Whether it’s a particularly cynical tackle, a disparaging barb or a well-timed whisper in the ear of a penalty taker, the general idea behind the usage of mind games in sports is to unsettle one’s opponents into making mental mistakes.
In trying to provoke these sorts of suboptimal performances, however, one would generally be advised to avoid the sorts of tactics that could backfire and instead provide the intended target with the motivational material to get them fired up.
It would appear that Paris St-Germain star, Neymar skipped that class in Dark Arts 101 (presumably while preparing for his Theater presentation, the seminal Study In Simulation) when he recently snubbed Liverpool in his predictions for the ongoing Premier League season.
Asked about his thoughts on the English top flight while at the promotional PokerStars European Poker Tour event in Barcelona, the Brazilian superstar named all of the Red’s top rivals for the title except for them:
“[A prediction] is very hard, it’s very difficult, but Manchester City will win it. Second will be [Manchester] United, third is Chelsea. Fourth is Tottenham.”
Sitting next to him in the moment, ex-Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique reacted with shock, understandable given that anyone with even a passing interest in the Premier League has named Liverpool as the only side likely to even challenge City domestically.
Jürgen Klopp’s men won’t need the extra motivation when Anfield welcomes Neymar and Les Parisiens on September 18th for the opening match of the Champions League Group C fixture list, however adopting the familiar underdog role that played a large part of last season’s run to the finals certainly won’t hurt.
You brought this on yourself, Neymar.