Former Ligue 1 Midfielder Valbuena Defends Pochettino’s Decision to Play Neymar in Coupe de France Fixture Against Caen

French midfielder Mathieu Valbuena has come out in defense of Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to play Neymar in the recent mid-week Coupe de France fixture.

Neymar came away from Paris Saint-Germain’s Coupe de France round of 64 fixture against Caen with an adductor injury. The Brazilian is now set to be out for around four weeks due to this injury.

Many have since questioned Pochettino’s decision to play and even start Neymar in the match. The likes of Kylian Mbappe and Marquinhos did play in the match but were late second half substitutions.

Still, Valbuena is defending Pochettino’s call to play Neymar against Caen, which he detailed why in speaking to RMC Sport.

“In Pochettino’s head, it was necessary to make him play twenty minutes against Marseille, after the gastroenteritis, and give him time to play against Caen,” Valbuena said. “The fact of playing Nice is also dangerous if we start from this principle.

“I think Neymar was good. In the coach’s mind, he was going to take him out in the last quarter of an hour. He was fit. I don’t see why anyone would accuse Pochettino of making a serious mistake by putting him in.

“If he can play against Caen, he’s playing, to have rhythm. He would have played against Nice again, and he would have been ready to play against Barcelona.”

Many have begun to question Neymar’s playstyle, especially as the Brazilian is one who simply likes going up and facing off in dribble duels against opposing defenders. Valbuena believes that it may be time for him to change up his way of playing.

“For me, Neymar’s injury is much more due to his lack of intelligence at the time,” Valbuena said. “When he arrives in a match against that of Caen, which is not the match of the year, he must be careful, be smarter and better prepare; he must play much simpler in a lot of situations.

“At 29, you don’t dribble like you’re 22.”

For now, Neymar will be rehabbing his injury with an aim to make a full recovery.

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Tags Caen Coupe de France Mauricio Pochettino Neymar
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