Neymar to return for PSG against Dortmund, says coach

PSG's Neymar reacts during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Strasbourg at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. (Francois Mori/AP)

DORTMUND, Germany — Neymar is set to return for Paris Saint-Germain against Borussia Dortmund as the French champion tries to end its three-year run of defeats in the Champions League’s last 16.

The Brazilian forward has missed four games with a rib injury, most recently the 4-4 league draw with Amiens on Saturday.

But coach Thomas Tuchel told a news conference on Monday that Neymar is fit again and will play, unless he has a setback in training.

"If we have Neymar on the field, we have the self-confidence," Tuchel said through a translator. "It changes everything for us."

PSG’s Champions League ambitions have been thwarted at this stage three seasons in a row, last year in a late collapse at home to Manchester United.

"When you go out in the last 16 three times and then you’re back there again, it’s clear it’s not a simple situation. But every year writes its own story," said Tuchel, who coached Dortmund from 2015 to 2017. "You need defeat in order to grow and develop yourself."

Dortmund and PSG are two of Europe’s highest-scoring teams, but Dortmund coach Lucien Favre wants to keep the score low Tuesday.

Dortmund has scored 23 goals in its last five league games. But that has often been accompanied by sloppy defending. The German team has had a 5-3 win and a 4-3 loss so far in 2020.

PSG had its own defensive problems when it conceded four against Amiens.

Dortmund is hoping it has found a solution to its leaky back line, just in time to host PSG. The arrival of defensive midfielder Emre Can from Juventus in January has shored things up. Dortmund allowed Eintracht Frankfurt no clear-cut chances in a 4-0 win on Friday.

Favre said he’s hoping for beauty on the field, but "a beautiful match can also be a match which has beautiful defending in it."

Favre added he would be happy with a 1-0 win instead of a goal-fest.

Midfielder Axel Witsel pointed to Dortmund’s goalless draw with Barcelona in the group stage — a rare case of competent defending prior to Can’s arrival — as "the model" to follow.

"Tomorrow we’re going to have to be really compact, play as a team all together and really strong," Witsel said. "We were against Frankfurt more aggressive in a good way. Straight away when we lost the ball we really wanted to recover the ball and play forward and it’s one of the things we will have to do tomorrow."

Witsel said his new partnership with Can offers "more balance" in the midfield. Can is a classic defensive midfielder, Witsel said, rather than the more offensively minded Julian Brandt, who is injured.

Dortmund could also field striker Erling Haaland in Europe for the first time. The 19-year-old Norwegian has scored nine goals in six games in all competitions for Dortmund and eight in six for former club Salzburg in the group stage.

"He’s a great forward and we definitely need to be careful of him," PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe said.

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