Mauricio Pochettino has insisted Kylian Mbappe is a "fantastic guy" after the Paris Saint-Germain star came in for criticism following the midweek win over Metz. 

PSG won 2-1 on Wednesday thanks to Achraf Hakimi's last-gasp winner, after Metz captain Dylan Bronn had received a second yellow card for kicking the ball away to waste time, with coach Frederic Antonetti then seeing red for his protestations on the touchline. 

As PSG celebrated Hakimi scoring, Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja charged out to confront some of Pochettino's players, seemingly angered by the nature of their celebrations, with Mbappe the main target of his remonstrations.  

Speaking in his post-match news conference, Antonetti hit out at Mbappe, who he claimed needed to be humble in his behaviour on the field.

Pochettino, however, defended Mbappe on Friday, saying incidents within a match must be taken within that context. 

"I understand that the coach was angry. That is a natural reaction," said Pochettino. 

"You have to take the context into account, especially when considering after losing a game in the 95th minute, I can empathise with Fred for being angry about the situation. 

"Kylian Mbappe is a fantastic guy, he is a top competitor who wants to win, always. 

"These things happen on the pitch, but I don't think they need to be carried off the pitch as well in terms of the situations with him and some Metz players. 

"These incidents cannot be taken out of context, they have to be analysed within a match in which both teams want to win and many things happen, so that cannot be used out of context. 

"That doesn't reflect the reality of who Kylian is, but I can understand the frustration on their behalf." 

 

Mbappe had a game-leading three attempts, level with Neymar and Hakimi, while the 22-year-old also created four chances, more than any other player. 

He had 76 touches and came out on top in 63.6 per cent of his 11 duels, while also winning three fouls, another game high, though only Neymar (34) lost possession more times than the France forward (18). 

With Lionel Messi out injured, the onus will be on Neymar and Mbappe to spearhead PSG's attack against Montpellier on Saturday. 

Mbappe has been involved in 11 goals against Montpellier in Ligue 1 (eight goals, three assists), more than any other current team in the competition. 

After failing to be involved in either goal against Metz, however, he will be aiming to make sure he does not feature in successive league matches without scoring or assisting for the first time since February. 

Kylian Mbappe must behave differently if he is to be universally adored, according to Metz coach Frederic Antonetti.

Paris Saint-Germain continued their 100 per cent record in Ligue 1 this season as Achraf Hakimi, who had also opened the scoring, netted a stoppage-time winner with the last kick of the game against Metz on Wednesday.

Hakimi's goal came four minutes after Metz captain Dylan Bronn had received a second yellow card for kicking the ball away to waste time, with Antonetti then seeing red for his protestations on the touchline, the furious coach even going as far as gesturing with two fists towards the referee after his dismissal.

As PSG celebrated Hakimi's winner moments later, Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja charged out to confront Mauricio Pochettino's players, seemingly angered by the nature of their celebrations.

Mbappe, who had in the 83rd minute inadvertently gone close to lobbing Oukidja with a return of possession after Metz had kicked the ball out of play for an injury, appeared to be the main target of the goalkeeper's remonstrations, which continued after the final whistle.

Speaking in his post-match news conference, Antonetti hit out at the PSG star, who he suggested had grown frustrated after a poor performance.

"Kylian Mbappe had better behave differently if he wants to be loved," Antonetti said.

"I love this player, he is very, very strong, but he would benefit from having a more humble behaviour.

"In the game he had been non-existent. It happens when he cannot find space."

The statistics from Wednesday's game would not wholly back up Antonetti's claim over Mbappe's display, however.

Mbappe had a game-leading three attempts, level with Neymar and Hakimi, while the 22-year-old also created four chances, more than any other player.

He had 76 touches and came out on top in 63.6 per cent of his 11 duels, while also winning three fouls, another game high, though only Neymar (34) lost possession more times than the France forward (18).

It was, however, the first time Mbappe had failed to score or assist a goal in a Ligue 1 appearance against Metz, in what was his sixth such match.

The former Monaco prodigy had managed one assist against Metz in October 2016, scored a hat-trick the following February, an assist and a goal in September 2017, a goal in March 2018 and a double in April this year.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino hailed Achraf Hakimi after his brace preserved the Ligue 1 giants' perfect start to the season on Wednesday.

Hakimi scored a last-gasp winner as Lionel Messi-less PSG maintained their 100 per cent record in a dramatic 2-1 victory at Metz midweek.

PSG full-back Hakimi had opened the scoring in the fifth minute, only for Pochettino's men to be pegged back by Kiki Kouyate's 39th-minute header.

