Neymar resumed Paris Saint-Germain training on Monday in a boost to their preparations for a Trophee des Champions clash with Marseille.

The Brazil star has not yet featured under Mauricio Pochettino, having sustained an ankle injury in December.

According to Le Parisien, the former Barcelona forward is "50-50" to face Marseille in Wednesday's game in Lens.

Neymar has only managed seven Ligue 1 appearances this season, scoring three times and providing three assists.

His most telling performances have been in the Champions League, where six goals in five games helped PSG to win a tough Group H ahead of RB Leipzig and Manchester United.

Leandro Paredes, Danilo Pereira and Presnel Kimpembe, who suffered a hamstring injury last month, also returned to training in Monday's session.

Pochettino, who took over following Thomas Tuchel's sacking in December, is bidding to win his first trophy as a coach this week.

He recorded his first win as PSG boss on Saturday, when Moise Kean, Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia scored in a 3-0 Ligue 1 victory over Brest.

Neymar is not fit to make his return from injury when Paris Saint-Germain take on Brest in Ligue 1, though Mauro Icardi is one of a trio returning to action.

Icardi, Layvin Kurzawa and Alessandro Florenzi will all be available at Parc des Princes on Saturday after injury absences.

PSG laboured to a 1-1 draw in Mauricio Pochettino's opening game in charge away to Saint-Etienne on Wednesday

He will seek his first win since replacing Thomas Tuchel at home to Brest, with PSG looking for a sixth straight Ligue 1 win against them.

With 36 points after 18 games this season, it is their worst opening to a top-flight campaign since 2012-13.

Pochettino will bid to start improving their results without Neymar – who has not played since suffering an ankle injury on December 13 – while Rafinha and Juan Bernat are also out.

"We need to get the players who are out back in action as soon as possible so that we can be as competitive as we want to be," Pochettino said ahead of facing Brest.

"The team have shown a fantastic attitude and an ability to learn quickly from us in a short period of time."

Neymar will then have missed five matches, with the next decision to be whether he plays any part against Marseille in the Trophee des Champions on Wednesday.

Central to PSG's thoughts is February's crucial Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona.

Neymar remains unavailable for Mauricio Pochettino's first match in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, though the new coach has called up 17-year-old Xavi Simons to be a part of the squad.

Following over a week of strong speculation, former Tottenham boss Pochettino was finally appointed by PSG on January 2, replacing Thomas Tuchel after his dismissal.

Tuchel had been shown the door despite leading PSG to last season's Champions League final, which the German also guided them through this season despite a tricky group.

But the club were reportedly concerned about his capability of getting them past Barcelona in the next round, while he had also engaged in a public spat with sporting director Leonardo over transfers.

Pochettino signed on until the end of next season and his first game in charge is at Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, with PSG hoping a win takes them back to the Ligue 1 summit.

They will have to continue to make do without Neymar, who in December was ruled out until this month with an ankle injury.

PSG are yet to confirm when exactly they expect the Brazilian to return, though the trip to Les Verts has come too soon.

Pochettino earned a reputation at Spurs and Southampton for trusting young players, and he has named several teenagers in his first squad with the Parisians as well.

While Kays Ruiz, Bandiougou Fadiga and Timothee Pembele all made Ligue 1 appearances under Tuchel, Simons did not.

A Netherlands youth international signed from Barcelona in 2019, Simons has long cultivated a keen following online through his social media activity and relationship with Nike.

Throughout his teenage years he has been linked with many of the world's biggest clubs, having been regarded highly at Barca, but it is at PSG where the technical midfielder appears primed to make a breakthrough.

The youngster was named in two Ligue 1 matchday squads earlier this season, though the most recent was in October and he is yet to make his official debut for the club.

Lionel Messi's wages are not sustainable but the superstar forward can be persuaded to stay at Barcelona with a sporting project that appeals to him, according to presidential candidate Emili Rousaud.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was unsuccessful in his attempt to leave Camp Nou ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, but he is now free to discuss an end-of-season transfer with clubs after entering the final six months of his contract.

