Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double in Arsenal's first-half dismantling of Leeds United on Sunday took the Gunners forward onto 200 goals in Europe's "top five" leagues, before the star striker then rounded off a first Premier League hat-trick.

Aubameyang, making his first league start since January 18 following a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, marked his return to Arsenal's line-up in style at Emirates Stadium.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low shot which had the power to beat Illan Meslier, whose clumsy challenge on Bukayo Saka then gifted Aubameyang the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Having sent Meslier the wrong way, Aubameyang brought up his 200th goal in Europe's 'top five' leagues, in what was his 369th appearance – he is the ninth player to reach the landmark in those divisions.

It was his 61st Arsenal goal, which is 37 shy of the total he managed during his time with Borussia Dortmund (98).

Aubameyang's first goal in Ligue 1 came for Lille in December 2009, before he then went on to have spells at Monaco, Saint-Etienne in France prior to leaving for Dortmund in 2013 and eventually joining the Gunners three years ago.

It was also the first time Aubameyang has scored in consecutive starts in the Premier League within a single season since last February, when he did so against Newcastle United and Everton, and the first time he has scored at least twice in successive starts in the English top flight.

Hector Bellerin's well-crafted goal made it 3-0 to Arsenal on the stroke of half-time – the Gunners scoring three first-half goals in a Premier League game for only the second time under Mikel Arteta, having previously done so in July 2020 against Watford.

Aubameyang headed in from Emile Smith Rowe's cross-shot just after the break to complete his maiden Premier League hat-trick.

AUBAMEYANG'S 'TOP FIVE' LEAGUE GOALS – A BREAKDOWN

Lille (2009-10) – 14 appearances, two goals.

Monaco (2010-11) – 19 appearances, two goals.

Saint-Etienne (2010-13) – 87 appearances, 37 goals.

Borussia Dortmund (2013-18) – 144 appearances, 98 goals.

Arsenal (2018-21) – 105 appearances, 62 goals.

Lionel Messi would be perfectly suited to Manchester City amid ongoing doubts over his future at Barcelona, according to Pablo Zabaleta.

Barca superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants City.

A move to City for Messi would mean a reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola – the pair teaming up to win two Champions League titles and three LaLiga crowns among other honours between 2008 and 2012.

Ex-City and Argentina full-back Zabaleta backed countryman Messi to swap Barcelona for Manchester.

"If Lionel Messi ­decides to leave Barcelona and he wants to play in the best league then he has to experience the Premier League for himself," Zabaleta told The Mirror.

"It is something that will ­interest him – because every player I know always asks me what the Premier League is like.

"Leo has been in La Liga for so many years and I think it would be a huge ­attraction for him to experience English football. And Manchester City offer the ­perfect conditions.

"He knows Pep very well, he knows [sporting director] Txiki Begiristain and [chief executive] Ferran Soriano – and also Kun Aguero.

"It would be a big ­decision if Leo leaves ­Barcelona. But if that's what he wants then it would be a good thing for him to go to a club that has people already there who can help him to settle

"When you have been at one club for so long, moving ­somewhere new can be very strange.

"I am sure clubs like ­Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus would also be ­interested in signing him, but it is my opinion that City would be the best place to go after Barcelona."

Mauricio Pochettino said Paris Saint-Germain will be ready to face Barcelona in their blockbuster Champions League tie.

PSG will travel to Lionel Messi's Barca for Tuesday's last-16 first leg at Camp Nou after edging Nice 2-1 in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Goals from Julian Draxler and Moise Kean guided PSG past Nice in the French capital, where the Ligue 1 champions extended their winning streak to four matches across all competitions.

Post-match, head coach Pochettino highlighted the importance of the upcoming showdown against Barcelona but believes PSG will be ready for it.

"We have to be ready [for Barcelona]," Pochettino told reporters. Because we have a very important match on Tuesday. And the team will be ready for this match.

"First of all it will be recovery, both physical and mental [before Barcelona]. It's important to recharge the batteries.

"On a tactical level, we won't be able to work a lot on the field, but we will be able to use video.