Without superstar Messi due to a knee injury, PSG looked to have run out of ideas, but Dylan Bronn's dismissal for a second yellow card set up a thrilling finish.

Metz head coach Frederic Antonetti was sent off for his protestations and moments later Hakimi scored a 95th-minute winner as PSG made it seven victories from seven league fixtures.

"I am indeed happy with him, he's a great guy, he's a player who's really bringing a lot to us, not just the goals, but also his capacity on the sideline to play both defensively and offensively," Pochettino said during his post-match news conference.

"I am very happy with him, and today, scoring goals, it's been an important reward for the team and for him."

Hakimi – an off-season signing from Serie A champions Inter – has been involved in 13 league goals in 2021 (six goals and seven assists), no defender has done better in the top five European competitions.

This was Hakimi's second brace in the top five European leagues after December 2020, with Inter against Bologna.

Pochettino added: "Can I tell an anecdote on Hakimi? Yesterday [Tuesday], after the training, I asked him: 'How are you?' And he said: 'Very well, very well'. And then he replied: 'And you coach? How are you?'

"I was surprised by the question. 'Because no one ever asks you!'. 'You ask everyone, but no one ever asks you'. And look, today he scored goals. That's the reward for having good intentions."

Pochettino also praised PSG star Neymar, who set up Hakimi's stoppage-time winner away to Metz.

Neymar has been involved in 16 goals in his last 16 starts in Ligue 1 (10 goals and six assists).

"I am very happy with Ney and with his contribution to the team," Pochettino added. "For his attitude and mindset. I am very happy. What I believe is that creative players, players who the whole world hopes they show magic with every touch, those players spend extra energy that other players don't have.

"Therefore it would be unfair to have a player like Ney play every three days hoping that every ball he touches he makes the play of the year. I am very happy with Ney and I think today he did a massive job, like last Sunday. Playing every three day, especially for a players who's got to create constantly, is not easy. Because of that, I am very happy with his performance. Very happy of it."

PSG have won their first seven Ligue 1 games in 2021-22. Only four teams have managed such a performance at this stage previously in the top flight – Lille in 1936-37, Lille in 1949-50, Monaco in 1960-61 and PSG in 2018-19.

Achraf Hakimi scored a last-gasp winner as Paris Saint-Germain maintained their 100 per cent record in dramatic fashion with a 2-1 vitory at Metz.

Hakimi had opened the scoring in the fifth minute, only for PSG to pegged back by Kiki Kouyate's 39th-minute header.

Deprived of Lionel Messi's services because of a knee injury, PSG looked to have run out of ideas, but Dylan Bronn's dismissal for a second yellow card set in motion a thrilling and fractious finish.

Metz coach Frederic Antonetti was sent off for his protestations and moments later Hakimi lashed the winner into the bottom corner in the 95th minute, prompting a furious response from Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja as PSG made it seven wins from seven.

A long evening appeared to be in store for Metz when PSG broke the deadlock in impressive fashion. Mauro Icardi's delicate chip was cleared off the line by Matthieu Udol, who could not repeat the feat to prevent Hakimi's follow-up from crossing the line.

Yet PSG failed to make the most of their first-half dominance. The visitors enjoyed three-quarters of the possession in the opening period but were pegged back from a set-piece as Kouyate met Lamine Gueye's corner with a powerful header that proved too strong for Keylor Navas.

Gueye could have completed the turnaround on the stroke of half-time, but he failed to find a way past Navas when sent through on goal by Ibrahima Niane.

Neymar fizzed an effort past the near post as PSG sought to regain their lead and the Brazil star was to the fore again when Hakimi blazed high across the face of goal from his clever lofted pass.

Kylian Mbappe almost caught Oukidja off his line with a long-range free-kick, and that should have been Metz's last scare. But there was a twist in the tale as captain Bronn received a second caution for time-wasting having kicked the ball away, with Hakimi cutting in and converting from another superb Neymar pass after Antonetti had seen red.

Lionel Messi has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 trip to Metz on Wednesday with a knee injury that also renders him doubtful for a reunion with Pep Guardiola next week.

The Argentina international sustained the problem during PSG's late 2-1 win against Lyon on Sunday as they made it six wins from six to begin their new league campaign.

Messi made his home debut in that match but was substituted off with the scores level, meaning he has yet to score in three appearances since joining from Barcelona last month.

PSG will not have Messi in their squad to face Metz at Stade Saint-Symphorien, with that game coming six days before a Champions League trip to Guardiola's Manchester City.

The French giants confirmed the injury blow in an injury update posted on their official website on Tuesday.

