Lionel Messi is in line to make his 150th Champions League appearance and his first with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's men travel to Club Brugge and Messi is about to partake in his first European campaign without Barcelona, while Manchester City host RB Leipzig.

Liverpool and Milan renew rivalries in the competition for just the second time since the 2004-05 final between the pair but the Serie A side have a woeful record against English teams.

Inter have a similarly poor record against Spanish teams and they face Real Madrid, with Karim Benzema edging towards another goalscoring landmark.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Wednesday's fixtures.

Inter v Real Madrid: Benzema looks to edge past former Galactico Raul 

Inter have lost four of their last five against Real Madrid but Los Blancos have only won one of their previous eight away games against Wednesday's opponents as they prepare for a replay of last year's group stage outing.

However, Inter have not won against a Spanish team in Europe's premier competition since 2010 and Madrid have been victorious in 12 of their last 13 against Serie A outfits.

Carlo Ancelotti has Karim Benzema among his ranks and the forward will appear in his 17th consecutive campaign as he looks for his 72nd goal to move ahead of Raul (71) into fourth in the all-time scoring list.

 

Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Guardiola's group stage dominance

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 17 group-stage ties and, since Pep Guardiola was appointed, they have lost just three of 30 at this stage of the competition.

The hosts are eyeing their 50th win in their 91st game as they look to become the second fastest to the half-century, while RB Leipzig have lost three of their last four against English opposition.

City's attacking riches could thrive at Etihad Stadium, too, Ferran Torres has scored four in his last six appearances in Europe - a goal every 90 minutes - and Riyad Mahrez has been involved in 22 goals in 28 starts for Leicester City and his current side in the Champions League.

 

Liverpool v Milan: Istanbul replay ends Rossoneri's seven-year wait

Milan will appear in their first Champions League since 2014, their first fixture a replay of the memorable 2004-05 final that saw Liverpool triumph.

Stefano Pioli's men have won just one of their last 13 against English opponents in European competition, while the Reds have lost just one of their last 12 group-stage games at Anfield in Europe under Jurgen Klopp.

Mohamed Salah (25) is one of two Liverpool players – along with Steven Gerrard (21) – to score 20+ times in the competition but Sadio Mane (19) could join them with a goal on Wednesday to become the fourth African to the 20-goal mark.

 

Club Brugge v Paris Saint-Germain: Pochettino's attacking riches

Paris Saint-Germain have netted 21 goals across six games against Belgian opposition – winning five and drawing once – while Club Brugge have only won one of their six opening games.

Lionel Messi – the second all-time leading scorer in the competition – could make his first PSG continental appearance, having scored 120 goals and provided 35 assists in 149 games for Barcelona against teams from 17 nations.

The visitors also boast half of the six players to be involved in 30+ goals in the competition in the last four seasons, with Kylian Mbappe (37), Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Other fixtures:

Atletico Madrid v Porto:

41 – Diego Simeone has won 41 of the 79 Champions League fixtures he has managed since 2013-14, with only Pep Guardiola (56) picking up more wins in this period.

4 – Porto have won four of their last five away games in the competition, their only loss coming against eventual runners-up Manchester City last term.

Besiktas v Borussia Dortmund:

1 – Besiktas have only collected one win in their last 10 home games in the Champions League and two of four defeats in that run have come against Bundesliga sides.

100 – Borussia Dortmund have a 100 per cent record against Turkish opposition in the Champions League, though all four wins have come against Galatasaray.

Sheriff Tiraspol v Shakhtar Donetsk:

1 – Sheriff Tiraspol are the first ever Moldovan team to feature in the Champions League proper. They are unbeaten in their last nine in European competition.

3 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only been beaten three times in their last 11 games as they went unbeaten against Real Madrid and Inter in the group stages last season.

Sporting CP v Ajax:

36 – Aged just 36, Ruben Amorim becomes the second youngest Portuguese manager in the competition's history, after former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas (33) in 2011.

2 – Ajax have only lost two of 10 games against Portuguese opponents since the inaugural European Cup. However, just two of these games have taken place this century.

Harry Kane's attempt to leave Tottenham did not go according to plan before the transfer window closed.

