Neymar's injury overshadows PSG's Coupe de France quarterfinal vs. Marseille
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain come into Wednesday's Coupe de France quarterfinal clash with bitter rivals Marseille at Parc des Princes, the second in the space of three days, knowing that the result will not be the main talking point come full-time.
If Marseille upset Unai Emery's men and knock the defending champions out, a bad situation will be made worse.
However, even if the French capital outfit win and advance to the semifinals, their predicament will be dark at the end of match.
Whichever way the result goes, Neymar's injury and likely absence from next week's Champions League round-of-16 second-leg clash with Real Madrid will be the dominant topic. The Brazilian superstar injured himself late during last Sunday's 3-0 win in Le Classique, and since then, PSG have been in close to crisis mode regarding his potential availability to face Real.
While the panic is understandable in some ways, especially when added to Marquinhos' probable absence, Les Parisiens must not forget that there is an important cup match to be played this midweek. Speaking at his prematch news conference on Tuesday and on a rare non-Neymar topic, Emery stressed his desire to see his team build on Sunday's victory.
"The match on Sunday was very tough for both teams," the Spaniard told journalists at Camp des Loges. "The preparations for this game became all the more important.
"The Coupe de France is an historic competition for everyone. We want to win it and beat Marseille for the second time in three days.
"We need to prepare well to have a competitive starting XI. There will be changes from last Sunday's side. ... How many? I do not know. ... It is an important match for us."
PSG struck early through Kylian Mbappe last time out and did not look back, and Emery added that he wants more of the same from his players because he is confident that Marseille will try the same approach.
"In the first game this season, OM defended very deep, whereas last weekend they pressed high up the pitch," the former Sevilla boss said. "We did not control the entire match, but we still managed to find space between the lines, and we created danger -- I expect a similar match."
It is imperative that Emery gets his starting XI right here against Marseille because in an ideal world, certainly now that Neymar has made PSG's world anything but ideal, the 46-year-old will be able to rest players away at Troyes this weekend. That means that Emery needs to have an idea of who will likely replace Neymar and how he wants to set up defensively because OM are the better team to test it against than L'ESTAC.
Angel Di Maria is the most likely candidate to offset Neymar's absence, while Julian Draxler and Javier Pastore are both alternatives, and captain Thiago Silva should partner with Presnel Kimpembe in central defence.
Otherwise, Kevin Trapp will replace Alphonse Areola in goal, as it is a domestic cup tie, Thomas Meunier will come in for the suspended Dani Alves, and Yuri Berchiche could be reinstated at left-back after missing the Marseille clash in Ligue 1.
In midfield, Emery has more options than he did in Madrid a few weeks ago, and Thiago Motta, Lassana Diarra and Giovani Lo Celso could all play in the deep-lying role alone, while Marco Verratti is back in the squad after missing Le Classique last weekend.
Considering Neymar's injury, Emery must be careful with Edinson Cavani and Mbappe, but, that said, get the job done as early as possible, and a limited outing here and some rest against Troyes are very likely.
The fuss caused by Neymar's injury is as predictable as it is understandable, but if PSG do what they need to against Marseille here, it will aid the wave of optimism needed for when the seemingly inevitable disappointment of the Brazilian being ruled out of the Real clash arrives.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.