"Messi, following the blow received on his left knee, underwent an MRI which confirms the signs of bone contusion," the update read. "A new test will be carried out in 48 hours."

PSG also confirmed that Marco Verratti returned to training on Tuesday, while Sergio Ramos – yet to feature since joining from Real Madrid – is continuing to train individually.

Pochettino's decision to bring on Achraf Hakimi for Messi with his side chasing a goal against Lyon dominated all the talk after last weekend's contest.

Messi was involved in six shots (four attempts, two chances created) – only Kylian Mbappe against Clermont (seven) has managed better in a league game for PSG this term.

Pochettino insisted there were "no issues" with Messi when speaking after the game and has once again defended his decision to bring off the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I understand the situation and accept it as it is," Pochettino said at a news conference on Tuesday previewing the clash with Metz.

"The priority is always the players and their well-being. We thought the best decision was to take him off. But of course, all champions want to be on the pitch all the time."

Asked to elaborate on Messi's injury, Pochettino said: "The club have already communicated that. During the match we saw he was checking his knee after being struck.

"When we saw that we made a decision. We were happy with his performance and I am happy with his commitment. He didn't score but was otherwise very good."

Mbappe had a quiet game against Lyon before assisting Mauro Icardi's late winner as he touched the ball just five times in the opposition box and failed to get a shot on target.

The Frenchman spearheaded a 4-2-3-1 formation that also included Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria in attack and Pochettino insists it will take time for system to work.

"We have to create these connections in training over time, not just in matches," Pochettino said. "We used a 4-2-3-1 against Lyon and that's not the same as we've used before.

"That's why I was happy with the team's performance. We were also organised in defence and recovered balls high up the pitch.

"Leo, Neymar and Di Maria know each other well and have already built a connection. Now we have to integrate Kylian into the side and that will take a while."

Mbappe is expected to start against Metz on Wednesday, an opponent he has either scored or assisted against in all five previous Ligue 1 encounters.

PSG also have a great record against Metz, having defeated them in 10 successive league fixtures in a run stretching back to August 2007.

Is Kylian Mbappe's future nearing a resolution?

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season and the Paris Saint-Germain forward is no closer to extending his contract in the
French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly poised to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING MBAPPE DEAL?

Real Madrid are closing in on Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Monday's Marca.

Mbappe is in the final year of his PSG contract and he has reportedly made it clear he has no intention of re-signing in Paris.

Long touted to join Madrid, the LaLiga giants' pursuit of Mbappe is set to enter a decisive phase this week.

The Transfer Window podcast, however, claims Liverpool will attempt to sign Mbappe on a free transfer at the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Barcelona are monitoring Arsenal pair Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as they look to rebuild following Lionel Messi's departure to PSG.

- Inter are eyeing Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne but want a discount on the Italy star, claims Sky Sport Italia. Napoli value Insigne at around €25-30million with one year remaining on his contract. Lazio's Joaquin Correa, Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata and Fiorentina sensation Dusan Vlahovic have also been linked to Inter.

- Sport Italia says Tottenham are in talks with Fiorentina for centre-back Nikola Milenkovic, who has been linked with West Ham. Spurs are also keen on Fiorentina star Vlahovic, according to Sport Italia.

- According to Cadena SER, Antoine Griezmann is open to returning to Atletico Madrid this off-season. Griezmann swapped Atletico for Barca in 2019.

Luka Jovic has decided he wants to join Inter on loan, per Nerazzurri Siamo Noi. The Madrid outcast has also been linked with Eintracht Frankfurt, Sampdoria and Genoa.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are tracking Metz's 18-year-old midfielder Pape Matar Sarr, claims the Daily Mail.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe is not thought to be in danger of missing Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester City despite sustaining a knock on Saturday.

Mbappe scored two of PSG's goals in their straightforward 3-1 win at Metz, a victory that lifted the Parisians back to the top of the table – at least until Sunday.

Those goals took Mbappe to 19 goal involvements away from home this season, more than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues, while only Erling Haaland (10) and Robert Lewandowski (nine) have more braces.

It continued the France striker's hot streak, taking him to nine goals in seven league games having previously only netted four times in nine top-flight matches.

There was a cause for concern late on as Mbappe suffered what appeared to be a heavy blow to his knee, with the 22-year-old subsequently substituted.

But Pochettino is not worried about his star man, who would be a major miss against City.

"It's a blow to the quads," Pochettino told Canal Plus. "I don't think it's much, we hope it's not serious.

"I don't think he's in danger for Wednesday. It's just a blow. It does not give us that impression [that he'll miss the City game].

"Kylian was calm at the time of his substitution, even though the blow was painful."