"It's something we've been preparing for several weeks, so that the players can understand the game plan for this match."

PSG have won six of their eight Ligue 1 games under Pochettino (D1 L1), after winning just three of their previous seven at the end of 2020 (D2 L2).

Meanwhile, PSG have won each of their last six home games in Ligue 1 –the longest current run in the French top flight and their longest run since August 2018-March 2019 (15).

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino described his side's 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Nice on Saturday as "solid" and "professional". 

Julian Draxler and Moise Kean scored either side of Rony Lopes' fine strike at the Parc des Princes as PSG – who were without the injured Neymar – claimed an eighth win in their last nine games across all competitions.

The result lifted the defending champions to the summit of Ligue 1, although Lyon and Lille could move back above them if they overcome Montpellier and Brest respectively. 

PSG did not have it all their own way against Nice, who had 13 shots on goal, but Pochettino was pleased with his side's ability to carve out maximum points. 

"It was a professional display; solid but not brilliant perhaps," he told a media conference. 

"But given the circumstances, it's a decent match. It is not always easy to find the expected combinations. 

"We must be ready for the competition because it is not waiting for us and we must win all the matches that come up."

Kean followed up his winner in the midweek Coupe de France victory over Caen with another decisive goal – his 10th in Ligue 1 this season – and Pochettino was impressed with the youngster's contribution. 

"I think he had a good game and he scored," the former Tottenham boss said. "I'm happy with his performance; he can play anywhere in the attacking frontline. We are satisfied with everything he does."

PSG switched to a 4-3-3 formation in the closing stages and Pochettino said tactical flexibility is something he wants to instill in his players. 

However, he acknowledged there will be little time for that during the quick turnaround ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona. 

"We want the team to be able to communicate, to be confident in different patterns, to find new offensive animations," he added.

"After that, it's not always easy to work a lot in just 40 days [since he was appointed]. By Tuesday, there will not be much time to work tactically; we will instead focus on physical and mental recovery. 

"We have to play in different animations, with different options. It was one of my goals in Southampton and Tottenham and that's also what we are trying to do in Paris: make players feel confident in different systems with offensive and defensive animations."

Paris Saint-Germain moved to the Ligue 1 summit as Moise Kean's late goal sealed a 2-1 win over Nice at the Parc des Princes on Saturday. 

Mauricio Pochettino was without the services of Neymar, who is out for a month after suffering an adductor injury in the Coupe de France win over Caen in midweek, but the champions had just enough to seal a sixth consecutive top-flight home win. 

Rony Lopes cancelled out Draxler's 22nd-minute opener early in the second half, but Kean – who scored the winner against Caen – secured maximum points 14 minutes from time. 

The result meant PSG – who visit Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday – leapfrogged Lille at the top of Ligue 1 courtesy of a superior goal difference, although Christophe Galtier's side can reclaim top spot with a point against Brest on Sunday.

The hosts deservedly went ahead midway through the first half when Draxler prodded home his third goal of the season from eight yards after Mauro Icardi's close-range effort had cannoned back off the post. 

Kylian Mbappe should have doubled PSG's advantage shortly before the interval, the France international failing to make contact with Icardi's cross from six yards, while Amine Gouiri thundered over a presentable opportunity at the other end.

Nice pulled level five minutes after the break when Marquinhos' attempted clearance went as far as Lopes, who drove into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful drive that gave Keylor Navas no chance. 

Mbappe fizzed a strike just wide soon after following a swift counter-attacking move, while Gouiri crashed against the crossbar from close range as Nice threatened to pull ahead. 

Kean stretched PSG's unbeaten run at home to Nice to 10 games in the 76th minute, though, heading in from four yards after Icardi had steered Mbappe's cross into his path.

 

Neymar's injury is "a real hard blow" to Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the Champions League resuming, Lyon coach Rudi Garcia said.

The Brazil forward was ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering an adductor injury in PSG's Coupe de France clash with Caen on Wednesday.

Neymar will miss Tuesday's trip to Camp Nou to face his former club Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, while he is also in doubt for the return clash.

