Diego Simeone did not feel Atletico Madrid were any better against Barcelona on Saturday than in previous meetings, with Lionel Messi's absence instead the decisive factor.

Atletico have had a poor record against Barca in Simeone's time at the club, going 20 without a win in this fixture before their 1-0 success in 2020-21.

But they have now gone three without conceding to the Blaugrana in LaLiga for the first time, having drawn 0-0 at the end of last season and won 2-0 on Saturday.

Barca had 70.4 per cent of the possession but created only nine shots worth a combined 1.0 expected goals at the Wanda Metropolitano.

New Paris Saint-Germain signing Messi had scored 26 goals in 30 LaLiga games against Atleti – only managing more against Sevilla (30) and Valencia (27) – and a lack of cutting edge was evident without him.

"It's the first game we played against Barca without Messi," coach Simeone told a news conference. "Other games there has not been much difference to this one, but now Messi is not there."

By contrast, Atleti were ruthless in attack, led by former Barca superstar Luis Suarez.

He teed up the opener for Thomas Lemar, who returned the favour for Suarez to score against Barca for the first time, meaning he has netted against all 31 opponents he has faced in Spain's top flight.

Joao Felix was also involved in both goals, with the opener including one of four passes he completed to Suarez. He found no team-mate more often.

The Portugal international started ahead of Antoine Griezmann, who failed to fire from the bench, but Simeone was not ready to declare Joao Felix and Suarez his new first-choice front line.

"At this hour, we can't get carried away by one game," he said. "There's [Angel] Correa, Griezmann's moment. He scored in the Champions League.

"We have important footballers. Hopefully they can accept that we can be a group so we can be a team."

Barcelona had not lost to Benfica since 1961. They had not started a European season with consecutive defeats since 1972-73. They had last lost back-to-back Champions League group games 21 years ago.

And yet, the most damning thing about their 3-0 defeat in Lisbon on Wednesday was that it wasn't a huge surprise.

By most reasonable football definitions, Barca are in crisis. They have won just three of eight games in all competitions in 2021-22. Spiralling debts of more than €1.2billion meant they could not give Lionel Messi a new contract or conduct any meaningful recruitment, even as club captains took pay cuts.

Those dire financial figures also mean they have a spending cap barely an eighth of the size of Real Madrid's for this season, so January is unlikely to offer much of a chance to change things. And, in Ronald Koeman, they have a coach who appears increasingly out of his depth, unable to inspire his players or maintain much cordiality with the suits above him.

There is speculation that Barca's next game could be his last in charge... and it just happens to be against the champions. How has it come to this?

 

Passive passing

It should be repeated that many of Barca's problems are not of Koeman's making. He was appointed by Josep Maria Bartomeu after the historic ignominy of that 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich, when years of squad mismanagement came home to roost in one horrifying performance. With no money to keep Messi or greatly improve the team, Koeman has been hamstrung in his efforts to build a side capable even of competing for pride, never mind titles.

It's also true that Koeman's system is a mess.

There's a semblance of playing 'the Barca way'. For one thing, they love having the ball: the Catalans average the most possession in LaLiga this season (68.4 per cent), while their average of 4.54 passes per sequence is the highest in the division, and only league leaders Real Madrid (112) have put together more sequences of 10 passes or more than Barca (106). They also press high, restricting opposition teams to just eight passes per defensive action on average, the best figure in the league.

The trouble is, they don't seem to make the most of these positives.

 

Despite ostensibly pressing with intent, their return of 53 high turnovers is only joint-seventh in LaLiga. Despite controlling the ball for the majority of matches, they have only created 55 chances from open play – eight teams have created more – and attempted 72 shots, the 13th-highest tally in the competition. Even crosses are scarce: five teams can better their figure of 211 deliveries into the box.

For context, Sunday's opponents Atletico Madrid have attempted 96 shots this season, the third-most in the league, created 10 more goalscoring chances than Barca and played 44 more passes into the penalty area – and all while facing a league-low 45 shots on their own goal, 14 fewer than Koeman's men. Even taking into account Barca's game in hand, these are notable differences.

 

A Messi divorce

Barca knew they would miss Messi. Koeman knew they would miss Messi. Anyone who has ever kicked a football knew they would miss Messi.

But, boy, they really do miss him.

