Dani Alves believes PSG have the tools to topple Real Madrid despite Neymar absence

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Alves has issued a rallying cry for PSG ahead of the second-leg showdown.

Dani Alves insists Paris Saint-Germain have what it takes to beat Real Madrid in their Champions League showdown on Tuesday even without the injured Neymar.

“We always have two options – either we sit down and cry, or we get up and do what we have to do,” said Alves when asked about the absence of his compatriot, who is back in Brazil recovering from a foot operation.

“With Neymar PSG are stronger, and without ‘Ney’ we are still strong because there are other players,” added Alves, who was speaking at Monday’s eve-of-game press conference in Paris.

“For sure, we will feel his absence. But I insist that between sitting down and crying and getting up and getting on with it, I always opt for the second option.”

PSG trail Real Madrid 3-1 going into the second leg of the last 16 match at the Parc des Princes.

Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, had an operation in Belo Horizonte on Saturday on a small fracture to a metatarsal in his right foot and is now recovering with the aim of being back towards the end of the season.

The hope for PSG is that they might be able to get their 222 million-euro ($264 million) man back for the latter stages of the Champions League.

Neymar flew back to Brazil for his operation.

Neymar flew back to Brazil for his operation.

But in order to make it to the quarter-finals in April, they will need to overturn the first-leg deficit following their defeat, inflicted with two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and a Marcelo strike, at the Santiago Bernabeu last month.

Asked if he had been in touch with Neymar, Alves said: “I speak with him practically every day, so yes we have agreed between us that we would see each other again later on in this competition.”

In Neymar’s absence, Angel Di Maria is likely to start for PSG against his former club, alongside Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani in a front three.

“When one player is missing, it opens the door for someone else, and I know that whoever comes in through that door tomorrow (Tuesday) will do so with all their force,” said coach Unai Emery.

The Spaniard said he was confident centre-back Marquinhos, midfielder Marco Verratti and both Mbappe and Cavani would be ready for the game after minor fitness concerns.

They are all in the squad, as is Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore, who had been a doubt with a calf problem.

Midfield duo Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have both been struggling with injury for Madrid, although they travelled to the French capital with the rest of Zinedine Zidane’s squad on Monday.

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain turning into a premium player with Liverpool

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Back in September, after Liverpool had raised the bar on eyebrows in buying Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a Sunday Times columnist provided a perfect description for his career up until that point – ‘premium mediocre’.

The phrase, pinched from a website interested in philosophy rather than the abilities of Premier League footballers, captures the essence of sugar-coated mundanity. Run-of-the-mill products in glossy packaging. Extra leg-room in economy class was one example, or fast-track seating on a low budget airline.

In sporting terms perhaps the next installation of the Caribbean Premier League, which has all the razzmatazz of the IPL but nevertheless does not quite capture the imagination.

For £35m, Liverpool bought themselves a true premium, top-of-the-range player in Mohamed Salah. But shelling out roughly the same amount for Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed overblown. If Salah was like buying an iPhone X, the purchase of Oxlade-Chamberlain was akin to the iPhone 8 with the extra gigabytes.

The Englishman had a premium mediocre career in a side like Arsenal, the Barcelona-lite of premium mediocre teams.

He was fairly pacy, tackled when needed, played in a few positions, won some England caps, scored goals that suggested quality but were too infrequent to ever prove genuine. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about him was how unremarkable he was. Thierry Henry said it best when he quipped, ‘OK, Alex, what exactly are you good at?’

The very mention of ‘premium’ however, suggests the talent was there, and Jurgen Klopp has evidently found a way to access those extra gigabytes.

Deployed as a central midfielder, the 24-year-old is doing a little bit of everything for Liverpool – and that whole is more than the sum of his parts.

Against Newcastle on Saturday he nominally played centrally – and was in the thick of it when he set up Salah’s opener – but popped up on the left, right and virtually every sector up and down the pitch.

With Klopp’s gegenpressing imprinted in his brain, he is running more and reacting more, as opposed to the pretty passivity that been nurtured by Arsene Wenger for well over a decade now at Arsenal.

Credit must also go to Oxlade-Chamberlain, too. He refused to move to Chelsea because of Antonio Conte’s plans to make him a wing-back and reiterated his desire to become a full-time central midfielder, even though he looked lost when playing there for the Gunners before his switch.

Even Klopp had imagined him as strictly a wideman by trade but instead Oxlade-Chamberlain dug his heels in – and that’s not a quality many premium mediocre people have, particularly in a world of bland and uncharismatic footballers.

He is likely to star again under the historic Anfield lights on Tuesday, in a round-of-16 tie in which Liverpool are already five goals up – a premium mediocre Champions League night if there ever was one. But Oxlade-Chamberlain is proving he is a man for a greater occasion.

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PSG defender fed up with Neymar injury questions ahead of Real Madrid clash

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Neymar has been the driving force for PSG this season.

To say Neymar‘s injury is a blow for Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the second leg of their Champions League tie against Real Madrid is an understatement. The Brazilian star has been the team’s talisman this season, and PSG’s chances of overturning a 3-1 deficit have no doubt dropped with his absence.

But PSG players are understandably miffed at the suggestion that they can’t achieve the turnaround without Neymar, and even questions about his injury are becoming to become frustrating for his teammates.

Neymar again!” defender Presnel Kimpembe said when asked about the attacker by Le Parisien. “Neymar here, Neymar there, Neymar everywhere! I don’t know what to say.

“If he doesn’t play then he doesn’t play. The coach will call on other players. This hurts us, we know he’s an important player for the team. We are upset, we will try and qualify for him, but the team comes first.”

Kimpembe also admitted that it may have been a lack of experience that cost the Ligue 1 club in Madrid, although he bristled at suggestions that the team’s poor finishing is what’s led to a two-goal deficit.

“Maybe it was a lack of experience but I wouldn’t say it was a lack of accuracy. In any case, we have the second leg to go. We will have time to talk about that.”

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