PSG needs Neymar return to boost its fading title defense

<p>PARIS &mdash; When Paris Saint-Germain broke the world transfer record to buy Neymar four years ago, it was with dreams of conquering Europe in mind.</p>
<p>Now PSG needs him to reignite a flagging league title defense which could go off the tracks with a loss at Lyon on Sunday.</p>
<p>Neymar, who has been out for two months with his latest injury since joining for 222 million euros ($265 million) from Barcelona, looks ready to play at least a part against Lyon, and that is a relief for coach Mauricio Pochettino.</p>
<p>“He’s getting better every day,” Pochettino said. “If he’s available against Lyon it would be good for the whole team.”</p>
<p>If PSG loses and Lille beats struggling Nimes at home on Sunday, then Pochettino’s team would slip to third place — three points behind Lyon and six behind Lille with eight games to play.</p>
<p>PSG has already lost seven league games out of 29 — one of those at home to Lyon — for its most defeats in a season since cash-rich Qatari backers QSI took over 10 years ago. </p>
<p>A lack of energy was evident in PSG’s back-to-back home losses against fourth-place Monaco, which dominated PSG tactically, and struggling Nantes, which scored far too easily for a team in 19th place entering that game.</p>
<p>Despite having one of the world’s best strikers in Kylian Mbappe, an excellent finisher in Mauro Icardi, and a fine midfield organizer in Marco Verratti, there has been a lack of creativity without Neymar’s unpredictability. </p>
<p>The injury-prone Brazilian tore his left adductor mucle playing in a French Cup game on Feb. 10 and was <a href="">supposed to be out for four</a> weeks, not two months. Even though his self-indulgent and frustrating style of play means less teamwork, PSG remains more dangerous with him and needs him for the run-in.</p>
<p>After facing Lille on April 3, PSG has tough matches against Metz (away) and Lens (home) with both sides pushing for a Europa League spot next season.</p>
<p>The presumption that PSG’s two main rivals would fade has not happened. </p>
<p>Lille has lost only twice and conceded fewer goals than PSG — 17 to 19. </p>
<p>Lyon has lost three times and scored almost as many goals — 57 to 63.</p>
<p>The reason PSG is not further behind is Lille and Lyon drawing too many games — nine each — and PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas preventing further defeats.</p>
<p>It says much about PSG’s season that the goalie has arguably been its best player. </p>
<p>Navas has been kept very busy, most recently on Wednesday evening <a href="">against Lille in the French Cup</a>.</p>
<p>“Keylor is one of the best goalies in the world,” Pochettino said. “His level is incredible.”</p>
<p>Without him PSG would have been knocked out of the group stage of the Champions League — where it lost two games and could easily have lost two more — and may have been eliminated in the round of 16 against Barcelona.</p>
<p>PSG led 4-1 from the away leg but <a href="">Barcelona totally dominated the return leg in Paris</a> last week, and only eight saves from the inspired Navas — including stopping a penalty from Lionel Messi — stopped Barcelona from launching a comeback.</p>
<p>“In my opinion, he’s showing that he’s the best out of everyone right now,” PSG defender Alessandro Florenzi said. “We all hope he carries on like this for the rest of the season.”</p>
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