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Mbappe ‘fine’ to face Real Madrid, insists Pochettino


Madrid (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino has said Kylian Mbappe is “fine” and expects him to play against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, despite the striker’s injury scare in training.

Mbappe picked up a knock in training on Monday, prompting fears he could miss the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Madrid will have to overturn a 1-0 deficit to reach the quarter-finals.

But PSG held an open training session at the stadium on Tuesday evening and Mbappe appeared to be involved as normal. 

“He’s fine,” said Pochettino in a press conference before the session. “At first he was a bit sore but a couple of hours later he could walk normally.”

Asked in a television interview whether Mbappe would play against Madrid, Pochettino said: “Yes, in theory we still have 24 hours left, but everything indicates yes.”

All eyes are on Mbappe this week, given the 23-year-old’s PSG contract expires in the summer, when he is widely expected to join Real Madrid instead of signing an extension. 

“Kylian is a very mature player and the only thing he wants is to play football, to do it in the best way and to defend the colours of his shirt”, said Pochettino. 

“Kylian’s performance will have nothing to do with what happens externally,” added the Argentinian.

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric admitted earlier on Tuesday he would love to play with Mbappe, whose stunning late goal gave PSG the advantage after the opening leg in Paris.

“We all want to play with great players and obviously Kylian is one of those,” said Modric.

“Of course I would like to play with him in my team but let’s see what happens. He plays for Paris. For us it’s very difficult to talk about players who aren’t here — other teams get angry, can interpret it badly — but of course I don’t think there is a player that exists that doesn’t want to play with him on their team.”

Ancelotti predicted Mbappe would receive a warm reception from the Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu. “The history of the Bernabeu says that good players have always received applause,” he said.

“We’re going to prepare for the match as if Mbappe was going to play,” added Ancelotti.

Real Madrid have concerns of their own, with Casemiro suspended and Toni Kroos struggling to recover from a hamstring injury.

“If I think he is at 100 per cent he will play,” Ancelotti said of Kroos.

“If he is at 95 per cent, he won’t.”

Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde could step into Madrid’s midfield, alongside Modric, but neither provide the defensive protection of Casemiro.

“Casemiro’s absence is a shame because we know what he means to us,” said Modric.

“We have to give more to cover that aspect of the game that Casemiro gives us, especially in the defensive part, but I am sure that whoever plays will do well.”

Madrid were largely outplayed in the first leg and while it took a 94th-minute wonder-strike from Mbappe to give PSG victory, Ancelotti was criticised afterwards for an overly-cautious approach.

“We were not able to play how we wanted and what we suffered from the most was the pressure from PSG,” Ancelotti said.

“Defensively the low block went well, because we only conceded one goal, but with the ball we have to do better.”

“We are convinced that the best Real Madrid can compete with the best PSG. We saw the best PSG in the first leg and hopefully tomorrow we will see the best Real Madrid,” he added.

Among those returning to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday will be Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, Madrid’s former captain who left under a cloud after failing to agree an extension to his contract.

Ramos is injured but will travel with the squad to the game.

“I speak to Sergio almost every day, it will be amazing to see him again. How should the Bernabeu welcome him? With all their love,” said Modric. 

“Sergio is a legend of this club, one of the best defenders in history and, not to offend anyone, but the best defender to have played for Real Madrid. There’s no other way to welcome back a player like Sergio.”

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