PARIS (AP) — Kylian Mbappé has made an unexpectedly quick recovery from injury and Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier hopes he can face Bayern Munich on Tuesday in the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League clash.
The World Cup superstar was expected to be out for three weeks after tearing a muscle in his left thigh on Feb. 1 and the jet-heeled forward’s speedy return has surprised Galtier.
“Kylian trained with the squad today and completed the whole session. I didn’t think he would be ready,” Galtier said at Monday’s news conference. “We took the decision to let him take part if he felt ready. We’re not quite sure if he’ll be on the team sheet, we’ll see tomorrow morning.”
Mbappé won’t be on the bench for the sake of it.
“We’ll ask Kylian if he feels ready, Kylian’s made a huge effort,” Galtier said. “If he’s on the team sheet it means he’s ready.”
Neymar hopes to line up alongside Mbappé and Lionel Messi, who has shaken off a sore hamstring.
“Kylian is an extremely important player for us, he’s a star,” Neymar said through a translator. “Obviously we feel stronger when all three of us are playing.”
Neymar is the world’s most expensive player at 222 million euros ($237 million) but Mbappé is only the second player to have scored a hat trick in a World Cup final.
PSG really needs its France star after some poor results.
“I hope Kylian can play for a few minutes. He told me he’s feeling well, so that’s a good sign,” Neymar said. “Our biggest objective is (winning) the Champions League. It’s like the World Cup, if you make the slightest mistake you go out.”
Tensions have been running high at PSG after successive defeats to Marseille in the French Cup and to Monaco in the league on Saturday.
PSG’s 3-1 loss to Monaco was its fourth defeat in 10 games and the loss would have been far heavier if not for goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Sporting director Luis Campos was reportedly so angered by the abject performance that he argued with Neymar and captain Marquinhos later.
“Yes there was a discussion, we didn’t agree with what we heard,” Neymar said. “But these things happen. Football isn’t just about love and friendship.”
Comparing it to an argument with his girlfriend, Neymar said straight talking is necessary.
“The respect is there but there are times when you don’t agree and discussions happen to make things better,” Neymar said. “It’s true that our recent performances haven’t been very good. Of course it’s unsettling when there are defeats.”
Neymar, however, was also upset that the dispute was leaked.
“It’s not normal that everything that happens comes out of the dressing room, it should stay between us,” he said. “We know that we have some weaknesses, but I’m sure we’ll see the best of PSG tomorrow.”
Galtier was good at identifying PSG’s weaknesses when his former teams faced the club. He was undefeated in five games against the club with Lille and Nice, without even conceding a goal, so PSG hired him in July.
However, Galtier seems unable to remedy the same problem areas he expertly exploited, and faces a Bayern side hitting form with 11 goals in three matches.
Galtier said there have been frank talks with the players.
“When there’s frustration it needs to come out,” he said. “Of course there’s disappointment and anger after defeats. We’ve had discussions, I listened to my players and I hope they listened to me.”
After joking that he’s using “anti-wrinkle” cream to hide the stress he’s under, the 56-year-old Galtier said his players would respond against Bayern.
“My players can raise their level of performance and their commitment,” he said.
The World Cup top scorer Mbappé posted a message on Instagram following the Monaco defeat in a bid to motivate teammates and fans.
“Let’s stay strong & united,” he wrote.
Cash-rich PSG is desperate to win the Champions League for the first time, while also bidding to avoid a second straight elimination in the last 16 after last season’s humiliating defeat by Real Madrid.
Some 50 PSG ultras made their feelings known on Sunday, jeering the players as they arrived for training.
“I understand the anger of the fans,” Galtier said.
In 2019, PSG became the first team to be eliminated after winning the away leg 2-0, losing to Manchester United 3-1 at Parc des Princes after conceding a stoppage-time penalty.
In 2017, PSG was the first team knocked out after winning the first leg 4-0, losing 6-1 at Barcelona.
And last year, Karim Benzema scored a hat trick for Madrid in less than 20 minutes as PSG crumbled in the second half, having again won the first leg.
Bayern has won the German league a record 32 times and clinched its sixth Champions League title when it defeated PSG 1-0 in the final in 2020, with former PSG winger Kingsley Coman heading the winner.
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