Barca finished LaLiga last season with 85 goals, 18 more than any other side, 30 of which were scored by Messi. They outperformed their expected goals figure by 11.04, with only champions Atletico doing so by a greater margin (13.95). Messi himself exceeded his xG by 6.21.

 

Excluding penalties and own goals, Barca outperformed their xG of 74 in 2020-21. Their 583 shots, the most among LaLiga teams, each carried an average value of 0.13xG.

 

This season, Barca have scored 11 goals, which almost exactly matches their xG – and that is despite the average xG value of their shots increasing very slightly to 0.15. Without Messi's abnormal abilities, they are reverting towards the norm.

It's amazing how much better things look when someone is there to stick the ball in the net.

 

Dutch courage

Which brings us to Memphis Depay, the big positive of Koeman's time in charge.

Trying to fill Messi's shoes might be beyond mere mortals, but the way Depay has settled into his role as Barca's attacking lynchpin has been extremely impressive. The Netherlands forward has fulfilled his former international boss' requirements, leading the line with aplomb even when the team around him has floundered.

Depay has managed three goals and one assist in all competitions, more than any other Barca player. With 2.49 expected assists, he can consider himself unlucky not to have a greater tally of goal involvements, too.

To date, Depay has attempted 22 shots, more than three times as many as any team-mate, and created 18 chances, six more than the next-best figure posted by Frenkie de Jong.

 

Among LaLiga players in all competitions, only Karim Benzema (16) and Vinicius Junior (14) have mustered more shots on target than Depay (13), while only three players in Spain's top flight have completed more dribbles than the former Lyon and Manchester United man (21). He has embraced the pressure of leading the Barcelona line in one of the toughest periods in their recent history. He just can't do it alone.

If Koeman's reign is to survive this weekend, he will have to hope Depay can produce some magic against Atletico – although even that may not be enough.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he is "in love" with Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti, while he also lavished Lionel Messi in praise after his side lost in the Champions League.

Messi scored his first goal for PSG after Idrissa Gueye's opening-half breakthrough in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over City in the French capital.

While Messi stole the headlines with his stunning 74th-minute goal, Guardiola heaped praise on Verratti – who helped Italy win Euro 2020 before the start of the season.

"I'm in love," Guardiola told reporters post-match. "He's an exceptional player because he's under pressure and has the calmness to take on extra touch and in that moment create extra passes behind our midfield players.

"I know the character and personality that he has and he did it again. I'm happy he's back from his injury and yeah, an exceptional player.

"He's not tall from his aspect from outside, but when you see how he moves, how he plays… he's not a player for long distance passes, but you can count on him to always help to make a build up and know exactly where the spaces are to create other situations.

"Especially in the first half, second half was much better controlled by Kevin [De Bruyne], but first half we were a little bit soft with him."

Messi has scored more Champions League goals against City (seven) than any other player, while his seven strikes against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two against Bayern Munich, five versus City with him as manager) is also the most of any player in the competition's history.

Meanwhile, Messi has scored 27 Champions League goals against English clubs – 15 more than any other player. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals against opponents of a specific nation (28, versus German teams) in Champions League history.

City were heavily linked with Messi before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joined PSG at the conclusion of his Barcelona contract during the off-season.

"I wish, through my short personal relationship with him, I wish him the best," Guardiola said. "If he’s happy and enjoying this period in Paris, I will be happy. He made me so happy when we worked together, he decided for many reasons to come here, for him and his family I wish him the best."

On dealing with Messi, Guardiola added: "We deal with PSG first of all. We know that it is impossible to control Leo [Messi] during the [whole] 90 minutes, but they were not giving him a lot of touches of the ball.

"Of course, he is coming back from some injuries, so he lacked a bit of rhythm, but we know when he can run and be quite close to the ball he is unstoppable. What we have done is minimise as much as possible these kind of actions and create the chances that we could create. I’m satisfied for the way we played, it was the same as when we were at Stamford Bridge. I said after the game, I’m happy for the victory of course, but the way we played today was quite similar.

"So the people cannot deny that we were there… this is our team. In good and bad, improving or not improving, this is our team. We arrived here, played our game and they defended deep really well with seven and a half players.

"This is the risk when you lose the ball and they can make one pass, especially [Marco] Verratti, an exceptional, extraordinary player that can have contact with Neymar and Messi where they can run, so always it’s difficult. But even with that, they didn’t do much and that's all."

