Barcelona president Joan Laporta has not ruled out the possibility of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta returning to the club in the future.

Speaking at an event presenting Dani Alves to over 10,000 fans at the Camp Nou, Laporta suggested the return of the Brazilian right-back might not be the only reunion in the coming years.

Iniesta left Barca to sign for Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018, while debts of more than €1.2billion meant the Blaugrana could not afford to sign Messi to a new contract, leading to the Argentine moving to Paris Saint-Germain in August.

 

"I do not rule it out," Laporta said when asked about the possibility of Messi and Iniesta returning.

"It has happened with Dani, and I want to thank him because he has seen the situation of the club and wants to come to help."

Alves is the first signing for new head coach, Xavi, and penned a deal until the end of the season, but will not be eligible to play until January.

"I also thank him for making an economic effort. We are going to reverse this situation, but now he has made this effort. It has to be appreciated," Laporta added.

"These are people who have made this club great. Messi and Iniesta are spectacular, I cannot predict the future, as they are still playing, but they have made the club great, we always keep them in mind, although now they have contracts with other clubs and you have to respect that, but in life you never know."

Laporta was also asked about contract renewals, with speculation around new deals for Ousmane Dembele and Gavi, to which he replied: "Hopefully we can achieve more renewals soon."

Alves was asked about Dembele, who has also received a vote of confidence from Xavi in recent days. The 38-year-old said: "He needs to understand that he's playing for Barca. It's my mission to remind that to him, that he's really good, that he's phenomenal and that he can achieve great things at this club."

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni celebrated a "magnificent year" after the Copa America champions qualified for the 2022 World Cup.

Despite a goalless draw at home to already-qualified rivals Brazil, Argentina booked their spot at Qatar 2022 after Colombia, Uruguay and Chile all failed to win in CONMEBOL on Tuesday.

It caps a successful 2021 for two-time world champions Argentina, who ended their 28-year wait for silverware by dethroning Brazil in July's Copa America final.

"This was a magnificent year," Scaloni – who matched Alejandro Sabella for the country's second longest undefeated run in CONMEBOL qualifying amid a 13-game streak, said. "Winning the Copa, qualifying for the World Cup unbeaten. It was a dream."

"We got four points against two very difficult rivals. We all like to win of course but these games help a team to mature. Without a doubt, the balance is positive.

"Having qualified so far in advance, in a really difficult qualifying section, is something we should be proud of."

Lionel Messi returned to the line-up but was unable to inspire Argentina, who played out a stalemate with Brazil in San Juan to extend their unbeaten streak to 27 matches across all competitions.

That underwhelming performance left Argentina waiting to discover their World Cup fate, though La Albiceleste only had to wait less than an hour following 10-man Chile's 2-0 loss at home to Ecuador.

Argentina – searching for their first world crown since 1986 – are second in the CONMEBOL standings with five matches remaining, six points behind leaders Brazil and six clear of third-placed Ecuador.

Eliminated in the last-16 stage at Russia 2018, Argentina and Brazil have both played a game less following September's qualifier in Sao Paulo, which was sensationally abandoned after Scaloni's men left the field as Brazilian health officials tried to detain visiting players due to coronavirus regulations.

After his subdued performance, superstar captain Messi – who missed Paris Saint-Germain's two matches prior to the international break – allayed his fitness concerns.

"I'm fine otherwise I wouldn't have played," Messi said before learning Argentina had qualified after the South American powerhouse made it six games without conceding – their longest streak in qualifying.

"I've been standing for a long time and it's not easy to play a game with as much pace as this one.

"Luckily I'm fine and I know that little by little I'm going to pick up the pace. I hope I can finish the year well."

Argentina qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite playing out a goalless draw with CONMEBOL rivals Brazil.

Lionel Messi returned to the line-up but he was unable to inspire Argentina, who played out a stalemate against Qatar-bound Brazil in San Juan on Tuesday.

That underwhelming performance left Copa America champions Argentina waiting to discover their World Cup fate.

Argentina only had to wait less than an hour as 10-man Chile lost 2-0 at home to Ecuador, sealing La Albiceleste's qualification after Colombia and Uruguay also failed to win.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina – riding a 27-game unbeaten streak – are second in the CONMEBOL standings with five matches remaining, six points behind leaders Brazil and six clear of third-placed Ecuador.