Despite interest from Manchester City, Kane remains in London with Spurs.

Kane could be prepared to sign another contract at Tottenham…

 

TOP STORY – NEW DEAL FOR KANE?

Tottenham star Harry Kane is open to a contract extension if the offer includes a release clause, according to Eurosport.

Kane wanted to leave Tottenham in the off-season, but a move did not materialise, despite interest from Premier League champions Manchester City.

The England striker, though, could be willing to re-sign on one condition.

Paris Saint-Germain, JuventusReal Madrid and Barcelona have previously been linked with Kane.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus could face competition from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for City forward Gabriel Jesus, reports Calciomercato. Juve are keen to bolster their attack following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit but face a battle should Robert Lewandowski leave Bayern. Lewandowski has been linked with the likes of City and Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano claims United are planning to offer Luke Shaw a new contract at Old Trafford. However, United are prioritising new deals for Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Liverpool are among the contenders to sign Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, says 90min. Haaland has been linked with United, City, Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Juve and PSG but 90min claims Liverpool have held talks with his agent Mino Raiola.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo does not anticipate Kylian Mbappe leaving the Ligue 1 giants at the end of the season as he criticised the behaviour of Real Madrid.

PSG reportedly rejected three bids – the last one said to be worth up to €200million – from Madrid for Mbappe, whose contract expires at the end of the current campaign.

Mbappe is yet to re-sign in Paris, where PSG are determined to retain the World Cup-winning 22-year-old star.

LaLiga powerhouse Madrid are believed to be readying a move for Mbappe on a free transfer, but Leonardo made it clear PSG do not see their future without the France international.

"We were not happy with the behaviour of Real Madrid," Leonardo told Canal+. "Starting negotiations for one of the best players in the world in the last week of the transfer market generated a situation that we did not like.

"We were clear about our position with the offer. It was not enough, it was smaller than what we paid. The last offer they talked about never came. You can't organise a transfer market for two, three or four months and change your plans like that.

"I don't see Mbappe leaving at the end of this season. Nobody is thinking about the future of Paris Saint-Germain without Kylian.

"Kylian sort of represents the difference between the superficial and the deep. Kylian's relationship with Paris Saint-Germain is deep. That's why we don't think about anything else.

"Kylian represents many things. Not only because he is French or one of the best players in the world. He has a way of being that we like and one that everyone likes."

PSG are preparing to open their Champions League campaign at Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season, only Robert Lewandowski (41) has been directly involved in more goals in the Champions League than Mbappe (37 – 21 goals, 16 assists).

Across the last four Champions League campaigns (since 2017-18), only six players have been directly involved in 30-plus goals in the competition. Half of these currently play for PSG, with Mbappe (37), Lionel Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Carlo Ancelotti is hoping to make history by landing a fourth Champions League title this season but is unsure where his Real Madrid rank among the favourites to win the competition.

The experienced Italian coach is level with Liverpool great Bob Paisley and former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane with three triumphs in the competition previously known as the European Cup.

Ancelotti famously ended Madrid's 12-year wait for 'La Decima' – a 10th European crown – when beating Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the 2013-14 final in Lisbon.

Los Blancos went on to win the competition in three successive seasons under Zidane, during which time Ancelotti was boss of Bayern Munich and Napoli, before a spell with Everton.

Back at the Santiago Bernabeu since June, Ancelotti is out to become the most successful ever coach in the continental competition, having also twice gone all the way with Milan.

"It's a great motivation," he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's opening group game against Inter.

"But the biggest motivation of all is to come back and win with Real Madrid. The joy is to go to Valdebebas every day to coach the team.

"For me this competition is special. I also won it as a player and I have excellent memories, especially winning Madrid's 10th. It is a fresh and special memory."

Ancelotti's 76 per cent win rate across his 25 Champions League games with Madrid is the best of any coach at a single club to have managed at least 20 matches.

He will be looking to build on that return on Wednesday when Madrid travel to San Siro for their much-anticipated Group D opener with Italian champions Inter.