City suffered their first Champions League group-stage defeat since September 2018, when they lost 2-1 to Lyon – they had been unbeaten in 18 such games since then.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said there is no doubt Lionel Messi is the best player in the world after scoring his first goal for the French giants in Tuesday's win over Manchester City.

PSG got past Premier League champions City 2-0 at Parc des Princes, with Idrissa Gueye opening the scoring in the eighth minute before Messi sealed the win via a 74th-minute strike into the top corner.

The goal was Messi's first in PSG colours in his fourth appearance since switching from LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona on a free transfer in the off-season.

Messi has scored more Champions League goals against City (seven) than any other player, while his seven strikes against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two against Bayern Munich, five versus City with him as manager) is also the most of any player in the competition's history.

Meanwhile, Messi has scored 27 Champions League goals against English clubs – 15 more than any other player. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals against opponents of a specific nation (28, versus German teams) in Champions League history.

"I think it was amazing, his performance," Pochettino told BT Sport. "And he scored an amazing goal.

"He's the best player in the world, that is no doubt. Of course, [I am] happy to see him showing his football.

"Him and all the team worked really, really hard to achieve that victory. [It is] Never easy, they're probably the best team in the world, Manchester City. That is why we're so happy."

PSG trailed in the key stats, with City having 18-6 shots and 7-3 shots on target, but Pochettino was delighted with his side's defensive commitment.

Messi combined clinically with Kylian Mbappe for his goal, impressing Pochettino who has stressed that their attacking connection along with Neymar remains a "work in progress".

"We can do it. They showed that we want to be united, to work together," Pochettino said. "The quality is there. We have amazing quality and amazing players.

"The challenge is that all work in both phases of the game with the same capacity to suffer. Tonight we showed very good belief and I started to see the team that can work together, not only in an offensive way but a defensive one too."

On Canal Plus, Pochettino added: "They were a great strength of the team, they sought to be in the attacking sector, and the team was always well positioned. We managed to get out in transition."

The result moves PSG into top spot in Group A with four points alongside Club Brugge, who won 2-1 at RB Leipzig, while City are third with three points.

"Today was a Champions League against Manchester City, we knew that we needed to show that being solid and help each other," Pochettino said.

"But with time we will be better. We need to improve in other aspects. I'm very happy overall."

Lionel Messi revelled in his maiden goal for Paris Saint-Germain as the superstar helped take down Manchester City 2-0 in the Champions League.

Messi scored his first goal for PSG, who gained some revenge for their 2020-21 Champions League semi-final loss to Pep Guardiola's City on Tuesday.

After Idrissa Gueye broke the deadlock inside 10 minutes, Messi opened his PSG account with a sublime strike 16 minutes from the end in the French capital.

Messi savoured his first goal for PSG, the 673rd of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's illustrious club career as the Ligue 1 giants took their tally to four points from two matchdays.

"It was a perfect night against a great opponent," Messi, who joined PSG on a free transfer at the conclusion of his Barcelona contract in the off-season, told Canal+. 

"For us, it was very important to win this game after Club Brugge [1-1 away draw].

"I am very happy to have scored. I haven't played much recently; I had only played one game here [at the Parc des Princes]. I am adapting little by little. What is important is to keep winning."

Messi has scored more Champions League goals against City (seven) than any other player, while his seven strikes against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two against Bayern Munich, five versus City with him as manager) is also the most of any player in the competition's history.

Meanwhile, Messi has scored 27 Champions League goals against English clubs – 15 more than any other player. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals against opponents of a specific nation (28, versus German teams) in Champions League history.

Kylian Mbappe was instrumental in the creation of Messi's latest, teeing him up in a clever one-two, and Messi hopes to continue improving his understanding with the Frenchman and Neymar.

"Our relationship will get better and better with each game. We all have to grow together, increase our level of play. We have to continue," Messi added.

"We won a very important game against a very big rival, who was in the final last year. We must continue to progress, improve a lot of things for the future."

For so long, the idea of Lionel Messi being anywhere other than Barcelona seemed utterly alien, but if he was going to leave, teaming up with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City – a club so heavily influenced by the Blaugrana – was surely the most likely option.

But there he was, lining up in the navy blue of Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, Guardiola in the opposite dugout and City on the other side of the pitch.

