Tribune News Network
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) players were greeted by over 30,000 fans at the Khalifa International Stadium as the French champions trained on Wednesday during their promotional tour to Qatar.
Led by superstars Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappa and Neymar, the PSG players trained in front of the fans for close to two hours.
Messi and his PSGteammates will travel to Riyadh on Thursday to play a friendly against a select team comprised of players from Cristiano Ronaldo’s new club Al Nassr and their Saudi rivals Al Hilal at the King Fahd Stadium.
Unsurprisingly, the loudest applause was reserved for Messi, who returned to Qatar exactly a month after leading Argentina to World Cup glory at the Lusail Stadium. The PSG players had previously visited Lusail Marina and Mina District in Qatar, where they were treated to exquisite local cuisine.
Captain Marquinhos said the Qatar tour gave players an opportunity to unwind ahead of a hectic schedule and to meet fans. “We can keep the positive things from this tour. If we always look at the bad things, we don’t move forward. We always train alone at the Camp des Loges in Paris, here we have the public who can give us a little energy. We have an important second part of the season, I hope this Qatar tour will boost us,” the Brazilian defender said.
Coach Christophe Galtier was confident that PSG’s friendly in Saudi Arabia will be of a competitive level and was excited at the prospect of the rivalry between long-term rivals Messi and Ronaldo. “It may not look like a friendly match, it won’t be a training match. There are so many personalities and competitors on the pitch that we will have a good level match. The presence of Messi and Ronaldo gives real sporting interest. It’s a proper confrontation, not a charity game,” he insisted.
“The match will be good for international football, for football in this region. It’s a great promotion of our sport. I think there will be an audience,” he added.
Galtier and PSG have been under pressure after the Parisians slumped to their second defeat of the season in a 1-0 loss to Stade Rennais on Sunday as their Ligue 1 lead was slashed to three points.
Halfway through the Ligue 1 campaign, PSG are three points clear of Lens and five ahead of Marseille, who they still have to play away from home.
PSG lost despite fielding Messi, Mbappe and Neymar together for the first time since the World Cup. They are yet to rediscover the form they enjoyed before the season paused for the World Cup. Now a crunch Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich is on the horizon – the first leg in Paris is on February 14.
“We must use this exhibition match in Riyadh and Monday’s French Cup match against (sixth-division minnows) Pays de Cassel to both find rhythm on an individual level and more coherence on a collective level. As a team we have to perform like we did in the first half of the season. We have struggled after the resumption of the league,” said Galtier.