Los Blancos will fancy their chances of advancing from a group that also contains Shakhtar Donetsk and debutants Sheriff Tiraspol, but trickier tests would then lie in wait.

Paris Saint-Germain are the trophy favourites of many after adding Lionel Messi to their ranks, while Bayern Munich and England's four-strong contingent are also much-fancied.

"It's hard to say whether we can be considered among the favourites," Ancelotti said when asked where his side currently rank among Europe's elite clubs.

"What I can say is that Madrid will be competitive all the way. To say whether we're favourites is too difficult. We'll just try to fight for everything."

Madrid have won only one of their previous eight away games against Inter in European competition, though that victory came in last season's group stage.

Both teams have a new head coach in the dugout 10 months on from that previous encounter, with Simone Inzaghi replacing Antonio Conte at Inter ahead of this season.

Inter dropped their first points of the season on Sunday with a 2-2 draw against Sampdoria, while Madrid saw off Celta Vigo 5-2 to make it three wins from four this term.

"Inter are doing well so far," Ancelotti said. "We did well in our last game against Celta, but tomorrow will be another story. It's a competition that gives Madrid great sensations.

"We know it will be complicated. Inter have a new coach but the structure is the same. We'll try to control the game and play to our best.

"They have lost important players but have also signed some important players. They are a team that play good football. It will be an open and competitive match."

Ancelotti also confirmed that full-back Marcelo will play no part against Inter because of an injury, while Gareth Bale also remains absent.

Karim Benzema insisted Real Madrid are not overly dependent on his goals as Carlo Ancelotti's men prepare to face Inter in Wednesday's Champions League clash.

Madrid open their campaign with a trip to San Siro, having won just one of their previous eight away games against Inter in European competition.

Benzema, who is set to feature in his 17th consecutive Champions League, needs just one goal to overtake Raul and become the all-time fourth highest scorer in the competition.

However, the forward deflected questions as to whether his side are too reliant on his output and chose to focus on the team dynamic of Los Blancos.

"Real Madrid are a very strong team," Benzema said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. "What I need to do is try to help my team with assists and goals. We have to win something and that is a collective effort.

"The Champions League is a different competition and we must try to do everything to win games.

"It's the most important competition. There are favourites, but something different often happens on the pitch, we have a good team and we will fight to win this Champions [League]."

Benzema also quashed suggestions that Madrid's new front three, which he has formed recently with Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior, could recreate what he had with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I don't know, together we have done many things and many goals and that trident will remain in history," Benzema said.

"Vini [Vinicius Junior] is a strong player, he has grown and in this beginning of LaLiga he is scoring a lot. I am always by his side, I talk to him, if I can I talk to him and advise him because he is a top player.

"Now, however, let's think about today, about scoring and winning games."

Bernd Leno's future at Emirates Stadium is up in the air.

Aaron Ramsdale's arrival, on a deal that could reach a reported £30million, put Leno's first-choice position in jeopardy.

The 29-year-old German joined Arsenal in 2018 and has been number one since.

TOP STORY - ARSENAL CONSIDERS LENO SALE

Arsenal are contemplating selling German goalkeeper Leno next year following Ramsdale's arrival, claims the Daily Mail.

Ramsdale was selected ahead of Leno in Arsenal's 1-0 win over Norwich City on Saturday after the German had an indifferent start to the season

The report claims there is little chance Arsenal will sell Leno in January but that the Gunners signed Ramsdale believing he may usurp the German by the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- As Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid circle, Paul Pogba is leaning towards extending his stay with Manchester United claims The Athletic. The report cites Cristiano Ronaldo's impact at United on Pogba's thinking.

- West Ham United have placed a £100 million price tag on in-demand Declan Rice with  Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all jostling for his signature according to Football.London.

- French midfielder Thomas Lemar is expendable following Antoine Griezmann's arrival and could be sold by Spanish champions Atletico Madrid claims Todo Fichajes. Atletico wants to raise transfer funds to bolster their squad.

- Football Insider claims that Bayern Munich are already working on signing Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner next year, with a January move not ruled out.

- Chelsea will open talks with England international midfielder Mason Mount on a new long-term deal according to 90min.