There was more than a hint of inevitability about what came to pass, as Messi made a telling impact in trademark fashion towards the end to put the match beyond City in what was a 2-0 win for PSG.

But the predictability of his decisiveness didn't exactly come from an overriding brilliance that was displayed in this encounter in general.

In fact, Messi was somewhat subdued for much of the match.

His first-half performance was littered – by his standards, anyway – with heavy touches and his influence in the final third was lacking.

After all, he finished the game without contributing a single key pass, making this one of only four matches across all competitions since the beginning of last season that Messi's started but not set up a chance in.

Of course, it's worth taking into consideration that Messi's arrival at PSG was delayed by his Copa America involvement, he then went away on international break and also recently suffered a minor knee injury.

A slow start was almost to be expected in those circumstances, even for someone as good as Messi, but with City throwing men forward in search of an equaliser, you always got the sense he would get one opportunity on the break.

He did, and it produced a goal that will go down in history as his first club goal away from Barcelona.

Messi received the ball out on the right flank, just inside the City half, darted forward with much of the visitors' side on the offensive, and as Achraf Hakimi overlapped on the right, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner cut inside.

He held off Rodri as he played a one-two with Kylian Mbappe, the Frenchman's touch exceptional given the pressure he was under, and Messi strode on to the return pass before guiding it effortlessly into the top-right corner with a first-time finish.

So much of it was quintessential Messi, from the surging 19.2-metre dash to the glorious ease with which he picked out the one area of the net Ederson wouldn't be able to reach. It also summed up just how devastating he is: one shot, one goal.

Even with 672 club career goals preceding that one, it's still impossible to tire from seeing Messi hit the back of the net – or, perhaps it is now a little boring if you support an English club.

That was his 27th Champions League goal against a Premier League team, which is – remarkably – 15 more than any other player (Cristiano Ronaldo, 12) in the competition's history. Ronaldo is the only player to score more against teams from a specific nation (28 versus German clubs) in Europe's elite competition.

While Arsenal may have proven particularly powerless against Messi over the years, conceding nine times to him in just six games, it's fair to say he boasts a stunning record against City that few could match in this era, his tally now sitting at seven from as many games.

Messi seemingly has a similar kind of hold over Guardiola as well, given that was the seventh time he's scored against his old boss in the Champions League, a record.

It was under Guardiola at Camp Nou that Messi was initially elevated to his world-class perch, and there he has remained.

After a rather uncharacteristically quiet beginning in Paris, perhaps it was only fitting that his mentor was there behold Messi's true arrival in Paris.

Manchester City controlled Paris Saint-Germain but were undone by a "fantastic" Lionel Messi goal, Pep Guardiola said.

City were beaten 2-0 at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday in their Champions League clash with the Ligue 1 giants.

Idrissa Gueye gave PSG a first-half lead and Bernardo Silva somehow hit the crossbar with the goal gaping with the best City chance of the half.

The Premier League champions had 54 per cent of the possession but could not find a way past Gianluigi Donnarumma in the PSG goal, and Messi then made the result safe with a spectacular finish from Kylian Mbappe's lay-off.

Yet Guardiola had few complaints about his side's performance, coming just three days after an impressive 1-0 win at Chelsea in the Premier League.

"A good performance. We did everything, but we could not score," the City manager told BT Sport.

"We defended well, they defend deep and of course the counter-attack is always dangerous with the quality they have, but we controlled them. Unfortunately, we couldn't score. It's football. Nothing to say, more than my biggest compliment to the team.

"In the second half, we had many [chances]. Donnarumma made good saves, but the team was there, same as Stamford Bridge.

"It's a pity because we played to win, we played to be there. Unfortunately, they don't need much to score goals, and they did it.

"The goal [from Messi] was fantastic."

City suffered their first Champions League group-stage defeat since September 2018, when they lost 2-1 to Lyon – they had been unbeaten in 18 such games since then.

Guardiola's City had 18 shots against PSG, their joint-most without scoring in a Champions League match, also failing with all of their 18 shots against Porto in December 2020.

The result puts PSG top of the group with four points, just one ahead of Club Brugge and City, who must now turn their attention to a showdown with Liverpool on Sunday.

Guardiola did not appear concerned that Tuesday's loss would have much of an impact on their chances at Anfield, though.

"Now, we are going to eat good tonight, we're going to drink a glass of wine, we're going to recover and we're going to prepare the game on Sunday," he said.