Argentina and Brazil have both played a game less following September's qualifier in Sao Paulo, which was sensationally abandoned after Scaloni's men left the field as Brazilian health officials tried to detain visiting players due to coronavirus regulations.

Having ended their 28-year wait for silverware via July's Copa America, Messi's Argentina will now look to conquer the World Cup.

Two-time champions Argentina – eliminated in the round of 16 at Russia 2018 – have not won the World Cup since Diego Maradona inspired the country to 1986 glory, though they reached the final in 2014.

Argentina and Brazil played out an underwhelming 0-0 draw as the Copa America champions missed the chance to secure World Cup qualification.

Meeting for the first time since September's fixture was sensationally abandoned in Sao Paulo after Argentina left the field as Brazilian health officials tried to detain visiting players, La Albiceleste had the opportunity to earn a trip to Qatar 2022 following Colombia's draw against Paraguay.

However, despite Lionel Messi's return to the starting XI on Tuesday, Argentina were unable to breach CONMEBOL leaders Brazil, who were already assured of a spot at next year's tournament.

Argentina could still qualify on Tuesday if Chile lose to Ecuador later on Tuesday.

Chances were few and far between after a cagey start between Argentina and Brazil in San Juan, where neither goalkeeper was really tested in the opening half as Neymar sat out for the Selecao due to a thigh injury.

However, there was a big moment involving Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi and Brazil's Raphinha as the game came to life approaching half-time.

Raphinha went down in a heap and was left bleeding after coping a blow from Otamendi, but the former Manchester City centre-back escaped punishment.

Alisson almost gifted Argentina a chance to break the deadlock after failing to catch a cross but Brazil managed to clear their lines, while the Liverpool keeper took a boot to the face minutes before the interval.

Fred went close to making the breakthrough for Brazil on the hour – the ball fell to the Manchester United midfielder on the edge of the box and his volley hit the crossbar.

There was another opening for Brazil with 19 minutes remaining, but Vinicius Junior's effort was straight at Emiliano Martinez.

Neymar will miss his meeting with Lionel Messi after being ruled out of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Argentina due to an adductor injury, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) announced.

Brazil – already assured of a Qatar 2022 berth – will meet Argentina in San Juan on Tuesday, with a win for Messi's men all but guaranteeing World Cup qualification.

After coming off the bench against Uruguay last time out, Messi will definitely play a part for Copa America champions Argentina, according to head coach Lionel Scaloni.

However, Brazil superstar and Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar – who teed up Lucas Paqueta for the winning goal against Colombia – will not be involved because of a thigh injury.

"After training at the Palmeiras Football Academy this Monday morning, athlete Neymar Jr. complained of pain in the adductor region of his left thigh," the CBF said.

"Neymar Jr. reported insecurity with the situation and because there was not enough time to carry out complementary exams, the technical committee chose to preserve the player, who will not travel with the Brazilian team's delegation to San Juan, location of Tuesday's game against Argentina."

Brazil and Argentina will meet for the first time since September's World Cup qualifier was sensationally abandoned in Sao Paulo.

The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso – amid travel restrictions.

Despite the rulings, Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were all starters for Argentina, with Brazilian health officials quickly acting by entering the pitch shortly after the match had started.

A subsequent melee ensued, and the visitors eventually left the field and did not return, Brazil playing out a training fixture among one another.

Looking ahead to Tuesday's showdown, Brazil head coach Tite told reporters: "It is hard to get the dimension of it. I don’t know how it was from the Argentinian side of it. Everything that happened. I am sorry about the fact that the match didn't happen.

"But now we have all the facts and understand why it didn't happen. I have all this very clear: before football, health is more important, laws exist and the correction of the facts. All these happened. I don't know how they face this situation because it is very particular.

"I can say that Brazil v Argentina is a huge match. Historically, it is huge. A lot of quality on both sides. The two best campaigns, a lot of technical quality individually from both teams."

Lionel Scaloni has confirmed Lionel Messi will definitely play a part in Argentina's World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

The rival nations meet for the first time since this year's Copa America final, which Argentina won 1-0, when they face off in San Juan on Tuesday.