He was strongly tipped to reunite with former boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, while Inter and Paris Saint-Germain – now coached by fellow Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino – have also been linked.

But while reiterating Messi will have to take a pay cut if he is to stay on at Barca beyond this season, Rousaud has outlined his plan to tempt the one-club man to put pen to paper on fresh terms.

"He did not want to leave the club for economic reasons. It was down to the lack of a sports project," Rousaud told Sport.

"I will look him in the eyes and say: 'Your salary is unsustainable, the club cannot pay you. But we are going to launch a project to surround you with young talent'.

Despite Barca's financial concerns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Rousaud has previously outlined his intention to bring in prolific striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund if he succeeds Josep Maria Bartomeu in this month's elections.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe is another possible target and Rousaud believes the prestige of playing for Barcelona could give the LaLiga giants an advantage in the transfer market.

"The market prices in which the players move now are not those of two years ago," he said. "In addition, Barca has something very important: a shirt that has a lot of weight in the world. But off course, we will not stretch the arm more than the sleeve.

"My advisor Josep Maria Minguella has spoken with [Haaland's agent] Mino Raiola to find out the conditions in which he would come and we have started talking. 

"For a player like him, being in a club like ours would give him a great showcase worldwide."

Rousaud has also vowed to attempt to bring Neymar back to Catalonia should he be elected, despite the Brazilian forward leaving Barca for PSG under a cloud that has since seen him embroiled in a court battle over an alleged breach of contract.

However, rather than condemning Neymar for leaving the club for a record €222million fee in 2017, Rousaud feels Barca only have themselves to blame for wasting the money on two players who have been blighted by injury problems.

"The money left by Neymar was invested in two players: [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ousmane] Dembele, who have not given the expected sporting result," he said. 

"And since they didn't work, we signed others. And since we no longer have cash, we started to get into debt.

"They say that Neymar humiliated us. I respect that opinion, but it left us €222million. If with that money we had signed Mbappe, maybe we wouldn't talk about Neymar anymore."

Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta claimed he is the man best placed to persuade Lionel Messi to stay at Camp Nou.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the Argentine's long-term future with Barca remains unclear.

The 33-year-old sent shockwaves through the world of football when he expressed a desire to end his near two-decade association with the Blaugrana ahead of the 2020-21 season, but after a lengthy transfer saga he opted to stay put.

An end to the tenure of Josep Maria Bartomeu – with whom Messi has had a tense relationship – as president in October has prompted the club to bring forward their elections to January 24.

Laporta, who served as Barca president between 2003 and 2010, is considered the leading candidate to triumph in the elections according to a poll in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Since his debut in October 2004, Barca have won 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without Messi (won 66, drawn 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (won 368, drawn 83 and lost 48).

And Laporta believes his own personal relationship with Messi elevates him above other presidential candidates. 

"I see him [Messi] as positive because he said he will wait until the end of the season, and that gives us time to make a convincing proposal," Laporta told Marca.

"And I have an advantage, with Leo I have credibility. He always tells me that everything I promised him was fulfilled. You know that if I give my word, I keep it.

"We missed huge opportunities having the best player in the world. At Barca there are no transition years.

"We should have won more Champions Leagues, we hope to resume that success story of Barca with the competition. By the way, during my [previous] tenure Madrid did not win any."

Other candidates have made bold claims about which players they will bring to Camp Nou if they were elected.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland plus Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have been the most high-profile names, but Laporta would not be drawn on transfer targets.

"I have my own sports project. I will not fall into the trap of naming names," he added.

"All the agents are calling me. I know them all and they want me to be president again, but I tell them that now I'm not talking about players or coaches."

Laporta also believes Barca's influence has diminished in recent years and he would seek to restore their standing.

"It has lost a lot of specific weight in the Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, UEFA, FIFA and in all the bodies that govern football," he explained.

"Barca has to regain its credibility. We must have a presence to intervene in decision-making that affects football in general."

