The Brazil international has been out of action for several months, but he could make a timely return for ambitious French employers

The countdown is well and truly on to Paris Saint-Germain’s heavyweight Champions League last-16 encounter with Real Madrid, but questions continue to be asked of whether Neymar will be fit enough to figure in that two-legged tie.

Everyone at Parc des Princes will be hoping to see a mercurial Brazilian forward make a timely return to action before a meeting with La Liga leaders is taken in.

A clock is ticking, though, and it has been confirmed that a talismanic presence will see no competitive minutes before the toughest of European challenges is faced against the Blancos.

Neymar has been out of action since being forced from the field late on in PSG’s Ligue 1 clash with Saint-Etienne on November 28, 2021.

He picked up a serious ankle injury in that contest and has not been seen in Mauricio Pochettino’s plans since, with 12 games sat out across all competitions.

While the 30-year-old is not yet ready to make a return to a competitive stage, he is being eased back into the PSG fold.

He is training once more, but no risks will be taken on his fitness as Pochettino seeks to ensure that an expensive asset does not break down again.

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The Argentine coach has told reporters when asked for an update on Neymar heading towards a home date with Rennes on Friday – PSG’s last outing before tackling Real: “The evolution of Neymars injury is good but he wont be able to play against Rennes and wont be in the group.

“We have a few days ahead of us before the Madrid game and well see how it develops.”

Ever since a record-setting €222 million (£200m/$262m) transfer to PSG from Barcelona was completed in the summer of 2107, Neymar has found it difficult to steer clear of the treatment table.

Various ailments have been picked up while in the French capital, including two broken metatarsals and a number of thigh problems.

He has sat out close to 100 games in total, including Champions League last-16 encounters with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona across previous seasons – with the one campaign in which he was able to stay fit (2019-20) seeing PSG reach the final before losing to Bayern Munich.

After being ruled out of a domestic meeting with Rennes, Neymar can focus on building up his sharpness on the training field.

PSG will not play host to Real in the first leg of their eagerly-anticipated showdown until Tuesday, meaning that a talented South American could figure in Pochettino’s squad.

A return date at Santiago Bernabeu – a venue Neymar knows well from his time at Barcelona – is due to take place on March 9.

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