PARIS: Paris St Germain forward Neymar's latest injury can be blamed on a hectic match schedule and the COVID-19 crisis, coach Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday.
Neymar has been ruled out for four weeks with a groin injury, meaning he will miss the first leg of PSG’s Champions League last-16 tie at his former club Barcelona on Tuesday.
"When you look at the way injuries have increased it is because of the huge workload and the number of competitive games," Pochettino told a news conference on the eve of PSG’s Ligue 1 game at home to Nice.
"We have played nine competitive games in about 40 days and of course the circumstances are special due to COVID-19."
Pochettino added that it had "not been contemplated" that Neymar, 29, would return to Brazil to nurse his injury.
Neymar was injured in a 1-0 win at Caen in the French Cup on Wednesday after a rough challenge by Steeve Yabo but the Ligue 2 side's coach Pascal Dupraz said his player did not cause the injury, adding that the Brazilian’s provocative attitude was also to blame.
"He complains of taking kicks while he controls the ball on his feet because he is an artist," Dupraz said.
"He is clever, he adds more, he provokes.... what bothers me is that he is in the provocation and the invective."
For the Nice game, PSG are also without Angel Di Maria, who will also miss the Barca clash at Camp Nou clash on Tuesday, but welcome back keeper Keylor Navas.
They are third in the standings, three points behind leaders Lille who host Brest on Sunday.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)