PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain will have one eye on next week’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, but cannot afford to fall further behind in the Ligue 1 title race when they host Nice on Saturday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men suffered another setback ahead of Tuesday’s last-16 first leg against Barca at the Camp Nou when Neymar joined Angel Di Maria on the sidelines after suffering a groin injury in midweek.
But the French champions need to avoid dropping more points in Ligue 1, where they sit third, three points behind leaders Lille.
Neymar has been ruled out for “around four weeks” after sustaining a groin injury during Wednesday’s French Cup win over Caen.
But Pochettino defended his decision to play the Brazil attacker in the Cup last-64 game, for which Neymar was captain against second-division opposition.
“Every game is important. I believe that PSG must win every game,” said Argentinian Pochettino, who took over from the sacked Thomas Tuchel last month.
“If we had lost, you would have criticized me for not having given importance to the French Cup. We make the decisions, we analyze, we try to find the best team.”
PSG have bounced back strongly from a shock 3-2 loss at lowly Lorient on January 31, with league wins over Nimes and arch rivals Marseille.
Nice have started to find their feet in recent weeks, though, with a Cup victory over Nimes and last weekend’s success over Angers their first back-to-back wins since November 1.
Lille, chasing a first major trophy since winning the league and French Cup double in 2011, host Brest on Sunday.
PSG and Lyon, who welcome Montpellier to the Groupama Stadium after the Parisians’ game, could therefore both go top at various points of Saturday.
Marseille eased some of the gloom surrounding the club with their first win since suspending Andre Villas-Boas by beating second-tier Auxerre in the Cup.
But they will be without the suspended Dimitri Payet for Sunday’s trip to Bordeaux after the winger’s red card in the 2-0 loss to PSG last weekend.
Fourth-placed Monaco, the last team to deny PSG the Ligue 1 trophy, may also still have title aspirations.
The principality club, six points behind Lille, will bid for an eighth straight league win when they host Lorient.
With Neymar and Di Maria both missing, Italy striker Kean could stake a claim for a starting place against Barcelona.
The 20-year-old, on loan from Everton, has impressed for the capital giants despite struggling in the Premier League last term.
His goal in the 1-0 victory over second-tier Caen was his 12th this season, including two in the Champions League group stage.