- Arsenal target Houssem Aouar will not leave Olympique Lyon mid-season reports Todo Fichajes.

Mauricio Pochettino admitted he is lost for words when it comes to describing Lionel Messi but said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has settled in quickly at Paris Saint-Germain ahead of his Champions League debut for the club.

PSG signed Messi in August when financial issues left Barcelona unable to retain him, and he played 24 minutes of his new club's Ligue 1 victory over Reims before the international break.

Messi, who won the Champions League four times with Barcelona, is set to make his bow in the competition for PSG against Club Brugge on Wednesday, and Pochettino told UEFA.com that he is preparing well.

When asked to describe his compatriot, Pochettino said: "I may not be the most appropriate person to describe him. There are many more people who have a wider vocabulary to describe him closer to the reality Leo deserves.

"He will always be considered among the best in the world. Since he arrived, he has really adapted very quickly and he's been training very well, trying to achieve his highest level as soon as possible to compete at his best.

"I didn't think it was possible [that he would sign for us], and when an opportunity appears and everything goes so fast, you can't immediately process it. However, there's that connection: we both are Argentinian, we both support Newell's [Old Boys], we both come from Rosario.

"I have also admired him for a long time when facing him as an opponent, so having him now training with us is really nice. We hope that, together, we will be able to achieve what the club desires."

Messi's experience in the Champions League is matched by team-mate Sergio Ramos, who won the competition four times before joining PSG from Real Madrid in July.

Pochettino, who admitted that most of the players in his squad deserve to be in his starting line-up, said Ramos would be able to guide younger colleagues through the pressurised environment of Europe's top competition.

"Sergio is also a player that we think can, given the possibility, convey his experience, his competitiveness," said Pochettino.

"He's a player that has also won everything, just like Leo.

"It's good having him at the club for all that he can share with his team-mates: all that experience he gained at Real Madrid."

Lionel Messi will be the highest-rated player on FIFA 22 after EA Sports revealed the upcoming game's top 22.

The latest edition of the long-running title will be released at the start of October and will see Messi representing a team other than Barcelona for the first time.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August and will give gamers the chance to line up with him, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all in the same front three.

With a rating of 93, Messi will be the game's best player, excluding icons and special Ultimate Team cards.

 

The ratings of Neymar and Mbappe were also among those revealed on Monday, with the pair among five players on 91 – the other three are Cristiano Ronaldo, Jan Oblak and Kevin De Bruyne.

Of course, the game will give Manchester United fans the chance to include Ronaldo in their Red Devils side after he completed his return to the club following a 12-year absence.

Messi aside, the only other player to be rated higher than Ronaldo is Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

He broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season in 2020-21 as he netted 41 times en route to the title.

 

But it was not enough to topple Messi.

Even in a season that was largely underwhelming for Barcelona, Messi still managed to score 30 LaLiga goals and he set up another nine – only four players had more assists.

This perhaps goes some way to explaining why the six-time Ballon d'Or winner just pips Lewandowski to top-billing despite the latter's historic campaign.

FIFA 22's top 22 players:

Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain – 93

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich – 92

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United – 91

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City – 91

Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – 91

Harry Kane, Tottenham – 90

N'Golo Kante, Chelsea – 90

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich – 90

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona – 90

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – 89

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-Germain – 89

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid – 89

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool – 89

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich – 89

Son Heung-min, Tottenham – 89

Alisson, Liverpool – 89

Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid – 89

Casemiro, Real Madrid – 89

Ederson, Manchester City – 89

Sadio Mane, Liverpool – 89

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Jose Mourinho said he will remember Roma's last-gasp victory over Sassuolo after celebrating his 1,000th career match in wild fashion.

Mourinho's milestone game ended in the Roma head coach sprinting down the touchline to celebrate Stephan El Shaarawy's 91st-minute winner with the Giallorossi fans in Sunday's 2-1 dramatic success at home to Sassuolo.

Former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham boss Mourinho has won 638 of his career matches across all competitions, boasting a 64 per cent winning percentage, to go with 25 titles as a manager.

