PSG stars Mbappé, Neymar fired up as French league resumes

PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar can take out their World Cup frustrations on struggling Strasbourg when the French league resumes on Wednesday.

Coach Christophe Galtier said on Tuesday that both players will be ready to face league leaders PSG at the Parc des Princes, although Mbappe has had little time off since France’s wild World Cup final loss to Argentina in Qatar on 18 December.

Mbappe became only the second player to score a hat-trick in the final but was inconsolable as Les Bleus lost on penalties to Lionel Messi’s Argentina after a 3-3 draw.

Yet Mbappe returned to training with PSG just three days later.

“Kylian had some great games, he was the tournament’s top scorer (with eight goals),” Galtier said. ”His wish was to join us quite quickly. That doesn’t mean he won’t get time off to recover from a longer line.

Galtier said Achraf Hakimi – who played in the surprise semi-final in Morocco – and Mbappe will be ready for both Strasbourg and the crucial match at second-placed Lens on New Year’s Day. The coach does not consider it a physical risk to pick them in consecutive matches so soon after the tournament.

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”I do not believe. Hakimi and Mbappe wanted to come back to play in those two games, Galtier said. “As long as they are physically and mentally fit, there is no reason for us not to play them.”

Neymar resumed training on December 22 and is highly motivated.

“From a psychological point of view, he really wants to play. That’s a good sign,” said Galtier, who insisted Neymar has no lingering effects from the right ankle injury he suffered against Serbia at the start of the World Cup.

Neymar broke down and couldn’t stop crying after Brazil lost to Croatia in the quarterfinals. He scored a stunning solo goal to equal Pele’s national team goalscoring record of 77 goals, but Croatia leveled deep into extra time and then advanced on penalties. Brazil struggled in the penalty shootout to such an extent that Neymar didn’t even get a chance to take his team’s fifth kick.

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Messi scored twice in the final and calmly converted his side’s first penalty in a thrilling shootout against France. This capped off a remarkable tournament that cemented his status as arguably the best player in the game and saw him join his idol Diego Maradona as World Cup winners.

Messi, 35, was given extra time off to celebrate the success at home in Argentina and is expected to resume training by January 3, Galtier said.

Even without a record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, Strasbourg will face the league’s top two scorers. Mbappe has 12 goals and Neymar is on 11 and 19th-placed Strasbourg’s leaky defense could be in for a tough night.

Lens are five points behind PSG in second place and travel to mid-table Nice on Thursday.

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Third-placed Rennes are five points clear of Lens and visit Reims, while fourth-placed Marseille host Toulouse, also on Thursday.


Nice coach Lucien Favre doesn’t know when center fielder Aaron Ramsey will join the team.

Favre was asked about Ramsey in his pre-match press conference and said the Wales midfielder was still out.

”No, he still hasn’t returned. I think the World Cup was very difficult for him to endure, so we’ll see,” Favre said, adding that he has not tried to contact the player. ”No. I could do it, but that’s it.”

Ramsey played in all three of the national team’s World Cup matches in Qatar, where Wales finished last in their group.

“He’s very disappointed in the World Cup,” Favre said. “He’s really taking his time to recover.”

Ramsey, who previously played for Arsenal and Juventus, has scored once in 16 appearances since joining Nice this season.

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