Lionel Messi scored a gorgeous first goal for Paris Saint-Germain as the French side gained a measure of revenge for their 2020-21 Champions League semi-final defeat to Manchester City with a 2-0 win to get off the mark in Group A.

Messi's start to life at PSG had been somewhat muted but he came to life late in the day to seal a hard-fought victory at the Parc des Princes, an important result after a disappointing draw with Club Brugge on matchday one.

PSG made a wonderful start and were quickly in front thanks to Idrissa Gueye, but City had opportunities to pull level, with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva both hitting the crossbar in quick succession.

The visitors were especially dominant in the second period, but they struggled to craft clear-cut chances as PSG picked them off on the break, Messi netting against his former boss Pep Guardiola in the Champions League for a record-extending seventh time.

Gueye may not be renowned for his goalscoring prowess but his eighth-minute finish was his fourth in six this season and a strike of great precision, smashing into the top-right corner when Neymar could not control Kylian Mbappe's cut-back.

The same quality was not exhibited at the other end, though, as Sterling saw his header come back off the bar and Silva inexplicably hit it as well on the rebound.

Kevin De Bruyne escaped a red card for catching Gueye late in the half and he almost set up the equaliser soon after, his corner finding Ruben Dias, whose header tested Gianluigi Donnarumma.

PSG's solid defensive work ensured big chances were otherwise a rare commodity for City, and Messi put the game beyond them 16 minutes from time.

He surged in from the right, played a one-two with Mbappe on the edge of the box and then caressed a first-time finish into the top-right corner.

Lionel Messi will start for Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City in their blockbuster Champions League clash.

Messi has missed PSG's last two games because of a knee injury and was a doubt for the match at the Parc des Princes.

However, he will get the chance to face a City side led by former boss Pep Guardiola, with whom he won three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns during their storied time together at Barcelona.

Messi was named in PSG's starting XI, meaning he will line up alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a frightening front three.

In his pre-match media conference, Guardiola conceded he did not have a plan to stop that trio.

"I don't know, with this amount of quality I don't know what we should do to stop them," he said.

"The talent cannot be stopped – we have to do it as a team. Individually we cannot put the pressure on one player to solve the skills and talents they have.

"We have to be compact, together and help each other, know we are going to suffer and be in pain, and how you handle the pain in these moments…you have to be able to suffer for 90 minutes."

Hoping to help heighten City's suffering will be midfielder Marco Verratti, who had also been troubled by a knee problem.

Verratti sustained the injury while on international duty with Italy and has made only two appearances for PSG this season, the last coming in August when Messi made his debut at Reims.

But Verratti also has a place in the starting XI and will hope to produce a more telling impact than in his previous Champions League appearance, which saw PSG knocked out by City in the semi-finals back in May.

Lionel Messi cannot consider himself the number one player at Paris Saint-Germain and "must serve" Kylian Mbappe, according to Nicolas Anelka.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi joined PSG on a free transfer in August after Barcelona were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed with the Argentina international.

Messi has yet to score or assist in his first three appearances for the Ligue 1 giants and has missed their past two matches with a knee injury.

The 34-year-old is sharing the spotlight with fellow superstar forwards Neymar and Mbappe at the Parc des Princes, the latter of whom is into his fifth season with the club.

Messi and Mbappe have spent a combined 160 minutes on the field together this term and have passed the ball to one another just 18 times.

By comparison, Messi and Neymar linked up on 23 occasions in PSG's recent 2-1 win over Lyon alone.

While Messi was the main man during the majority of his time at Barca, former PSG forward Anelka insists the French club must build their team around Mbappe.

"Mbappe has to lead the attack because he's number one," Anelka told Le Parisien.

"Messi was at Barcelona, but now he has to serve Mbappe. He's been at the club for five years and Messi has to respect him."

 

Mbappe has four goals and four assists in nine games for PSG in all competitions this term, those eight direct goal involvements bettered by only six players across Europe's top five leagues.

The France international has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid after entering the final year of his contract, and Anelka can understand why his compatriot would want to join a new club.

"He's a phenomenal player in terms of his speed – there's no one better on the planet," Anelka said. "If Paris want to have the best team, they have to do everything they can to keep him.