Both teams have identical records since that final, each winning five of their six qualifiers. A clash between the pair in Sao Paulo in September was suspended due to coronavirus restrictions relating to Argentina's England-based players.

Already-qualified Brazil sit top of the CONMEBOL standings on 34 points, six clear of Scaloni's team, who defeated Uruguay on Friday.

Given the 12-point gap between Argentina and fifth-placed Colombia, who occupy the play-off spot, a win would all but guarantee their place in Qatar next year. Dropped points for two of Chile, versus Ecuador, Colombia, against Paraguay, and Uruguay, in Bolivia, would make the picture clearer still.

Messi, whose selection in Argentina's squad "did not make sense" – according to Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo – due to the 34-year-old's recent injury issues, came on as a 76th-minute substitute in the win over Uruguay.

Scaloni explained he had used Messi sparingly in order to keep him in top condition for Tuesday's clash with Brazil, and the coach confirmed in his pre-match news conference the former Barcelona superstar would certainly play, albeit he did not reveal if he would start.

"It is confirmed that Messi will play tomorrow," Scaloni told reporters on Monday.

On the challenge his team face, Scaloni said: "This Brazilian team is one of the most direct in recent times.

"They have already qualified for the World Cup, and we know how difficult this game is going to be.

"You have to always play the same, it is not worth it for me that a player of mine plays in one way against Venezuela and another against Brazil. Football is always the same regardless of the rival.

"I don't think the rest of the rivals in the qualifiers are less than Brazil. They are all very difficult games.

"There are always things to correct. Our goal is that the players do not relax, that they know that there are things to improve."

While Messi will play, Argentina may be without Paulo Dybala, who was taken off at half-time against Uruguay.

"Paulo came with a blow and at half-time of the game we decided to take him out, it was not worth risking it. Now we are waiting to see what [injury] he has," Scaloni added.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni says he used Lionel Messi off the bench for 15 minutes in Friday's 1-0 win in Uruguay with an eye to Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

Messi had missed the past two games at club level for Paris Saint-Germain with knee and hamstring issues but was used as a 76th-minute substitute against Uruguay.

Scaloni had said in the lead-up to the game that Messi was "good" and "wants to play" but explained afterwards he used him for limited minutes with a view to getting him ready to face Brazil, who are top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying standings.

"His entry in the second half serves to get the rhythm ahead of the game with Brazil," Scaloni said during the news conference, when asked about Messi's cameo.

"We decided not to play him in the starting line-up because he's coming off some inactivity and the game was going to be like the one that happened."

The win was Argentina's first in Uruguay in 12 years, extending their unbeaten run to 26 games and was a "giant step" towards World Cup qualification according to Scaloni.

Scaloni said Argentina had won "without playing well" against Uruguay, who he claimed forced the game to be played on their terms.

"There are times when you can't play well because your opponent plays and proposes a type of game, and you have to adapt," he said.

"We adapted to the match that took place. That is a good sign as a team."

Argentina are second in qualifying on 28 points from 12 games, behind Brazil on 34 points from the same number of games. La Albiceleste hold a 12-point buffer on fifth-placed Colombia in the play-offs spot in fifth.

The Best FIFA Football Awards 2021 will be held as a virtual event from Zurich on January 17 next year.

FIFA's alternative to the Ballon d'Or has been held consecutively every year since 2017, with Cristiano Ronaldo scooping the first award as Best Men's Player.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski took that accolade for the 2020 awards and will be hoping his record-breaking efforts in the Bundesliga last season will be enough to defend that title.

Competition is likely to come from Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who came third in 2018 and has enjoyed a remarkable start to 2021-22, while France duo Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema seem set to be in the running too. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, of course, cannot be discounted.

The Best Men's Goalkeeper and Best Men's Coach are also up for grabs, as are the equivalent of all three awards for the women's game. 

The FIFPRO Men's and Women's XIs will also be named.

With coronavirus cases around Europe still rising, FIFA has chosen to host the event virtually, rather than have attendees present.

A FIFA statement read: "The Best incorporates the views of the four pillars of the footballing world.

"The recipients of the trophies for the top players and coaches in both women's and men's football will be determined through a combined voting process involving the captains and head coaches of all national teams around the world, an online ballot of fans and submissions from a select group of more than 300 media representatives."

