Friday 24 November 2017

Barcelona boss tries to play down Neymar's substitute sulk

Neymar was unhappy at being substituted during Barcelona's 2-2 La Liga draw with Sevilla on Sunday
Neymar was unhappy at being substituted during Barcelona's 2-2 La Liga draw with Sevilla on Sunday

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has sought to play down Neymar's petulant reaction when the Brazil forward was substituted in Saturday's 2-2 La Liga draw at Sevilla.

Neymar, who scored a superb free kick to make it 2-0 to Barca after Lionel Messi's opener, was clearly furious at being replaced by Xavi with around 20 minutes left and Spanish media speculated he might be dropped for tonight's Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris Saint Germain.

Luis Enrique declined to reveal who would start the match at the Parc des Princes but did make it clear that he was the one in charge and urged all his players to respect that.

"I haven't seen the footage," Luis Enrique told reporters after he was asked about images showing Neymar complaining to his team mates on the bench.

"As a coach I understand that all the players want to be on the pitch," he added. "And the players must understand that I am the coach and I have to make decisions. Beyond that you can speculate and draw the conclusions you want."

Asked again about Neymar's behaviour later in the news conference, Luis Enrique drew laughter by taking the chance to wish his mother a happy birthday.

Barca and PSG have already met twice in the Champions League group stage this term, with the Ligue 1 side winning 3-2 in Paris and Barca's 3-1 success at the Nou Camp helping them finish as pool winners.


PSG's hopes of making the semi-finals have been hit by suspensions and injury, with Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Italy midfielder Marco Verratti banned and midfielder Thiago Motta out with a thigh injury.

David Luiz has been sidelined with a hamstring problem, but has been included in the squad.

"They are important players for them without doubt but they have a strong squad and for sure they will cause us problems," said Enrique.

In the other quarter-final tonight, Bayern Munich travel to Porto as favourites even without the injured David Alaba, Medhi Benatia, Javi Martinez, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Tom Starke, although Jerome Boateng was flown in on Tuesday.

They travelled to Portugal on Monday rather than yesterday to ensure they had no distractions as they look to reach a fourth straight semi-final, and striker Thomas Muller insists there will be no letting up this year.

"We've just had two games against Dortmund and Leverkusen which have pulled us even tighter together," he said.

"All that matters now is being united on the field, and we've got lots of self-confidence."

Porto v Bayern Munich, SS5, 7.45

PSG v Barcelona, SS1/RTE 2, 7.45

Irish Independent

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