Garcia, whose team are second in the Ligue 1 table ahead of PSG by a point, said the injury was a major setback for Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"It would be good if the two French teams could represent us with dignity and go as far as possible in the European Cup. It's a real hard blow," Garcia told a news conference on Friday.

"I've always said, the greatest players we want to see on the pitch rather than in the infirmary. It is a great pity that Neymar was injured.

"Nevertheless, PSG are not lacking substitutes."

PSG were runners-up in the Champions League last season, while Lyon reached the semi-finals.

In what is a tight top part of the Ligue 1 table, Lille (54) are two points clear of Lyon (52) and ahead of PSG (51) and Monaco (48).

Only PSG star Kylian Mbappe (22) has been directly involved in more goals than Lyon captain Memphis Depay (19) in Ligue 1 this season.

Garcia, whose team host Montpellier on Saturday, praised Depay and while he said Lyon were in a strong position, his target remains a top-three finish.

"He sets an example as a captain whether on the pitch or in the changing rooms. Memphis Depay and Lyon have the same goal – that the club be in the top three and qualify for the Champions League," he said.

"If the situation allows us to finish in a better position than third or second place, we will talk about it again. But for the moment it's like that, I'm not going to repeat myself."

Paris Saint-Germain will focus on helping Neymar recover emotionally from his latest injury setback, said Mauricio Pochettino, who is confident they have the squad to win without him.

Neymar was ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering an adductor injury in PSG's Coupe de France clash with Caen on Wednesday.

He will miss Tuesday's trip to Camp Nou to face his former club Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

The timeline also puts him in doubt for the return leg at the Parc des Princes on March 10.

Neymar spoke of his immense sadness in an Instagram following news of his injury.

And asked about the Brazil forward ahead of their Ligue 1 clash with Nice, PSG boss Pochettino said: "We have been speaking since the injury happened and, with the tests that he had yesterday, he has made his sadness and pain public.

"We are all going to help him get back as quickly as possible. And also help him recover in terms of his emotional state because it has been a tough blow for him.

"He is a tough guy and he is very mature. We have got to know him here to see what a great person he is, not just an athlete, but an extraordinary person who builds good relationships and is very likeable."

Pochettino brushed off talk of him taking an unnecessary risk by playing Neymar against Caen with Barca on the horizon.

"We are here to manage a squad of players and we make decisions that we think are for the best," explained Pochettino. 

"We make decisions together and try to apply that all the time. A player got injured and that can happen. That can happen in the Coupe de France, in training, in the league, in the Champions League.

"It is a shame that he got injured, but these things happen in football.

"We cannot look back. We have key players injured and we have to look for solutions, while also knowing that we have a squad that can still handle that and play well in these fixtures.

"Whether it is Ligue 1 or the Champions League, I have total confidence in the squad, and they are PSG players for a reason. So we are going to try to go into every game to win without any excuses."

The race for Premier League glory may have tipped in Manchester City's favour but Liverpool are hoping to beat their title rivals in the race for a new star midfielder.

Germany international Florian Neuhaus is the player in demand and his club Borussia Monchengladbach may not be able to hold on to one of Europe's brightest talents.

The 23-year-old is being closely monitored by five major Champions League clubs and there is set to be a battle for his signature in the off-season.


TOP STORY – GERMANY ACE NEUHAUS WANTED BY CITY AND LIVERPOOL

It is understood that Neuhaus has a €40million (£35m) release clause in his contract with Gladbach, according to German media outlet Kicker.

That means Neuhaus will have the pick of his suitors, believed to be City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Italian champions Juventus.

He has already clocked up 81 appearances in the Bundesliga and the Reds see him as a potential replacement for the outgoing Georginio Wijnaldum.

Neymar angrily rejected suggestions he is a "cry baby" as the Paris Saint-Germain star revealed the great sadness that had reduced him to tears following his latest injury setback.

In an emotive Instagram post, the Brazilian was evidently reeling from an adductor injury sustained in PSG's 1-0 Coupe de France win over Caen on Wednesday which has ruled him out for up to four weeks.

