Pochettino misses 'beautiful football' before COVID as 2021 Classique cannot compare

By Ben Spratt 8 February 2021 18
Pochettino misses 'beautiful football' before COVID as 2021 Classique cannot compare

Mauricio Pochettino could not pretend Sunday's Classique victory bore any resemblance to the matches he played in with Paris Saint-Germain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Head coach Pochettino took PSG to Marseille for the first time since his return to the club.

It was a triumphant outing for the former Tottenham manager, who oversaw a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi.

Mbappe said afterwards the fixture had "regained importance" this season, with Marseille having won at PSG early in the season in a game that saw five red cards.

There was only a single dismissal this time – Dimitri Payet sent off late on – but Icardi described the success as "revenge".

For Pochettino, though, who was not involved in the reverse fixture, a big derby merely made him pine for the return of crowds, still missing in Ligue 1 due to COVID-19.

Asked if the mammoth clash was as he remembered as a player, Pochettino replied: "No. I can't find much of the past.

"How beautiful football was before the COVID. It's missing.

"When we look elsewhere, in other championships, we see upsets in the table, surprise results. Some players will suffer, too.

"A club like Paris needs the supporters to sublimate itself and we miss having supporters in the stadium."

Pochettino's pre-match concerns were focused on Neymar's illness, which kept him from training ahead of the match and limited him to a bench role.

Afterwards, Angel Di Maria was the worry, having suffered an injury in assisting Mbappe's opener.

First, Pochettino defended Neymar's involvement despite his ill health, explaining: "I will respond with great respect. If the club communicated that he was sick, it was in total transparency.

"He had been vomiting. He was really sick. He only played 30 minutes because we thought it was better that way. There was really a desire for transparency on the part of the club."

Then, on Di Maria, the coach was hopeful of positive news.

"The medical department will be giving Angel some tests," he said. "For now, the staff are confident enough to say that it is not too serious but we must wait for the exams to know the exact severity of the injury."

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