"But I think it's very clear in Kylian's head. He wants to see something else, and that makes sense. He's dreaming of the Ballon d'Or, and how can he win it if he's playing in the sixth-best league [now fifth-best] by UEFA coefficient?

"If Kylian had been in England or Spain for the last three years, he would have already won the Ballon d'Or."

Mbappe is expected to start PSG's Champions League clash against Manchester City on Tuesday, while Messi is also in line to face off against former coach Pep Guardiola after recovering from a knee issue.

Messi was substituted by Mauricio Pochettino in his most recent appearance for PSG, and Anelka fears the pair may now struggle to repair their relationship.

"You don't take off a six-time Ballon d'Or winner in the 65th minute, when he hasn't scored for his team. That plays with his head a lot," he said.

"A forward needs his coach to show him confidence, and that right there won't do it. I'm getting ahead of myself, but Messi will not forget what Pochettino has done. 

"It will stay with him. He's the star of the team, and it was his first game at the Parc des Princes. It's going to be very difficult to recover from that as a situation.

"Messi didn't play against Metz, and for me that's already a response. You can't manage Messi like that. The coach wanted to send out a strong message, which is good, but this is Messi."

Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala have both been included in Argentina's squad, as well as three Premier League players, for World Cup qualifying fixtures in October. 

Messi has been sidelined with a knee injury of late, forcing him to miss two games for Paris Saint-Germain, but could be set to feature against Manchester City in Champions League action on Tuesday. 

Argentina's captain scored a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Bolivia back on September 10, though he has yet to register either a goal or assist for new club PSG. 

Dybala was on target for Juventus on Sunday before having to come off in the 22nd minute of his side's 3-2 win over Sampdoria. 

The Serie A club announced on Monday that the 27-year-old will miss both the Champions League clash with Chelsea and also the derby against Torino due to injury, ruling him out of action until after the international break. 

However, Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has included Dybala in a 30-man squad ahead of upcoming qualifiers against Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru. 

Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero have also been called up, along with Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. 

Argentina remains on the red list for countries for the United Kingdom amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with updated government rules on travel declaring any individual entering the UK from such a destination must undertake a 10-day quarantine period.

Villa are due to host Wolves on October 16 when the Premier League season resumes, while Spurs travel to Newcastle United the following day. 

Argentina squad in full:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Juan Musso (Atalanta), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa) Esteban Andrada (Monterrey); Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Udinese), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla); Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Nicolas Dominguez (Bologna), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla); Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Joaquin Correa (Atletico Madrid), Julian Alarez (River Plate). 

Mauricio Pochettino wants Lionel Messi to be given time to adapt to his new surroundings at Paris Saint-Germain, who are preparing to go up against "the best coach in the world" in Pep Guardiola. 

Messi has yet to score or assist in three appearances since joining PSG on a free transfer amid financial difficulties at Barcelona, but Pochettino is prepared to be patient with the iconic superstar. 

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been struggling with a knee injury of late, though he may be involved when the French club host Manchester City in a titanic Champions League clash. 

"[Messi] is progressing very well, and I think he'll be in the squad, but I don't know if he'll start," Pochettino said in his pre-match media conference ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in the French capital.  

"He's the best player in the world, but he's still a human like everyone else. He also needs to adapt to this new team, new culture and new country. He was at Barcelona for 20 years, everything is new here for him.  

"With time, I have no doubt that everything will go well and we're going to have real success together." 

The former Tottenham and Southampton boss also attempted to downplay expectations as his side chase European glory, claiming that PSG are not yet the finished article - unlike their next opponents. 

"We're a work in progress," Pochettino said. "It's not an opinion, it's a fact. We have to look at where we have come from and where we are today. 

"We're going to face Manchester City and the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola. They're a great team, a club that dreams of winning the Champions League, as we do. They're perhaps ahead of us, but anything can happen in a football match. 

"We're going to try and cause them problems with a lot of desire, determination, and also by applying our ideas and limiting their qualities, and finding weaknesses to exploit. It's a match for the players in which they can show their potential." 

Pochettino also dismissed the idea that the contest with City is their first real challenge of the season, having won all of their first eight Ligue 1 games to sit nine points clear at the top of the table. 

"A first test? I don't think so. We've had a different challenge in each game. The start of the season hasn't been easy because we have got players back gradually. Since we've had a complete squad, we've worked,” he said.

