Pochettino hopeful Messi can feature for PSG against Man City

By Sports Desk September 24, 2021

Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful over Lionel Messi's fitness ahead of next week's huge Champions League meeting against Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side beat PSG over two legs to progress to last season's Champions League final, before going down 1-0 to Chelsea in the showpiece match.

The two sides will meet again in the group stage on Tuesday - PSG having drawn their first match, at Club Brugge, while City defeated RB Leipzig 6-3.

It is a headline fixture of the group stages, with PSG's star-studded front line going up against the Premier League champions.

However, there is a fitness doubt over Messi, who was absent for PSG's dramatic 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Metz in midweek because of a knee injury.

Messi will also miss Saturday's Ligue 1 encounter with Montpellier, but Pochettino said it is too early to rule the 34-year-old out for the match against City.

"Leo has started to run today and as you have seen in the medical update we are going to assess him and we hope he improves," Pochettino told a news conference on Friday.

"On Sunday, we hope we will be able to give a positive update. We hope everything goes well and he will be available again.

"Yes, we hope he can play. We have to be cautious and we have to see how he evolves in the next few days."

Messi has played just three games since his stunning departure from Barca and has yet to find the net for PSG.

He hit the crossbar against Brugge and then also hit the woodwork with a long-range free-kick against Lyon on Sunday before he was substituted off.

Mauro Icardi scored a late winner against Lyon, and Pochettino has been delighted with the striker's form this season despite the former Inter man missing a chunk of games through injury.

"Mauro Icardi, he is player who contributed a lot until his injury," said Pochettino.

"He recovered and has made a big impact. He scored against Lyon and of course, he offers us an alternative in our attacking play."

Related items

  • Lewandowski and Benzema both deserve Ballon d'Or – Upamecano weighs into debate Lewandowski and Benzema both deserve Ballon d'Or – Upamecano weighs into debate

    Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano said Robert Lewandowski and Real Madrid star Karim Benzema are both worthy of this year's Ballon d'Or.

    Lewandowski and Benzema are among the nominees for football's most prestigious individual award – the 30-man shortlist will be whittled down to just three players.

    Upamecano is team-mates with Lewandowski at Bundesliga champions Bayern, while he also plays alongside Benzema for World Cup and Nations League holders France.

    Asked about Lewandowski and Benzema ahead of Bayern's Champions League fixture with Benfica on Wednesday, Upamecano replied: "Very good question!

    "Lewandowski or Benzema, both of them deserve it [Ballon d'Or]. They are the two best strikers in the world. They prove it year after year.

    "If Lewandowski wins, I would be very happy for him because he is my team-mate at Bayern. If Benzema wins, I also would be very happy for him."

    Prior to Madrid's 5-0 rout of Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, Benzema had been involved in more shot-ending sequences of play (76) than any other player in the Champions League.

    In this same period, Lionel Messi (12) was the only player who had recorded more multi-shot involvements than Benzema (10), which captures all instances of sequences where a player is both involved in the build-up and takes the shot.

    Meanwhile, Lewandowski has scored five goals in six Champions League appearances against Portuguese opponents, including three against Benfica – no player has ever scored more times against sides from Portugal in the competition.

    Bayern are on a record unbeaten run of 19 matches away from home in Champions League (W15 D4), netting 54 goals during this streak since losing 3-0 at Paris Saint-Germain in September 2017. Over a third of their goals in this unbeaten run have been scored by their Lewandowski (19 – 35 per cent).

    German giants Bayern's eight unbeaten matches against Benfica in the European Cup/Champions League (W5 D3) is the joint-most by a team against an opponent since the tournament began in 1955 – Bayern versus Spartak Moscow (W5 D3) and Barcelona versus Lyon (W5 D3) have also faced eight times without ever losing.

    Since the start of last season, Bayern have averaged more goals (3.2) and have a higher expected goals tally (2.6) per game than any other team in the Champions League. Among teams involved in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 tournaments, they also have the highest shot conversion rate in this period (18.3 per cent).

  • Liverpool's Alisson lauds hungry Salah after record-breaking display Liverpool's Alisson lauds hungry Salah after record-breaking display

    Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson hailed Mohamed Salah following his record-breaking performance in the 3-2 Champions League victory at Atletico Madrid.

    Salah made history by becoming the first Liverpool player to score in nine successive matches to earn the Reds a dramatic win away to 10-man Atletico in Madrid on Tuesday.

    LaLiga champions Atletico had two-goal Antoine Griezmann sent off and a late penalty contentiously overturned in the Group B battle.

