Navas, not Neymar, is the one holding PSG’s season together

<p>PARIS &mdash; Although goalkeeper Keylor Navas kept Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League hopes alive with 18 saves in two games, the club no longer controls its own destiny in the French league.</p>
<p>That’s because defending champion PSG is three points behind league leader Lille with seven games left, relinquishing control by l <a href="">osing at home to Lille</a> last weekend. Lille can provisionally move six points ahead if it wins at Metz on Friday, with PSG facing a tough trip to a physical Strasbourg side the next day.</p>
<p>As good as he is, not even Navas could prevent the defeat against Lille, but the fact PSG is even in contention is largely down to him. </p>
<p>The defending champion would have lost more than eight games — its most in the past 10 years — if not for Navas. </p>
<p>His outstanding form papers over huge cracks, which were glaringly evident on Wednesday night. He made 10 saves against a rampant Bayern Munich that sliced PSG’s midfield and defense apart in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. </p>
<p>PSG somehow came through that pummeling in the snow with a 3-2 win.</p>
<p>The match before that in the Champions League, Navas <a href="">kept out eight shots</a> in a 1-1 draw against an equally dominant Barcelona side in the second leg of their last-16 game, including a penalty from Lionel Messi. </p>
<p>During the group stage, Navas bailed out his teammates at home against Leipzig and away to Manchester United in games PSG won but could easily have lost.</p>
<p>“Keylor is one of the best goalies in the world,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said. “I’m very happy he’s with us.”</p>
<p>So he should be.</p>
<p>Because for all its attacking firepower, PSG has often proved to be a a fragile side which still lacks composure and unity.</p>
<p>That was evident against Lille, when star striker Neymar was sent off at the end of the game for a reckless foul off the ball. He then tried to confront the same player he’d fouled in the tunnel afterward, and had to be restrained by a security guard. The league handed Neymar a two-game ban, meaning he’ll miss the Strasbourg trip and next Sunday’s home match with Saint-Etienne.</p>
<p>Pochettino may have rested Neymar against Strasbourg, anyway, with Tuesday’s return leg against Munich in mind. </p>
<p>But Neymar’s lack of discipline — three red cards in his past 14 league games — could be a serious concern going forward. <a href="">Neymar was sent off against Marseille</a> at the start of the season and hit with a three-game ban. </p>
<p>Should the title go down to the wire, Pochettino will need his best players available, which hasn’t always been the case with Neymar at PSG. </p>
<p>For this is the third straight season where the injury-prone and hot-tempered Brazil forward will have played less than half of the scheduled 38 league games.</p>
<p>Altogether, the Brazilian has played just 65 out of a possible 145 league games so far since joining PSG for a world record 222 million euros ($264 million) — with a high of 20 in his first season.</p>
<p>While PSG is still hoping to get the best out of Neymar on a consistent basis, and of persuading him and <a href="">the prolific Kylian Mbappe</a> to sign new long-term deals, Navas is proving himself to be one of the club’s best ever buys.</p>
<p>For after joining from Real Madrid for 15 million euros ($18 million) two years ago, the 34-year-old Costa Rican just seems to be getting better.</p>
<p>That outlay alone was paid back by keeping PSG in the Champions League in such a testing season for the club.</p>
<hr />
<p>More AP soccer: <a href=""></a> and <a href=""></a></p>