Voting will commence on November 22 and close on December 10.

New Barcelona head coach Xavi says it is important the club no longer dwell on Lionel Messi's exit as they have others who can step up and fill the superstar forward's void.

Barca have got off to a poor start in their first season without Messi since 2003-04, the Catalans having won just six of their 16 matches in all competitions.

Argentina international Messi scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more across his 778 appearances for the club, amounting to 937 goal involvements in total.

Messi averaged a goal every 110.3 minutes in all competitions in his final season with Barca (38 goals in 47 games) before joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

 

That compares to a goal every 237.3 minutes for Barca's leading scorer Memphis Depay this term (six goals in 16 matches).

Ansu Fati inherited Messi's number 10 shirt and has averaged an encouraging one goal every 91.8 minutes in 2021-22, but that is across just eight matches and is set for another spell on the sidelines.

Only three others – Martin Braithwaite, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique (two each) – have scored multiple goals for Barca this season.

One of the big tasks on Xavi's hands after being officially presented as Ronald Koeman's successor on Monday is to get the most out of the attacking players available to him.

And while the Barca midfield legend would love to be able to call upon Messi and some other former team-mates, he is eager to look to the future rather than the past.

"I'd have liked to have managed Messi, of course, and also Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho... but they are not here," he said at a news conference.

"I still have a close friendship with Leo, that is well known. He has written to wish me luck. As always, he has joked around. He is a real joker.

"I wish him all the luck in the world. He is the best player in the history of football and obviously the history of this club, but we do not have him.

"We have other players that need to perform and be good in his place; players who can make a difference on the pitch. We cannot think about the players we do not have."

Messi's first three months at PSG have not entirely gone to plan either, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having played in just eight of their 18 games due to niggling injuries.

He has had 15 shots without finding the net in Ligue 1, failing to score from an expected goals value of 1.9, with his only three goals to date coming in the Champions League.

Only Clermont Foot midfielder Jim Allevinah (16) and Troyes forward Renaud Ripart (19) have had more shots without scoring in the French top flight this term.

Lionel Messi linking up with the Argentina squad while not fully fit "does not make sense", according to Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo.

The 34-year-old has endured an injury-plagued start to his PSG career since arriving on a shock free transfer three months ago after leaving Barcelona.

After sitting out last week's draw with RB Leipzig and win over Bordeaux with knee and hamstring injuries, Messi has now featured in just eight of PSG's 18 matches this season.

Despite his niggling injury issues in recent months, Messi has been included in Argentina's squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Brazil over the next eight days.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino said on Friday he is happy for his compatriot to play for La Albiceleste as it will give him an opportunity to build up his fitness.

However, Leonardo is not pleased with Argentina's decision to call up the forward and has urged world football governing body FIFA to get involved. 

"We do not agree to release a player for national team selection who, for us, is not in physical condition or who is in the rehabilitation phase," he is quoted as saying by Le Parisien. 

"It does not make sense, and this type of situation is worthy of a ruling from FIFA."

 

Messi has played just 325 minutes of Ligue 1 action for PSG, compared to 450 minutes for Argentina across their qualifying fixtures in September and October, not including the suspended match with Brazil.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has registered three goals in his first eight appearances for the French giants but has yet to score or assist in the league.

He has had 15 shots without finding the net in Ligue 1, failing to score from an expected goals value of 1.9.

Only Clermont midfielder Jim Allevinah (16) and Troyes forward Renaud Ripart (19) have had more shots without scoring in the French top flight this term.

Indeed, Messi has netted more times for Argentina in 2021-22 than he has for PSG, with four goals in five appearances.

Lionel Messi has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash with Bordeaux through injury, but the forward is expected to be available for Argentina's upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was replaced at half-time in PSG's 2-1 comeback win over Lille last week and subsequently missed Wednesday's 2-2 draw with RB Leipzig in the Champions League.

The Barcelona legend is continuing to struggle with a knee and hamstring issue and will not be risked against Bordeaux on Saturday as Mauricio Pochettino's side look to tighten their grip on top spot.

Messi also missed a string of games upon joining PSG from Barca in August, but Pochettino is hopeful his compatriot can return to action during Argentina's games with Uruguay and Brazil over the next fortnight.