After Mourinho oversaw Roma's third win from three Serie A fixtures to start the season atop the table, the 58-year-old revelled in the memorable fixture.

"Because during the week I was lying to people, telling everyone this wasn't a special game – perhaps I was trying to convince myself as well," Mourinho, who is in his first season with Roma, said.

"But actually it was – this game had a really special meaning for me. And I am sure I will remember it for the rest of my life, because my 1000th game as a coach was this one.

"I didn't want to lose it, and I was very scared of having that be my lasting memory of the moment. So I was lying to everyone beforehand. It was a very special feeling."

Mourinho – a Champions League, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and Primeira Liga winner among other honours – added: "Today it could have finished 6-6 or 7-7, they could have won 2-1, whatever. In the final few minutes Rui Patricio made two or three incredible saves and we missed two or three chances when the goal was gaping. It was an incredible game for the neutral, an absolutely extraordinary match, with so many emotions to it.

"Today I wasn't 58 years old, but 10 or 12 or 14, when you start dreaming about a career in football. Running like I did [down the sideline], I was running like a child. And I apologised to [Sassuolo coach Alessio] Dionisi for that.

"I congratulated him and his players: they played brilliantly. Tonight we won, but if they had won I would not have been able to have any complaints."

It is the first time in Mourinho's illustrious career that he has won the first five games at a club.

"I didn't know that," Mourinho replied when it was put to him. "It's the same as the milestone of 1000 games – I only realised when I was eight or seven short. They are not numbers I'm particularly interested in.

"Obviously I'm happy with the three points, and the great spirit we showed. But we cannot ignore Dionisi and how he must feel: He's a great coach, Sassuolo have a real identity about them – one that comes from De Zerbi, but he has applied his own elements to that. They are a great squad; I realised that as soon as I started studying them.

"These are three massive points for us. Perhaps God decided that I didn't deserve to have a negative memory of this particular game."

Roma, meanwhile, have won six consecutive home games in all competitions for their first time since December 2017 (seven).

Karim Benzema applauded the performance of Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid's 5-2 win over Celta Vigo, labelling the Brazilian a "phenomenon".

Benzema would have been most people's star of the show, the Frenchman scoring a hat-trick and getting an assist.

But Vinicius was Madrid's other key man, scoring the goal that Benzema set up and also winning the penalty that allowed the France international to score his first LaLiga treble since April 2019.

Vinicius frequently ran at the Celta defence and often caused havoc when doing so, tallying 11 dribble attempts – a figure only he (14 vs Real Betis) and Nabil Fekir (14 vs Cadiz) have bettered in a single LaLiga game this term – and completing five of them.

His goal took Vinicius to four for the season, which is already a personal best for an individual campaign at Madrid, and second only to Benzema (five) in 2021-22.

After regularly being seen as a source of frustration, even for his team-mates, the 21-year-old appears to be coming of age and Benzema is relishing his improvement.

"Vinicius is a phenomenon," Benzema told Movistar. "I really like playing with him.

 

"He is young and I talk to him a lot, giving him advice, because I know what he's going through.

"But he helps us a lot. He's a great player and he's showed that he can play for Real Madrid."

Carlo Ancelotti echoed that sentiment but was also eager to share the praise out, with the Italian clearly thrilled by the exhibition produced by his forwards.

"Vinicius is in a spectacular moment and I am happy for him. He is playing with a lot of quality and is at a very high level," Ancelotti said.

"But not only Vinicius. Benzema was also fantastic, [Luka] Modric, Miguel Gutierrez. Everyone in attack was good."

Though Ancelotti did suggest he was a little perturbed by Madrid's sloppiness at the back, with a mix-up between Nacho Fernandez and Casemiro leading to Celta's opener, before the visitors carved them open to then go 2-1 later in the first half.

"I have a good taste in my mouth," he added. "The fans helped us a lot. When we were down on the scoreboard, they pushed us and we felt their encouragement.

"It was a great game, with mistakes and with good things. It had everything.

"Defensively we gave away two goals because we lacked balance. The defensive organisation has to improve. With the ball we are fine but without it we are not as good and that can harm us."

Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick and Eduardo Camavinga netted on his debut as Real Madrid marked their return to the Santiago Bernabeu with a thrilling 5-2 win over Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Madrid last played at their iconic home on March 1, 2020, before remodelling work began on the stadium, and fans were treated to a real spectacle.

Twice Celta led in the first half, with Benzema's first strike sandwiched between Santi Mina's opener and Franco Cervi's rather fortuitous tap-in.

But Benzema nodded Los Blancos level again early in the second half before setting up in-form Vinicius Junior with a defence-splitting pass.

Camavinga put the game beyond Celta soon after his introduction from the bench and Benzema completed his treble from the spot after some dazzling play by Vinicius.

Celta stunned Madrid in the fourth minute as Miguel Gutierrez was robbed out wide and neither Casemiro nor Nacho Fernandez could clear, allowing Iago Aspas to nudge the ball on to Mina and he slotted past Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid's response was good, their subsequent dominance rewarded with the equaliser – Benzema driving in a Federico Valverde cut-back from 12 yards.

But the visitors soon restored their lead. Hugo Mallo latched on to Aspas' lay-off and produced a disguised pass to pick out Cervi, whose initial audacious flick hit the post and came back to him for an easy finish.

Marshalling Benzema continued to prove difficult for Celta, however, and the Frenchman got his second of the day just after the restart with a wonderful header from Gutierrez's searching cross.

He then turned provider as Madrid went in front for the first time in the match, pulling out wide and playing a throughball beyond the defence for Vinicius, who capitalised on Jeison Murillo's dozing in the Celta offside trap and calmly stroked past Matias Dituro.

Camavinga got off the mark for his new club six minutes after coming off the bench, burying from a few yards out after Dituro could only parry Luka Modric's shot at the end of a surging solo run.

Vinicius then won a penalty, his feet too quick for Denis Suarez, and Benzema subsequently rounded off an engrossing match by securing his hat-trick with an emphatic finish.

Diego Simeone insists the referee was correct to add on 10 additional minutes in Atletico Madrid's dramatic late win at Espanyol due to the home side's time-wasting.

Atleti were heading for a first defeat of the season after Raul de Tomas gave Espanyol the lead through their first LaLiga goal in nine matches.

But Simeone's decision to make a triple substitution at half-time, before also turning to Joao Felix and Matheus Cunha in the second half, paid off for the reigning champions.

Yannick Carrasco fired in an equaliser in the 79th minute – Atleti's 300th LaLiga goal against Espanyol – and then set up Lemar's winner in the ninth of 10 added-on minutes.

Six substitutions were made in the second half and there was a lengthy VAR check for an earlier disallowed goal for Lemar after Luis Suarez was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

Espanyol scorer De Tomas complained about the amount of additional time played, but Simeone believes the hosts were made to pay for deliberately slowing down the game.

"It was a lot of minutes at the end, but I've never seen so much time wasted in a match either," Simeone said at his post-match news conference.

"You should look at what happened during the match."

 

Lemar dropped out of the starting line-up in place of Antoine Griezmann, who was making his second debut for Atleti, but made an impression during his time on the pitch.

Simeone explained after the game that the decision to overlook Lemar for a starting spot was down to fitness reasons following his return from international duty with France.

"Thomas is in a very good moment," Simeone said. "With the national team he had a digestive problem, he lost 3-4 kilos. 

"That is why I had doubts and thought about reserving him instead for Wednesday. I hope he can repeat those scenarios. 

"He was the player we signed from Monaco, the player that the team needs. Verticality he is good, he has a right foot, a left foot, he works had

"He grew a lot last season but lacked goals. Hopefully this season the goals will follow like today."

Atletico's late double came after Griezmann had been substituted off with an hour played following an underwhelming first game back since rejoining from Barcelona.

Griezmann had just four touches in the opposition box and managed only two shots, neither of which were on target, though nobody could match his three big chances created.

Asked what he made of Griezmann's performance, Simeone said: "I saw quite a lot in the first half that was not good from us. Espanyol were better in the first half.

"In the second we changed and looked for other alternatives to what we saw in the first half. The team had an extraordinary second half."