"We know the expectations on us and we know we have to work with responsibility and rigour today, not tomorrow. We have to stand up and be counted when a game comes up." 

There was also an update on the fitness of Marco Verratti, who, like Messi, is set to be part of the squad but may not be ready to start. 

Pep Guardiola freely admitted he has no master plan in mind to contain Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe when Manchester City meet Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

Assuming Messi is fit to feature, this match will be the first time he has gone up against his former boss Guardiola since the six-time Ballon d'Or winner departed Barcelona in August.

Although Messi was handed his Barca breakthrough by Frank Rijkaard, it was under Guardiola that he truly established himself among the best in the world.

He featured 47 times for Guardiola in the Champions League, 18 more than for any other coach, and scored 43 times at an average of one every 92 minutes — among managers he has played more than two games for in the competition, he has only netted with greater frequency under Tata Martino (79 minutes per goal, seven matches).

Of course, this will not be the first time Messi has faced a Guardiola team — he boasts an impressive record haul of six goals in four games against his former mentor, including a hat-trick when Barca beat City 4-0 back in October 2016.

"This type of player speaks for himself on the pitch," Guardiola told a news conference on Monday. "I don't have to add anything else.

"We are fortunate to see him in his 15, 16 years… I don't know how many years since he turned professional.

"He speaks for himself. I don't have to talk about him. What he's done in his career is more than exceptional and hopefully tomorrow he can play for the good of the game.

"[Messi leaving Barca] was a surprise for everyone, but it happened and everyone accepts it.

"A long time ago or even few years ago you couldn't imagine it, but you never know what happens. I'm pretty sure he'll be happy there in Paris."

Messi has got off to a slow start in France, with a late arrival due to the Copa America delaying his debut and then the first international break of the season interrupted his settling-in period. He also missed the win over Montpellier due to a minor knee knock.

As such, he has played just three times for PSG and is yet to score, but Guardiola knows all too well what Messi is capable of and believes Mauricio Pochettino's front three have the talent to be up there with the best attacks he has faced.

"Yes, they have the quality," Guardiola said when asked if PSG's frontline could challenge Jurgen Klopp's Premier League-winning Liverpool attack and Luis Enrique's famed 'MSN' strikeforce.

"Both teams you mention had incredible players up front and good organisation and I think the manager from PSG can do it. The players they have upfront is the level of the previous teams I mentioned, of course they can do it.

"Football needs time, normally the people of football don't give it to us, but of course the qualities of the players… For many years PSG always have top players, being conducted by top, top managers, that's why always in the league, cups, Europe, they are there.

"We know exactly how difficult it is, maybe the most difficult, but at the same time we try to do our game knowing how good they are individually and collectively."

Pressed on whether he had an idea of how to stop Messi, Neymar and Mbappe, Guardiola said with a resigned chuckle: "I don't know, with this amount of quality I don't know what we should do to stop them.

"Honestly, they're so good. This amount of talent altogether to be controlled, it's so difficult. We try to defend well when we don't have the ball and try to let them run when we have the ball.

"They're exceptional players, everyone knows it. Individually they are so good, they can combine and connect with each other.

"The three players up front they can do whatever they want, play wide, narrow, one right and one left, they can combine well and have the quality.

"The talent cannot be stopped — we have to do it as a team. Individually we cannot put the pressure on one player to solve the skills and talents they have.

"We have to be compact, together and help each other, know we are going to suffer and be in pain, and how you handle the pain in these moments…you have to be able to suffer for 90 minutes."

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."

Lionel Messi is set to miss a second game in a row for Paris Saint-Germain, with their Champions League blockbuster against Manchester City on the horizon.

Messi was absent for PSG's dramatic 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Metz because of a knee injury, that victory maintaining their 100 per cent record in the league.

They will be expected to continue that run when Montpellier visit the Parc des Princes on Sunday despite Messi again being unavailable.

Defeating City, who prevailed against PSG 4-1 on aggregate in last season's Champions League semi-finals, without Messi on Tuesday would be substantially more difficult.

In a medical update released on Friday, PSG said: "Leo Messi started running again today in line with his treatment protocol."

The club added that Messi will be re-evaluated on Sunday, meaning a potential reunion with Pep Guardiola, with whom he won three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns during their time together at Barcelona, remains in doubt.

PSG were held to a 1-1 draw by Club Brugge in their opening Group A encounter.

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

 

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