"Lionel's not available on Saturday and will not travel with us," Pochettino said at Friday's pre-match news conference. "We hope that he'll be available for Argentina and return to us afterwards."

Messi has had 15 shots in Ligue 1 without finding the net since arriving on a free transfer from Barcelona, failing to score from an expected goals value of 1.9, with his only three goals for PSG coming in the Champions League.

 

The superstar forward is not alone in enduring a frustrating start to a new career outside of Spain, with team-mate Sergio Ramos yet to feature for the club since joining on a free transfer from Real Madrid in July.

Reports from France this week suggested PSG chiefs are growing restless with Ramos on his road to recovery, but the experienced centre-back is now closing in on a return to action.

PSG confirmed on their official website on Friday that Ramos is set to take part in full training next week, potentially meaning he could make his long-awaited debut against Nantes on November 20.

Pochettino's side are eight points clear at the top of the table, but they have often had to rely on late goals to pick up victories and were held by Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek.

Despite that setback, Pochettino is happy with the progress made by his side since he took charge at the start of the year.

Indeed, PSG have won 76 per cent of their Ligue 1 games in 2021 (25 of 33) – only Manchester City (26 of 34) have a better success rate in the top five European leagues over the year.

"I am a satisfied coach," Pochettino said. "The commitment is there to see, though there is the requirement to do better each game. If we score 100 goals, we want more; if we stop a penalty, we want to stop two.

"Today I am satisfied with the state of mind. If the results are there, it's because there is will. We know that the performances will get better and better.

"We are progressing collectively and individually. We have recruited many players and have a squad of 33. We are in a process of construction and have to tackle the priorities, such as helping players adapt.

"From there we can develop a way of playing based on a collective organisation and solid foundations. As a coach I want to win every match 5-0, to have 75 per cent possession, to play attacking and recover the ball as quickly as possible.

"But this is a long process, this is not something I think about while I sleep."

PSG are unbeaten in their last 12 Ligue 1 meetings with Bordeaux and have scored at least once in their last 17 meetings in the competition.

Atletico Madrid are hoping to recover from losing to Liverpool on matchday three with a repeat of their Anfield heroics last March.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City will look to take bigger steps towards the last 16, while Real Madrid will go in search of another big win against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Inter can put themselves in a good position to progress, too, although city rivals Milan have got much more of a fight on their hands.

Here are some of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's Champions League matches...

 

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid: Can Suarez improve rotten recent record?

Atletico were winners at Anfield on their last visit as they claimed a 3-2 victory in the last-16 second leg in March 2020. Indeed, Liverpool have only twice beaten Spanish teams at home in 13 attempts in the European Cup and Champions League.

That said, the Marcos Llorente-inspired game last year was one of only two out of 22 at home that Jurgen Klopp has lost in this competition as Reds manager, while Diego Simeone is chasing what would only be the second instance of a third successive away win in the tournament with Atleti.

Luis Suarez will hope to haunt his old side, although recent history is against him: he's only scored one for Atleti in nine Champions League games, and none from open play. Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, needs one more goal to equal Steven Gerrard as Liverpool's top scorer in the competition at Anfield (14).

Manchester City v Club Brugge: Bad omens for Belgian champions

City's 5-1 triumph in Bruges on matchday three took their tally to six wins in seven European games against Belgian opposition, while Brugge are now without a victory over English teams in 13 attempts dating back to February 1995.

Since Pep Guardiola took charge, City have won 80 per cent (20 out of 25) of home Champions League matches, which is the best record for a coach at a single club in the competition among those to take charge of 20 or more. A first win on English soil for Brugge looks unlikely.

Might this be a chance for Raheem Sterling to impress? The England forward has been directly involved in 24 goals in 27 home Champions League games for City, a tally surpassed only by Sergio Aguero (27).

 

RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Nkunku could outshine Messi

PSG have only lost one of their past nine away games in the group stage, but that defeat was against RB Leipzig last season. It was the only time in the previous seven meetings with French sides that Leipzig emerged victorious.

He might be enduring a difficult time in Ligue 1, but Lionel Messi has managed three goals in three games in Europe for PSG. His double in the reverse fixture was his 34th in the competition, something only Cristiano Ronaldo (37) can better.