Paris Saint-Germain have used the mid-season break to replace Thomas Tuchel with Mauricio Pochettino, and the new head coach has some big issues to contend with.

A 4-0 win over Strasbourg before the mid-season break was not enough to spare Tuchel, who was relieved of his duties after two and a half years at the helm.

Tuchel left PSG having won six trophies in the French capital, while also taking the club to the brink of a long-awaited Champions League success last term.

PSG ultimately came up short, going down 1-0 to a dominant Bayern Munich in the final.

Tuchel remained in place for the new season but was only been able to guide the club to third in Ligue 1, with the Parisians losing four of their 17 matches.

Pochettino spent over two years with PSG in his playing days and was picked to take over the reins at the Parc des Princes, signing a contract until June 2022 with an option for a further year.

Here are the major issues Pochettino must contend with.

 

ASSERT LIGUE 1 DOMINANCE

While the Champions League is clearly the be-all and end-all for PSG's Qatari owners, the bedrock of their success is domestic supremacy.

Over the past eight seasons, PSG have only failed to win the Ligue 1 title once – during Unai Emery's first season in charge, when a Kylian Mbappe-inspired Monaco charged to glory.

Tuchel had little trouble in claiming back-to-back championships, albeit last season's Ligue 1 campaign was curtailed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, with the congested nature of 2020-21 making life tough for all of Europe's biggest teams, PSG find themselves point behind joint-leaders Lille and Lyon, the latter of whom recently claimed their first league win at Parc des Princes since 2007.

It is hardly an unassailable gap, though the first task for PSG's new head coach will be to return to the top of the pile, while defending their Coupe de France crown will also provide another chance for a trophy.

SECURE THAT ALL-IMPORTANT CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Ultimately, any coach at PSG is judged on their success – or lack thereof – in Europe.

Tuchel pushed PSG further than any other coach has in the Champions League since Qatar Sports Investments' takeover, but it was still not enough to stop Hansi Flick's Bayern completing an incredible treble.

PSG were inconsistent in this season's condensed group stage, losing at home to Manchester United and away to RB Leipzig, before a 3-1 win at Old Trafford and a 5-1 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir secured their place in the knockout stages.

Ronald Koeman's iffy Barcelona team await in the last 16, and there has arguably never been a better time to face the Catalan giants in Europe – although Bayern's 8-2 rout back in August may suggest differently.

Crucial to any push for silverware in UEFA's elite club competition will be getting the best out of Neymar and Mbappe. The latter missed some big chances in last season's final, and only against Basaksehir did he end a year-long run without a Champions League goal (nine games).

KEEP NEYMAR AND MBAPPE, AND THROW IN MESSI FOR GOOD MEASURE

PSG's sporting director Leonardo has confirmed contract discussions are underway with Neymar and Mbappe.

France star Mbappe has already scored 104 times across all competitions for PSG, though Real Madrid and Barca have regularly been touted as suitors – then again, which of Europe's elite clubs would not want the 22-year-old in their ranks?

Neymar, meanwhile, has consistently been linked with a move back to Barca, but that transfer is looking increasingly unlikely.

Indeed, the prospect of the Brazil superstar linking up with Lionel Messi once more seems much more likely to occur in Paris than at Camp Nou.

Messi begrudgingly decided to stay and see out the remaining year of his Barca contract but has started to hit better form again – he has scored six times in his past eight league games to surpass Pele's record of 643 goals for one club.

Koeman believes Messi is happy at Barca, but as it stands the 33-year-old is set to become the most highly sought-after free agent in history at the end of 2020-21.

While it was Manchester City and Pep Guardiola who were credited as frontrunners in the close season, PSG's owners certainly have the ambition – and funds – to make a transfer come to fruition, and it may well be down to the coach to swing Messi towards Paris, rather than the Premier League or a Barca extension.

Pochettino has previously spoken of his desire to work alongside his compatriot, and it may well be a perfect match.

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