Marco Verratti, who also assured fans regarding Mbappe, felt that winning on Saturday was vital for ensuring a positive mentality going into the City clash and keeping the pressure on title rivals Lille, who face fourth-placed Lyon on Sunday.

"You have to win if you want to win this title," the Italy international said. "We want to win as many games as possible.

"I think we are having a good run. We are happy with what we have done so far.

"We are on our way to winning all the titles. We are coming into this match [City game] in the best possible way. We know that we meet a team like us who can also achieve a treble.

"They have confidence in themselves. It's going to be a nice game. We know that we have to be 100 per cent.

"We are there, we are ready. We will fight for 90 minutes on Wednesday. Then we will move on to the return leg."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a straightforward 3-1 victory at Metz on Saturday to put the pressure back on Lille in the Ligue 1 title race.

By no means were Mauricio Pochettino's side outstanding as a collective at Stade Saint-Symphorien, but Mbappe was, the France striker deadly in front of goal as he took his league tally to 25 for the campaign.

Mbappe's first arrived early on as PSG initially appeared in the mood, though they faded somewhat and failed to build on that goal despite Metz offering precious little themselves.

At least, that was the case until the break. Metz levelled just 49 seconds into the second half thanks to Fabien Centonze as PSG looked in danger of dropping points for the third time in six games, but Mbappe's deflected effort just before the hour restored the Parisians' lead and a late Mauro Icardi penalty ensured there was no collapse from the defending champions, who go two points clear of Lille.

PSG looked bright at the start as they took the lead after just four minutes, Mbappe racing on to Ander Herrera's pass over the Metz defence and volleying in off the post after bringing the ball under control with his chest.

Though that was hardly a prelude to unrelenting PSG pressure as they did not carve out another clear chance for another 22 minutes, with Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja this time able to deny Mbappe.

The visitors then felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty late in the half as the lively Mbappe went down right on the edge of the area, though replays suggested there was minimal contact.

It was 1-1 quickly after the restart, as Centonze turned in Farid Boulaya's cross in what was a rare moment of attacking intent from the home side.

Parity did not remain for long, however, as Mbappe received the ball just outside the Metz area in the 59th minute and his rasping drive took a slight deflection to take it out of Oukidja's reach.

It looked like dominant PSG might not increase their lead in the latter stages, with Mbappe denied a hat-trick by a remarkable goalline clearance from Boulaya and Herrera smashing against the crossbar. 

But Dylan Bronn's clumsy foul on substitute Icardi in the box led to a penalty, which the Argentinian converted with a cheeky 'Panenka' as PSG return to the summit at least until Sunday. 

What does it mean? All eyes on Lille as PSG avoid shock ahead of pivotal week 

Given how often PSG have dropped points this season, few would have claimed this was a foregone conclusion beforehand, even with Metz's shoddy form in recent weeks. 

With that said, PSG's display was professional if not exceptional and it got the job done. Lille go to Lyon on Sunday needing to win to end the weekend as leaders, but an OL side still chasing Champions League qualification will not make it easy. 

PSG can now look forward to their date with Manchester City in the Champions League in midweek having not increased the heat on themselves. 

Neymar provides the spark 

While Mbappe takes the headlines with his brace, Neymar certainly warrants a mention. The Brazilian may not have been particular accurate in front of goal, with none of his four shots accurate, but he made five key passes in his 81 minutes on the pitch.  

A day to forget for Bronn 

Granted, there were few Metz players bar Boulaya who impressed, but Bronn will be particularly frustrated with himself. His foul to concede the penalty was brainless, as he recklessly swung his back leg out and caught Icardi. That killed the game off. 

What's next? 

PSG turn their attention to the Champions League now, with City visiting for the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday before hosting Lens in Ligue 1 three days later. Metz go to Dijon next Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a straightforward 3-1 victory at Metz on Saturday to put the pressure back on Lille in the Ligue 1 title race.

By no means were Mauricio Pochettino's side outstanding as a collective at Stade Saint-Symphorien, but Mbappe was, the France striker deadly in front of goal as he took his league tally to 25 for the campaign.

Mbappe's first arrived early on as PSG initially appeared in the mood, though they faded somewhat and failed to build on that goal despite Metz offering precious little themselves.

At least, that was the case until the break. Metz levelled just 49 seconds into the second half thanks to Fabien Centonze as PSG looked in danger of dropping points for the third time in six games, but Mbappe's deflected effort just before the hour restored the Parisians' lead and a late Mauro Icardi penalty ensured there was no collapse from the defending champions.