    After opening the scoring in the eighth minute before Naby Keita made it 2-0 five minutes later, Salah converted a penalty with 12 minutes remaining to give Liverpool a five-point lead in the group.

    With 31 goals, Salah – who has a 90 per cent penalty-conversion rate for the club across all competitions – is now Liverpool's all-time leading scorer in the Champions League as Alisson praised the in-form Egyptian star.

    "I'm really happy for him, he's a fantastic player," Alisson said during his post-match news conference.

    "He's showing on the pitch all the time, making really nice goals, not just easy goals. But he contributes a lot for the team as well – not only scoring but helping in the defensive phase, playing for the team.

    "He is a hungry player, he's a hungry striker. I'm really happy for him. I hope that he continues that."

    Liverpool beat Atletico for the first time in the Champions League (D2 L2), while the victory ended a five-game winless run in away games against Spanish sides in the competition (D1 L4).

    Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool led 2-0 after just 13 minutes – the earliest Atletico have ever been two goals down in a Champions League match before.

    However, it was also the first time Liverpool have ever scored and conceded two or more goals in the opening half of a Champions League fixture.

    "I believe the boss is a maestro in talking in the right moments, the right things," Alisson said of manager Klopp. "I think he brought us in the game again in the changing room and also our attitude changed a little bit in the second half.

    "It is not easy when you are 2-0 up and then you concede a goal and you know that it will be hard. We came here, we knew that it wouldn't be easy to play against Atletico and the game shows it for everyone, for us and for everybody who watched the game.

    "So, I'm happy that we could score the third goal and don't concede anymore and control more the situations, but there is a gap to improve as well when we have one player more than them on the pitch. You must create more chances but, as I said, it is not easy when they park the bus in front of the goal. We are happy for the three points."

  • Pochettino hails Messi and Mbappe: 'Under construction' PSG can count on them Pochettino hails Messi and Mbappe: 'Under construction' PSG can count on them

    Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said his "under construction" team can count on Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe's individual talent after the pair starred in Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League win over RB Leipzig.

    Leipzig had six more shots (18-12) as they came from behind to grab a 2-1 lead early in the second half after Mbappe opened the scoring for PSG following a swift counter-attack in the ninth minute of the Group A fixture.

    PSG regained control, with Mbappe setting up Messi for a 67th-minute equaliser, before the Argentine superstar coolly dinked home from the spot after the French forward was brought down.

    The Parisians had more possession (64.5 per cent) but Pochettino acknowledged too much was in their own half, forcing them to play on the break, rather than force the game.

    "It takes time, we are a team under construction," Pochettino said during the news conference. "We had the possession, but we prefer to have it more high on the pitch. But I have also seen good things offensively, which are improving, and which will work better over time.

    "Messi and Mbappe? It is difficult to find collective solutions, this is where we can count on players like them. Talents are easily found, there is no time for these automatisms to come back more easily."

    Messi became the fourth player to score in their first two home Champions League matches for PSG after Neymar (2017), Alex (2012) and George Weah (1994), while he has now scored 19 goals in 18 games against German opposition in the competition.

    Mbappe, who does not turn 23 until December, has already scored 28 Champions League goals – it is the most by any player in the competition before their 23rd birthday, ahead of Messi (25).

    Pochettino added that while utilising six-time Ballon d'Or Messi and Mbappe's qualities on the break was effective, he still was aiming to dominate games more in the opposition's half yet needed more time.

    "Kylian's qualities are perfect for playing in transition," he told RMC Sport. "When you have Leo, with his passing quality, [Achraf] Hakimi and [Nuno] Mendes on the sides capable of attacking spaces … You can play that way. But we can also progress in the positional game, but that takes time."

    PSG, who were also missing Neymar to injury, had 72 per cent possession in the first half, however. Pochettino said his side turned over the ball too much.

    Leipzig may have capitalised more with Andre Silva, who equalised in the 28th minute, also hitting the woodwork, while Christopher Nkunku went close on a few occasions before Nordi Mukiele put the German visitors ahead in Paris.

    "We have to correct things, we lost too many balls in the first half under the pressure from Leipzig, our midfielders were down," Pochettino said.

    "We had trouble connecting with our attackers. In difficult times, we conceded two goals in the counterattack where we had the numerical superiority, we have to improve.

    "But we have the satisfaction of having shown character to get back from 2-1."

    PSG have been defeated only four times in 44 home matches in the group stages of the Champions League (W34 D6), winning all six of their games against German sides (Bayern Munich on four occasions and Leipzig twice).

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.