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PSG coach ‘optimistic’ injured Neymar will recover to face Real

Neymar was visibly in pain after turning his ankle, making him a doubt for the Real match © AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT

PARIS, France, Feb 26Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery remains optimistic that superstar Neymar will be fit to face Real Madrid in their do-or-die Champions League clash despite suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Marseille.

Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, was stretchered off 10 minutes from time at the Parc des Princes as PSG opened up a 14-point lead in Ligue 1.

The 26-year-old was on his own when he innocuously rolled his ankle and flopped to the ground in pain.

“The first examination in the locker room revealed that it was a twist to the ankle. Now we will do a medical examination to find out what this twist is,” said Emery, whose team face Real at home on March 6 in the Champions League last 16 where they need to overturn a 3-1 deficit.

“We will wait for the examination, we will be optimistic. If I had to say today (whether or not he will face Real) I would rather say yes to being optimistic.”

PSG skipper Thiago Silva told Canal+ added: “Neymar already had a swollen ankle. I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think he’ll be available on Wednesday (when PSG face Marseille again in the French Cup). He has to rest.”

It was an otherwise easy night for the big-spending Parisians as teenager Kylian Mbappe became the youngest scorer in the French ‘Classique’.

Uruguayan goal-machine Edinson Cavani was also on the scoresheet while Neymar had a hand in PSG’s other goal.

With Monaco drawing 3-3 at Toulouse on Saturday and Lyon held 1-1 at home to local rivals Saint-Etienne earlier on Sunday, it meant none of PSG’s three nearest challengers managed to win.

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Monaco remain second with Marseille third, two points behind, and Lyon a further five adrift.

This result was never in doubt and Emery even had the luxury of bringing off Mbappe, 19, after an hour to give Argentine international Angel Di Maria a half-hour run out.

PSG were off to a flying start through Mbappe but Marseille were in part the architects of their own downfall.

France midfielder Adrien Rabiot tried to thread a through ball on 10 minutes to Mbappe, cutting in from the right.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates becoming the youngest scorer in ‘Le Classique’ © AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT

Former Aston Villa full-back Jordan Amavi was in place to intercept the ball but he slipped and succeeded only helping it onto teenage star Mbappe, who jinked inside onto his left foot and dragged a low shot inside Yohann Pele’s near post.

As expected, the hosts were dictating the tempo and dominating the ball, but Neymar was off target with a header from a Dani Alves cross.

The second came before the half hour mark, though, and again it owed much to poor Marseille defending.

Layvin Kurzawa slipped Rabiot into the inside left channel in the visitors’ box and he picked out Brazilian Neymar with a cut-back.

The forward’s poked finish was heading off target until his compatriot and Marseille centre-back Rolando thrust out a boot and inadvertently directed the ball into the goal.

– Showboating –

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The match was as good as over and PSG had barely needed to break sweat.

Ten minutes before half time and the men in blue were already breaking out the showboating tricks and flicks, with Rabiot’s backheel setting up Neymar to curl a long-range strike just past the post.

Marseille barely had a sniff and when midfielder Andre Anguissa got up to meet a header in the box, it looped up harmlessly and landed in goalkeeper Alphonse Areola’s arms.

It took just 10 more minutes after the break for PSG to extend their advantage as Neymar was allowed time and space to reach the byline on the left.

His cross picked out Cavani, whose first touch with his left was sublime to turn marker Rolando, while his right-footed finish was unstoppable.

Marseille were barely putting up a fight, but substitute Clinton N’Jie managed to get himself booked for needlessly lashing out at Marquinhos and then clashing with Dani Alves, who also saw yellow.

After Neymar was stretchered off, the pacey N’Jie almost gave Marseille hope but having rounded Areola, his goal-bound effort was cleared off the line by sliding PSG captain Thiago Silva.

Areola also made smart saves to deny Florian Thauvin and Luiz Gustavo, but Marseille’s spirited finish had come too late.

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