PSG looked bright at the start as they took the lead after just four minutes, Mbappe racing on to Ander Herrera's pass over the Metz defence and volleying in off the post after bringing the ball under control with his chest.

Though that was hardly a prelude to unrelenting PSG pressure as they did not carve out another clear chance for another 22 minutes, with Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja this time able to deny Mbappe.

The visitors then felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty late in the half as the lively Mbappe went down right on the edge of the area, though replays suggested there was minimal contact.

It was 1-1 quickly after the restart, as Centonze turned in Farid Boulaya's cross in what was a rare moment of attacking intent from the home side.

Parity did not remain for long, however, as Mbappe received the ball just outside the Metz area in the 59th minute and his rasping drive took a slight deflection to take it out of Oukidja's reach.

It looked like dominant PSG might not increase their lead in the latter stages, with Mbappe denied a hat-trick by a remarkable goalline clearance from Boulaya and Herrera smashing against the crossbar. 

But Dylan Bronn's clumsy foul on substitute Icardi in the box led to a penalty, which the Argentinian converted with a cheeky 'Panenka' as PSG return to the summit at least until Sunday. 

Mauricio Pochettino knows the importance of rotation within his squad as Paris Saint-Germain prepare to fight on three fronts in the closing weeks of the season.

PSG secured a place in the Coupe de France semi-finals in midweek thanks to a 5-0 win over Angers, striker Mauro Icardi scoring a hat-trick on his return following a month out with injury.

Marco Verratti is also available again after overcoming COVID-19, though Pochettino did not reveal if the Italian midfielder will make his first start for the club since March 21 in Saturday's Ligue 1 trip to Metz.

As well as bidding to complete a league and cup double on the domestic front, PSG also have a Champions League semi-final coming up against Manchester City - they host the English side in the first leg on Wednesday.

"We need to manage the squad and the players well for every game so that we always send out a competitive team," Pochettino told the media on Friday.

"We have been playing every three days for three and a half months now and if we want to achieve our goals, all the players will be important.

"They will all need to take part and perform at a high standard, especially if we want to win all three competitions that we are competing in.

"We are happy with the team and the players and the effort they are making. Our idea is to always improve and evolve.

"We want to be better in every game. We are going to enter the most important part of the season, and we want to win all the competitions in which we are involved."

PSG sit a point behind leaders Lille in the table with five games to go as they chase a 10th Ligue 1 title.

They have won their previous nine league meetings against weekend opponents Metz, scoring 28 goals in the process at an average of 3.1 per game.

For Pochettino, making use of the resources he has available to him within the squad is crucial, considering the schedule during a campaign played out amid the backdrop of a health pandemic.

"It is not an advantage or a disadvantage. It is a case of adapting to the circumstances that we have never lived through in or life or in football," he replied when asked about constantly changing the starting line-up.

"It is down to the reasons and the circumstances which have meant that with COVID-19, our team has not been consistent in terms of having the same team.

"That is just a reality but is has nothing to with transfers in the future. It is to do with the circumstances we have had to live through with coronavirus and injuries. It doesn't just apply to us either, it goes for almost every club in the world.

"On top of that, we have been playing every three days, so rotation is needed to put out a competitive team and a fresh team at all times."

Metz are winless in their previous six Ligue 1 games (D2 L4) while PSG have won their past five away on the spin, their best run on the road since November 2019-February 2020.

Raheem Sterling has lost his place in the Manchester City starting line-up prompting fresh speculation.

Phil Foden has taken Sterling's role with devastating effect, including scoring the winner in their midweek Champions League triumph over Borussia Dortmund.

Sterling's contract talks have also been shelved for the season, fuelling the rumours.

 

TOP STORY - REAL REIGNITE RAHEEM INTEREST

Real Madrid have reignited their interest in Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling according to the Daily Star.

Sterling is contracted with City for another two seasons, putting them in a strong position to hang on to the England international with a reported £80million price tag.

But regular football and the lure of Madrid could be compelling for Sterling who joined City from Liverpool in 2015 for £44m.

 

ROUND-UP

-The Daily Star reports that Paul Pogba's agent Mino Raiola has informed Manchester United that he will only re-sign for a mammoth £500,000-a-week contract. Interested clubs Juventus, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have also been informed of his wage demands.

-Adama Traore will be offloaded by Wolverhampton as they seek to raise funds for their off-season recruitment reports Football Insider.

-Mundo Deportivo claims that Tottenham are keen to sign Real Betis defender Emerson, having shown interest last off-season.

-Manchester United are homing in on 18-year-old Metz midfielder Pape Sarr according to The Sun although they will face plenty of competition.

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