Thomas Tuchel Says Neymar Lacked Rhythm vs. Dortmund, Backs Kylian Mbappe

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2020

DORTMUND, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 18: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Neymar of Paris Saint-Germain and Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain look dejected during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain at Signal Iduna Park on February 18, 2020 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain manager Thomas Tuchel has said Neymar lacked match rhythm going into Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League, and backed fellow forward Kylian Mbappe to have much more success in the return leg. 

The Germans did a fine job handling the France international and came away with a narrow win thanks to two goals from Erling Haaland. Neymar also netted in the loss.

Per L'Equipe (h/t Goal's Dejan Kalinic), Tuchel said he knew Mbappe would be in for a difficult match, but the second leg will be different:

"I knew it would be a tough game for him. He had to be very, very patient.

"We know that the technical relationship between him and Ney is good. Ney lacked rhythm, competition.

"Kylian made an assist. It's a tough game for him, a game to grow. I trust him. We're going to have a good game at the Parc [des Princes]."

Neymar hadn't featured since the 5-0 win over Montpellier on February 1 and voiced his frustration at the inactivity after Tuesday's outing:


Neymar didn't appreciate being sidelined for four straight games. https://t.co/nqky6qBWw3

Les Parisiens have a healthy 10-point lead in Ligue 1, and Tuchel opted to rotate his side and keep his star players fresh in the 4-4 draw with Amiens over the weekend. Mbappe and Neymar didn't make the bench, and Marco Verratti was a substitute.

That decision appeared to backfire at the Signal Iduna Park, where the French side lacked their usual fluidity. Tuchel pointed at injury concerns in recent weeks, as well as the club's busy schedule:

"We have made twice as many matches as Dortmund in recent weeks. We have had injury concerns with key players, they lack the rhythm, the hardness of the competition, as we saw with Neymar.

"Our possession of the ball was not stable enough for this not to be a physical match. There was this physical side to this match, in addition, we made too many mistakes in unnecessary positions.

"We were lacking in timing. We lost a little confidence, and form. I thought it would be a more open game."

DORTMUND, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 18: Coach of PSG Thomas Tuchel answers to the media during the post-match press conference following the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Signal Iduna
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Dortmund have played only one fewer match in February. They haven't been able to rotate their squad as much due to the tight title race in the Bundesliga, where the top five clubs in the standings sit just six points apart.

BVB did make a big splash in the January transfer window to add to their options, bringing in Emre Can from Juventus and Haaland from Red Bull Salzburg. Both have made immediate impacts, with the latter continuing his remarkable scoring exploits in Germany.

The 19-year-old has netted 10 goals in the Champions League already this season, becoming just the second player after Mbappe to reach the mark as a teenager:

Goal @goal

Erling Haaland is only the second player to score 10 Champions League goals as a teenager 👶 The other - Kylian Mbappe 💫 https://t.co/JgjVVDKetu

PSG have exited the Champions League in the round of 16 in three straight seasons, including an upset loss at the hands of Manchester United last year.

The return leg will be on March 11 at the Parc des Princes.