That means he will miss the visit to former club Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League next week, with the return leg on March 10 potentially also coming too soon.

It is far from the first time the 29-year-old has found himself sidelined, but he blasted the notion he was a soft touch on the pitch as he lashed out at his detractors.

"The sadness is great, the pain is immense and the crying is constant," he wrote.

"Once again I will stop for a while doing what I love the most in life, which is playing football.

"Sometimes I feel bothered by my style of play, dribbling and always end up being caught [by challenges].

"I don't know if it's me or what I do on the field. It really makes me sad.

"It makes me so sad to hear from a player, coach, or commentator... 'fall down', 'cry baby', 'spoiled' etc.

"I just want to be happy playing football. Nothing else."

Neymar has often suffered untimely injuries at a similar time in previous seasons during his stint at PSG.

In 2018, he sustained a broken toe in February, meaning he missed almost three months of action, with PSG losing 5-2 on aggregate to eventual Champions League winners Real Madrid in the last 16 in his absence.

An ankle injury then kept him out from January to April in 2019, with PSG going out at the hands of Manchester United, though he was fit to help the Parisians overcome Borussia Dortmund in last season's tournament, prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

PSG went on to lose in the final to Bayern Munich, though Neymar has lifted the trophy before, having scored in a 3-1 win over Juventus in the 2015 showpiece.

Neymar will miss Paris Saint-Germain's trip to former club Barcelona in the Champions League after being ruled out for up to four weeks.

The Ligue 1 club, who head to Camp Nou next Tuesday, confirmed the Brazilian had suffered an adductor injury in the Coupe de France win over Caen on Wednesday.

The estimated recovery time would also put Neymar in doubt for the return leg of the last-16 clash with Barca, which takes place on March 10.

Neymar suffered the injury around the hour mark of the 1-0 win, with the 29-year-old clutching at his groin.

Though team-mate and midweek match-winner Moise Kean told Eurosport afterwards that "all is well", head coach Mauricio Pochettino was less optimistic.

"His left adductor muscle is affected and they will examine him to see what type of injury he has," he said.

"The reality is that we do not know the extent of the injury, tomorrow we will know more."

Sure enough, a PSG statement released on Thursday confirmed a notable setback for Neymar.

suffered a lesion to the left adductor on Wednesday evening," it read.

"After analysis of clinical exams and scans, it is expected that he'll be out for around four weeks depending on the evolution of the injury."

Neymar has often suffered untimely injuries at a similar time in previous seasons during his stint at PSG.

In 2018, Neymar sustained a broken toe in February, meaning he missed almost three months of action, with PSG losing 5-2 on aggregate to eventual Champions League winners Real Madrid in the last 16 in his absence.

An ankle injury then kept him out from January to April in 2019, with PSG going out at the hands of Manchester United, though he was fit to help the Parisians overcome Borussia Dortmund in last season's tournament, prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

PSG went on to lose in the final to Bayern Munich, though Neymar has lifted the trophy before, having scored in a 3-1 win over Juventus in the 2015 showpiece.

Neymar will miss Paris Saint-Germain's trip to former club Barcelona in the Champions League after being ruled out for up to four weeks.

The Ligue 1 club, who head to Camp Nou next Tuesday, confirmed the Brazilian had suffered an adductor injury in the Coupe de France win over Caen on Wednesday.

The estimated recovery time would also put Neymar in doubt for the return leg of the last-16 clash with Barca, which takes place on March 10.

Manchester United are considering putting together a blockbuster deal to sign Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

Ramos is in his 16th season with LaLiga champions Madrid but the upcoming free agent has reportedly rejected a two-year contract extension to stay in the Spanish capital.

The 13-time European champions are not expected to go back to the 34-year-old with an improved offer, leaving the door open for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to swoop.


TOP STORY – UNITED TO DECIDE ON RAMOS

Manchester United will decide in the coming months whether or not to lure the 178-cap Spain international to Old Trafford, according to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Ramos' contract expires in June 2021 and the Red Devils are yet to make an approach, although Champions League rivals Paris Saint-Germain are said to be interested.

