Javier Pastore to miss Paris Saint-Germain's Coupe de France semifinal
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has emphasised the importance of playmaker Javier Pastore despite the Argentina international's latest injury setback.
El Flaco has suffered numerous fitness issues throughout this season but when he has been fit and played, he has more often than not been decisive in results.
Pastore, 27, came off with a minor injury nine minutes from the end of PSG's 2-0 win over Montpellier at Parc des Princes last Saturday and he will now miss Wednesday's Coupe de France semifinal against Monaco and Sunday's Ligue 1 clash away at Nice.
"Our opinion towards Javier has not changed," Emery told a news conference on Tuesday. "When he is fit, he is a crucial player and he has demonstrated that this season.
"When he is on the pitch, the quality of the team is greater. He has performed well. When he gets injured, that is part of football -- particularly at the highest level. It is very intense and there are a lot of matches. We hope that he will return to the squad as quickly as possible."
The Coupe de France has been almost exclusively Alphonse Areola's domain this campaign. Emery suggested that the French goalkeeper will get another chance to impress against Les Monegasques.
"Alphonse playing is a possibility," Emery said. "I believe in him. He has had his ups and downs this season but he has always been fine and his competition with Kevin is good for the team. To earn his opportunity to play, he must prove that he can help the team."
Midfielder Christopher Nkunku could also get a rare start after regularly impressing when given the chance but usually finding himself on the fringes for the most important fixtures -- particularly in Ligue 1.
"Christopher has proven that he is worthy of a squad role and playing in some games," Emery said of the youth academy graduate. "It has been a good experience for him this season, showing what he can do and developing as a player.
"We will select the best players and those who are best prepared for this match. I am pleased with Christopher and the progress he has made, as is the case with Alphonse, Presnel [Kimpembe] and Adrien [Rabiot].
"Because of them, I believe that PSG's youth academy is very important in terms of providing competition within the squad."
In terms of squad news, Emery confirmed that Pastore and left back Layvin Kurzawa will definitely miss out against Monaco and that Thomas Meunier's ankle injury makes it likely that Serge Aurier will continue to start at right back.
"We already know that Javier will stay with the fitness staff and that Layvin is returning back to match fitness little by little," Emery said. "He [Kurzawa] is doing well and he will train with us soon. Even if he trains later, he will not play against Monaco though."
"Thomas is nursing a little ankle knock right now and because of that, we need Serge more than ever."
If PSG can beat Monaco on Wednesday, they will be on the brink of winning their 11th Coupe de France title in the 100th edition of the competition.
The defending champions are currently tied with rivals Marseille for most titles with 10 apiece.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.