Paris Saint-Germain are hoping Neymar’s prayers are answered after the runaway Ligue 1 leaders’ talisman suffered a fresh metatarsal injury just weeks from their huge Champions clash with Manchester United.
Neymar invoked divine intervention after being forced to leave the field in tears during their 2-0 French Cup win over Strasbourg in midweek with the same injury that curtailed the Brazilian’s campaign last season.
“Your will be done, my God” he wrote in an Instagram post.
Although fans in Paris are concerned about the danger of Neymar missing the two games against a rejuvenated United, his absence should not have much impact on PSG’s title defence.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 going into their home meeting with Rennes on Sunday, and with serious domestic opposition lacking, most in the French capital are now looking ahead to Old Trafford on February 12.
Tuchel admitted that both the player and PSG’s medical staff are “worried” about the injury, and bemoaned that “the referee didn’t give anything” despite what he saw as persistent fouling from Strasbourg.
PSG’s domestic task has been made easier by the atrocious form of Monaco and Marseille, who this week have made moves to reverse their fortunes in desperate campaigns.
Thierry Henry’s suspension as Monaco coach on Thursday came ahead of the principality club’s huge relegation clash with fellow strugglers Dijon on Saturday evening, and just hours after he told reporters “my future is not a problem”.
Leonardo Jardim — the man who Henry replaced following an atrocious start to the season — is favourite to retake his place on the Monaco bench once the former France and Arsenal striker’s sacking is made official.
Henry was relieved of his coaching duties with Monaco in the bottom two having won just two league matches since his arrival in mid-October.
A French Cup humilation at the hands of second-tier Metz in midweek proved to be the final straw, although Monaco could escape from the relegation zone should they beat Dijon, who are two points ahead in 18th.
Marseille, meanwhile, are hoping Mario Balotelli can add goals to a spluttering attack as they prepare for the visit of second-placed Lille on Friday.
Seventh-placed Marseille’s 1-0 victory at Caen last weekend was their first in nearly two months, a period in which they have been knocked out of both domestic cups and the Europa League.
The Italy international has joined from Nice but admitted he needs “to get back into the rhythm of matches and training” after making just nine league appearances all season, scoring no goals.
Don’t stop believing
Meanwhile, “shocked” Nantes will not pay they respects to their former striker Emilano Sala before their French Cup fixture at third-tier Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien this weekend.
The tie was postponed in midweek following the disappearance of the Argentine in a plane crash in the English Channel.
Police on Guernsey called off the search for the 28-year-old, who was travelling to Wales after signing for Premier League club Cardiff City when the plane disappeared from radar near the British island on Monday.
However, Sala’s family continue to hope he will appear alive.
“We ask you to respect the family who absolutely refuse to talk about mourning and ask us to keep believing,” Nantes captain Valentin Rongier told the more than 300 fans who came to an open training session on Thursday.
“It is for this reason that we are not going to have a minute’s silence or a minute’s applause because we still have hope.”
Nantes have had their league fixture against Saint-Etienne moved from Saturday to Wednesday.
Marseille v Lille (1945)
Dijon v Monaco, Guingamp v Reims, Strasbourg v Bordeaux, Nice v Nimes (all 1900)
Montpellier v Caen (1400), Amiens v Lyon (1600), Toulouse v Angers (1900), Paris Saint-Germain v Rennes (2000)
Nantes v Saint-Etienne (2000)