However, perhaps the most in-form player in 2021-22 is Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, who has been involved in the most open-play sequences ending in a goal (six) among Champions League midfielders this season. And he has four goals of his own from the first three matches.

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Another big win on the cards with Benzema

Madrid's 5-0 win over Shakhtar on matchday three means the past five meetings between these teams have seen an average of 4.6 goals scored per game. In fact, Los Blancos have scored 15 times in five Champions League matches against Shakhtar: that average of three per game is their best figure against a side they have faced on at least five occasions, apart from Galatasaray (3.4 per game).

Shakhtar are one of just three sides yet to score in this season's group stage, but with Madrid having lost three of their previous eight home games in the competition, this could be a good opportunity.

They will need to stop Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, though: they are the two players with the most involvements in shot-ending sequences in 2021-22 (31 and 34, respectively). Plus, Benzema is on a run of 10 goals in 10 home games in the competition.

 

Sheriff v Inter: Nothing shot-shy about Inzaghi's men

Inter ended Sheriff's 11-game unbeaten run in Europe last time out and will now look to secure consecutive Champions League victories for the first time since October 2018.

The Nerazzurri have lost just once in their previous five Champions League away matches, but Sheriff are unbeaten in their most recent five European games on home soil, excluding qualifiers. They've also won the past two.

Inter certainly have the variety to break down Sheriff's stubborn defence. Each of their previous 17 away goals in the competition have come from open play, while their 29 shots in the meeting on matchday three were the most by an Italian side in a Champions League game since at least 2003-04.

Other fixtures:

Borussia Dortmund v Ajax

45 – Ajax's 4-0 win over Dortmund last time out was the biggest victory by a Dutch side over a German team in Europe since November 1976, when Feyenoord defeated Kaiserslautern 5-0 in the UEFA Cup.

8 – Sebastien Haller has been directly involved in more Champions League goals this season than any other player (eight – six goals, two assists). Among debutants in the competition since 2003-04, this is the highest such figure over a player's first four appearances and one more than Erling Haaland managed.

Milan v Porto

3 – Milan are one of just four sides this season to have lost all three group games. They are on a five-game losing run in the competition, the worst such streak in their history.

1 – Since scoring four for Chelsea against Sevilla in December 2020, Olivier Giroud has scored only once in 250 minutes of play in the Champions League.

Sporting CP v Besiktas

5 – Paulinho has been directly involved in three of Sporting's five goals (two scored, one assisted) in this season's Champions League. Their last player to manage more goals and assists combined in a single season was Nani in 2014-15 (six).

10 – Michy Batshuayi has attempted 10 shots for Besiktas in the Champions League in 2021-22 without scoring. Over the first three matchdays, only Inter's Lautaro Martinez (12) had more shots without finding the net.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann backed Robert Lewandowski to continue to be the world's best forward as he highlighted the milestone man's longevity following his Champions League hat-trick.

Lewandowski marked his 100th Champions League appearance with a hat-trick as Bayern eased past Benfica 5-2 to seal their last-16 progress in Group E action on Tuesday.

The Ballon d'Or contender became the sixth player to score on his 100th appearance in the Champions League, after Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo and Toni Kroos, while the Poland captain is the first player to score more than once in the milestone game.

Lewandowski also celebrated his fourth Champions League hat-trick – the third-most in Europe's premier club tournament after Ronaldo and Lionel Messi (eight each). At 33 years and 73 days, he is the fourth-oldest hat-trick scorer after Olivier Giroud (34 years 63 days), Ronaldo and Claudio Pizarro (34 years 35 days).

Nagelsmann showered Lewandowski in praise post-match, telling reporters: "Ninety-eight times involved, 81 goals in 100 Champions League games. Something new?

"Today most of the people talk about his three goals. Or many people write about his three goals. But you have to see his joy to play in the last 30 minutes. He played every offensive position, wanted to have every ball. He started good attacks."

When asked to compare Lewandowski to superstar pair Ronaldo and Messi, Nagelsmann added: "I think it's very difficult to compare because they are different types of players. I don't know the character of the other two, I also only know them out of the TV, as do you, I guess. I think all three were very impressive players in the last years.

"[Lewandowski] I also know as a person. He is a very nice guy which whom it's very nice to work with. I heard that also about the other two guys when I talked about them with their former coaches. I believe that Lewy can achieve a lot, also at a high age, because of his physique and his lifestyle and the way he lives as a footballer.

