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Neymar absence not the reason for PSG draw with Montpellier - Verratti

A Neymar-less PSG couldn't find a breakthrough at Montpellier, with the Parisians rarely threatening on the attack.

Paris Saint-Germain chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi and midfielder Marco Verratti both insisted that Neymar's absence was not the reason for Saturday's 0-0 draw away at Montpellier in Ligue 1.

One week on from his controversy with Edinson Cavani over a second half penalty during the home win against Lyon, the Brazilian superstar was unable to make the trip to Stade de la Mosson because of an injury to his right toe.

In Neymar's absence, Cavani and Kylian Mbappe were unable to fire PSG to victory, but Al-Khelaifi refused to lay the blame at the former Barcelona man's feet post-match.

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"It is not because Neymar was not here that we did not win," Al-Khelaifi told Canal +. "He is a very important member of the team but there are many reasons for this performance."

"Neymar and Edinson? I laughed when I heard all of that stuff! I cannot believe that you are still talking about it. You want scandals and controversy every single day because you do not have much to talk about!"

The goalless draw in Montpellier means that Monaco are now back to within one point of the capital at the top of the Ligue 1 table and Al-Khelaifi acknowledged that he and his players knew it was going to be a tough encounter.

"We know that it will always be difficult here, with this pitch and this atmosphere," said Al-Khelaifi. "It was a really difficult match but we were prepared for that.

"The players tried everything possible. We cannot win every game. The coach and the staff will re-watch the match to learn from it. We did not really play today. We came here to win the game.

"We remain motivated and concentrated ahead of Bayern Munich next week. Next Wednesday is the most important thing now.

Edinson Cavani during Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 game against Montpellier.
Edinson Cavani led the PSG line in Neymar's absence but was unable to find a goal.

"Monaco closing the gap? It is good for Ligue 1."

Midfielder Marco Verratti also spoke with the press after the game in Montpellier and echoed Al-Khelaifi's thoughts on the result and Neymar's absence.

"Everyone thinks that we are not as strong without Neymar, said the Italy international. "Barcelona are not as strong without [Lionel] Messi and Real Madrid are not as strong without [Cristiano] Ronaldo -- this is completely normal.

"It was not because we did not have Neymar that we did not win. We may not be as strong without him as we are with him but we are still a great team even when he is not here.

"It was a tough match. There was not much space for us. The most difficult thing was to score a goal. We had a few opportunities but we did not manage it. After six rounds of fixtures, it is possible to put in a bit of a below-par display.

"We are going to concentrate and do better in the Champions League. There are no problems before Bayern. We gave 100 percent [in Montpellier], it is just not easy to win each time. This is not a problem, though."

And PSG boss Unai Emery did not talk about his missing superstar, preferring instead to praise his team's opponent on the day for holding his side at bay.

"Our opponents, who defended well, deserve credit,'' Emery said. "They were very effective in closing down the space.

"We played the match we wanted to, with a lot of possession, but we needed to push more to score goals. We had chances, but that's not enough to win the game.

"The first thing is not to concede a goal. It's important, of course, but the aim is to win. It's true that today a point isn't enough. This match gives us a lot of things to analyse to continue our progress.''

PSG will host Bayern in the second Group B fixture before a visit from Bordeaux in the final round of Ligue 1 matches before the next international break.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.

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