential component in the PSG lineup where Neymar runs the show from the deep and upfront.

In the match against Metz, Mbappe suffered a blow and was diagnosed with a right calf muscle injury.

Mauricio Pochettino said of Mbappe’s injury at his Friday press conference, “He has discomfort in his right calf and we hope that is not serious and that he can come back soon. He is an important player for us.”

“We talked about it with the medical staff, the performance sector, and him. I saw him almost flying against Metz, he was so good. He had not played against Angers, the match before, but he received a blow that could have happened at any time during the match [against Man City].”

“It can happen. It’s not a serious problem but it created a muscle imbalance in the calf. We had a Mbappe at his best level, physically.”

But at the moment, Pochettino seems dubious about playing Mbappe and keeping his fingers crossed.

“Today he is going to start an individual training session and see if he can be with the team,” Mauricio Pochettino said upon his team’s arrival in England.

“Yes, I am worried for him. There is still one day and we will see and decide if he is going to be available.”

“I think we handled him perfectly,” Pochettino replied when probed about Mbappe playing the full 90 minutes in Metz.

“We said that against Metz, he hardly touched the ground when he was running. He was almost flying because he was so good physically.

“In the match before that, against Angers in the Coupe de France, he was rested. And he played the game before that.

“He suffered his injury at the end of the match against Metz. It could have happened in the first minute. It could happen any time you’re on the pitch.”

Nevertheless, the sheer weight of minutes that Mbappe has been expected to play this season, despite suffering from Covid-19 at the start of the campaign has been handy – he has played more than 37.5 total games spread across 43 appearances since September 20, despite complaining of fatigue.

“For me, the feeling is that I’m in the 60th game of the season and not in the ninth,” Mbappe told the club’s official website. “We’ve had a marathon of games.

“Generally, when you get to a Champions League final, you have a holiday, but we got to the final and we didn’t have time to rest.”

Still, he has scored 37 goals and laid on a further 10 assists – but his performances have not been consistent.

The fatigue factor was evident.

If Mbappe cannot feature at the Eithad then it would be up to Neymar to lift PSG and take them to the finals. And, we all know the class of Neymar – he is an all-round performer who can control the game from any position of the field.

“He did so many magical things,” Spanish football writer Guillem Balague told the BBC’s Euro Leagues podcast.

“We are in a time where players are expected to be robots. But you don’t get that with Neymar.”

“You didn’t know where he was going to go, what he was going to do. You don’t get that type of excitement very often.”

French football writer Julian Laurens said, “I do think if you watch Kylian Mbappe and Neymar play, especially the Neymar from those two games against Bayern, you see the team spirit, the fighting spirit that they have.”

Balague feels such animosity towards the South American is born out of a believed moral superiority within football fans on this continent.

“You can hear the voices saying ‘no we don’t like PSG and we particularly don’t like Neymar’,” adds Balague. “This despite the fact he was brilliant and in my eyes produced the best individual performance of the season in the first 45 minutes against Bayern.

“He was absolutely brilliant and yet I put that out on Twitter and I got more answers saying ‘yeah, but he dived, he did this, he did that’.

“A lot of it comes from the Anglo-Saxon world, I think. It is northern European sanctimony.”

“That feeling of anger is more powerful than the magic someone like Neymar produces on the pitch. Yes, you can be upset by what some people do on the pitch, but no one is perfect and Neymar is not perfect either.”

“But when he gets the ball, he does things that only Lionel Messi can do. Let him be what he wants to be, he is Brazilian. Part of what he does is to be on stage and give us a show. He is doing that.”

Then there comes the determination of Neymar despite the setbacks.

“We have a very difficult game against Manchester City, but we have to believe, without thinking what the statistics say about our chances of winning,” Neymar said.

“Every Parisian has to believe in us and I’m the first. I’m on the frontline. I’m the first warrior in this battle.”

“I’ll do my best and do everything possible to get through to the final, even if it means dying on the pitch.”

The Brazilian superstar is ready to give his all at the Eithad and one can expect a Neymar master class against the marvelous unit of Pep Guardiola – tough but not impossible!

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