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will only pursue Ramos if he is available on a free transfer. That will remain the case unless Madrid make a late move to keep the club icon at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester City will need to take their search for a new striker elsewhere with top transfer target Lautaro Martinez set to snub the Premier League giants.

Pep Guardiola had reportedly lined up the Argentina international as the long-term replacement for club legend Sergio Aguero.

But Martinez is on the brink of a sensational U-turn to remain in Serie A to the delight of coach Antonio Conte and the Milan-based club.


TOP STORY – LAUTARO SET TO REJECT CITY AND STAY WITH INTER

Eurosport reports that City's pursuit of their player at the top of their shopping list has come to an abrupt end with Martinez set to sign a new deal with Inter.

The report suggests the 21-cap international will double his money to stay in Italy, dealing a blow to City after they have monitored his situation closely for a year.

While City continue to prepare an offer for Lionel Messi should he decide to leave Barcelona, they are also set to turn their attentions to Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. 

The body in charge of France's football leagues has called for urgent government support to help the sport survive its financial crisis.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) on Tuesday called for a meeting with authorities to establish an "emergency support plan" to safeguard the future of professional French clubs.

It said collective losses of more than €1billion meant "the survival of the professional football industry is at stake".

The stark warning came in the wake of the collapse of the television channel Telefoot Chaine, which broadcast for the final time last week.

Mediapro, which operated the channel, had struck a lucrative five-year deal with the LFP for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 broadcast rights, but that agreement was cancelled in December after less than six months.

The LFP agreed a new deal with Canal Plus last week but, with the reduced broadcast earnings and the impact of behind-closed-doors matches during the coronavirus pandemic, it is forecasting overall revenue of €759.1m - almost €0.5billion less than had been budgeted by clubs for 2020-21.

"In this context, the measures already taken by the government for the current season last November have unfortunately turned out to be insufficient or inappropriate in terms of enabling the continuation of activity for the industry," the LFP said in a statement. "Especially since these announcements did not take into account the continuation of the closed-door matches in 2021.

"Consequently, the LFP requests an emergency meeting with the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, and the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports to receive the leaders of the LFP and a delegation of clubs to build an emergency support plan.

"There is no question here of asking the state to compensate for the drop in TV rights, or the failure of Mediapro. On these issues, the clubs have already made great efforts to adapt to this major drop in income, both through salary negotiations with their players and through the reforms that the LFP is preparing to ensure its future. However, it is essential that the state participates in helping professional clubs and their shareholders to overcome the emergencies that the COVID-19 crisis has generated.

"The survival of the professional football industry is at stake, and above all of a cultural and economic heritage that cannot be allowed to go up in smoke today."

Mauricio Pochettino urged people not to mistake France Football for Paris Saint-Germain amid continued talk of Lionel Messi moving to the Parc des Princes.

Messi, who attempted to force a switch from Barcelona prior to this season, is due to be out of contract at Camp Nou at the end of the campaign.

He has been frequently linked with PSG and the latest edition of France Football magazine ratcheted up the speculation, as the cover of the magazine featured Messi mocked up wearing a PSG shirt.

That will do little to improve the mood in the Barcelona camp, with head coach Ronald Koeman having previously accused PSG midfielder Angel Di Maria of disrespect.

Koeman's comments followed Messi's Argentina team-mate Di Maria saying there is a "big chance" the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will join PSG.

Pochettino was again asked about Messi prior to PSG's Coupe de France tie at Caen, which takes place on Wednesday.

The PSG head coach told a pre-match media conference: "I think we are talking about a magazine that has nothing to do with Paris Saint-Germain.

"When a player speaks, he might speak with emotion and affection, but there is no type of controversial situation here that we have thought up at the club.

"At no point has there been a lack of perspective. At no point has anything happened that is incorrect.

"I understand that players can talk and say whatever they like and that goes for Barcelona, Real Madrid. They might talk about fellow footballers at other clubs.

"Here we have total respect for every club and every player. We must not confuse what was said in France Football with PSG itself."

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