While Atletico have now picked up three wins and a draw from their opening four games, Espanyol remain winless on their return to the top flight.

Despite the controversy surrounding the added time at the end of the game at RCDE Stadium, home boss Vicente Moreno did not feel the need to criticise referee Juan Martinez Munuera.

"I don't think about it. It may seem like more minutes or fewer than expected, but it's down to the referee. Little can change what he saw," Moreno said.

"You rarely see 10 minutes added on in a game, but I am totally respectful. I just hope it's the same when we need a goal.

"As for the other comments made [by Simeone], I am respectful of what everyone says."

Atletico, who had failed to win on their previous three league visits to Espanyol, return to action on Wednesday with a home match against Porto in the Champions League.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has been accused by LaLiga chief Javier Tebas of "psychologically kidnapping" Barcelona in recent years.

Tebas has previously criticised Barcelona for supporting a proposed Super League, which failed to get off the ground as a backlash quickly led to the withdrawal of nine of the 12 founding members.

The 59-year-old also more recently hit out at Barca and Madrid for rejecting a €2.7billion arrangement with CVC Capital Partners, a deal that he argued would have allowed the Catalan giants to keep hold of Lionel Messi.

In the latest exchange between two of the most powerful men in Spanish football, Tebas has now claimed Perez swayed Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta's decision to not accept the offer on the table.

"I have the feeling that at Barca there's a 'psychological kidnapping' regarding Florentino, like an inferiority complex," Tebas told Sport. 

"Florentino is a very intelligent guy and Jose Angel Sanchez, his director general, is the most empathetic man in European football. 

"All that glamour and know-how, up against someone (Laporta) who's been outside the world of football for more than 10 years.

"Barca were in favour of the CVC deal right until Real Madrid said no... In the last 72 hours everything changed. I think it was very much connected to the Super League and the strategy that Real Madrid are following."

Years of financial mismanagement caught up with Barcelona last month when they were unable to offer a new contract to Messi due to LaLiga's financial restrictions.

However, Tebas has reiterated that Barca could well have kept hold of Messi – who has since joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent – had they signed up to the CVC investment.

"Yes, it could have been avoided," he said. "I spoke about it with Laporta personally... I think next season with the figures Barca put out, we'll see if Messi could really have stayed or not.

"It wasn't a financial decision. I know that for sure. If Laporta shook hands with Messi, it was because for a month he had accepted the CVC offer. 

"He was in favour for a month. That's why he said things were going well. He even called me twice to speed up the CVC operation, because Messi was getting nervous."

Losing six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi to Ligue 1 giants PSG is a major blow for LaLiga, even more so than the previous high-profile exits of other big name players and coaches in the view of Tebas.

"Just like when Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho left. We knew that one day this would happen," he said.

"We have had the great luck of having the two best footballers in the world in the two best teams in the world and from LaLiga we have been able to take advantage of this to put ourselves on the world front line. 

"Perhaps Messi's departure has been a bit more painful, because personally I consider him the best in history, and he didn't deserve to leave like that, not only for Barça but for LaLiga as well."

Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham is attracting plenty of interest.

The 18-year-old England international's price is valued at around £80 million (€94m).

Bellingham made 46 appearances for Dortmund last season and already has eight England caps.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLACE BELLINGHAM ON WISH LIST

Manchester City have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, claims the Daily Star.

City have placed the 18-year-old England international on their wish list, as they look for a long-term replacement for veteran Fernandinho.

Pep Guardiola's side will join the queue alongside Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

ROUND-UP

- Dortmund's Erling Haaland will not rush into a decision on his club future when a release clause of approximately £70m (€81m) takes effect in 2022 amid interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City,  claims 90min.

- Man City will rival Manchester United and look to complete a deal for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in 2022, reports The Sun. Rice is valued at £100m by the Hammers.

- The Daily Mail claims Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is in some doubt after the club reportedly tried to replace him during the recent transfer window.

- Free agent Dani Alves has been heavily linked with a move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors,  according to Marca.

- Barcelona have already tabled a contract extension offer to 18-year-old talent Ansu Fati,  reports Mundo Deportivo.

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