"He will continue to be the best forward in the world because he does everything to keep it that way."

Robert Lewandowski "can catch" Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following his latest Champions League hat-trick, according to former Bayern Munich forward Mario Gomez.

Lewandowski dazzled in his 100th Champions League appearance, capping the European milestone with three goals in Tuesday's 5-2 rout of visitors Benfica as Bayern sealed their last-16 berth.

The Ballon d'Or contender became the sixth player to score on his 100th appearance in the Champions League, after Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo and Toni Kroos, while the Poland captain is the first player to score more than once in the milestone game.

Bayern talisman Lewandowski also celebrated his fourth Champions League hat-trick – the third-most in the competition after Manchester United's Ronaldo and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Messi (eight each). At 33 years and 73 days, he is the fourth-oldest hat-trick scorer after Olivier Giroud (34 years 63 days), Ronaldo and Claudio Pizarro (34 years 35 days).

As Lewandowski continues to flourish in Munich, shattering records, Gomez hailed the red-hot striker as Ronaldo and Messi – who have 11 Ballon d'Or honours between them – continue to dominate.

"He is playing a different sport; he's in a different league," Gomez told Amazon Prime Video post-match. "He still has a few years left, he can catch them up [Messi and Ronaldo]."

Lewandowski opened the scoring in the 26th minute at Allianz Arena, where Serge Gnabry doubled Bayern's lead six minutes later.

After Morato reduced the deficit, Lewandowski then failed to convert a penalty in first-half stoppage time, though Leroy Sane did make it 3-1 early in the second half.

After his unsuccessful spot-kick, Lewandowski scored a delightful second goal just past the hour mark as he dinked the ball over Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos.

Lewandowski completed his hat-trick six minutes from the end after Benfica substitute Darwin Nunez had bagged the team's second 10 minutes earlier.

"In the first 20 minutes, I barely touched the ball," Lewandowski told Amazon Prime Video. "It's not easy as a striker to stay patient.

"After the first goal, things were a bit easier. My favourite goal today was the second. I'm annoyed by the two goals we conceded.

"That motivates us. It's especially important for [Manuel] Neuer."

Lewandowski added: "I didn't connect well with the penalty, that was a mistake from me. I saw exactly where the goalkeeper was jumping and still shot towards the wrong corner.

"Fortunately, we still scored a few more goals and picked up three more points. Another clear victory."

Lionel Messi is battling hamstring and knee trouble and the struggling superstar will miss Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League match at RB Leipzig on Wednesday.

The Argentine forward was omitted from PSG's 21-man squad for the Group A game, as Mauricio Pochettino's side aim to move a step closer to the last-16 stage.

Messi played only the first half of Friday's Ligue 1 game against Lille, with Mauro Icardi taking his place after the break.

Former Barcelona captain Messi had been a doubt for the Lille game and delivered a disappointing display after being given the nod to start.

He has now had 15 shots without finding the net for PSG in Ligue 1 this season – the joint-second most attempts of any player yet to score in the division (Troyes' Renaud Ripart has had the most: 18).

Messi's three goals for PSG in eight games since arriving from Barcelona have all come in the Champions League. He got his first for his new club against Manchester City, before scoring twice in a 3-2 comeback win against Leipzig two weeks ago. That was his 34th brace in the Champions League – a record only beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo (37).

The 34-year-old's feats in Europe mean Messi has matched a PSG record of scoring three goals in his first three Champions League appearances for the team, equalling Neymar and Icardi in that regard.

PSG named a strong party for the trip to Germany, with the likes of Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe selected – the latter missed the Lille game due to an ear, nose and throat infection.

But the French club said in a medical bulletin published on their official website: "Leo Messi has discomfort in his left hamstring and pain in his knee following a contusion."

It remains to be seen whether Messi can recover to be involved in the Ligue 1 match at Bordeaux on Saturday.

PSG said former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who has been injury-hit and has yet to feature since arriving in the close season, "is continuing his individual training programme and will join up with the rest of the squad in the next few days".

With seven points from three games, PSG lead the way in Champions League Group A, a point ahead of Manchester City. Leipzig have lost each of their opening three games.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.