Pochettino urges PSG to believe as Ligue 1 title race heads to final day

By Sports Desk May 16, 2021

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said his team must believe in their chances after taking the Ligue 1 title race to the final day of the season.

PSG kept their hopes of retaining the league title alive thanks to Sunday's 4-0 rout of Reims, which moved the defending champions within a point of leaders Lille heading into the final round of the 2020-21 campaign.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were on target against Reims and PSG will – who face Brest on the last day – only get their hands on the title if they better the result Lille get against Angers, needing Christophe Galtier's team to slip up.

The one point separating Lille (80) and PSG (79) before the final matchday is the smallest gap between a leader and second-placed side at this stage of Ligue 1 since the 2001-02 season (Lens one point ahead of Lyon but the latter ultimately triumphed).

"The most important thing is to believe [in our chances]," Pochettino said post-game.

"But now we have to focus on Wednesday's [Coupe de France] final against Monaco. That's our first objective. Then after the French Cup final we will focus on our game against Brest.

"The important thing is that we still have a chance to win the league. We have to do our job and see what Lille do against Angers.

"Sometimes you need a little luck and think it was a penalty and unfortunately a red card for Reims. That's football, sometimes the luck goes your way, and tonight it went our way.

"I think we deserved the victory and the three points that put us in a position to fight with Lille until the very last game."

Neymar opened the scoring with a 13th-minute penalty before Mbappe doubled PSG's lead 11 minutes later, while Marquinhos and Moise Kean made sure of the points in the second half.

PSG's Neymar has scored 18 goals from penalties in Ligue 1 since his debut in 2017-18 (19 penalties taken) – at least five more than any other player over the period. He has been involved in five of PSG's last seven goals in the top flight (three goals and two assists).

Mbappe scored his 40th goal for PSG in all competitions this season (26 in Ligue 1), his best tally in a single campaign.

PSG have earned 79 points after 37 games in Ligue 1 this season, only Monaco (79 in 2013-14) and the Paris side (86 in 2016-17) have claimed at least that many points without standing at the top the table at this stage of the season.

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    Lionel Messi is poised for his first appearance of the year as Pochettino's team tackle Reims on Sunday, with Kylian Mbappe also set to feature after recovering from an adductor problem.

    Messi made his PSG debut as a substitute when PSG and Reims met in August, with a double from Mbappe earning a 2-0 away win amid a whirlwind of global interest in the game.

    "It will definitely be a different match to the first one we played against them," Pochettino said.

    Messi is fit after a brush with COVID-19, and Pochettino added: "Leo Messi has trained this week. We are pleased with how he is coming along. He is going to be in the squad tomorrow.

    "It is always good news when players who have been out for a while are able to return and be back in the squad to help the team."

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    Messi has not scored in his last five domestic matches for PSG and has just six goals across all competitions since arriving from Barcelona.

    He has hit the woodwork more than anybody in the French top flight this season (six) – more times than the entire Reims squad (five).

    PSG have won each of their last three meetings with Reims in Ligue 1 without conceding a goal, achieving as many clean sheets in this sequence as in the first 11 between the two clubs in the 21st century.

    Reims will clearly do well to take anything from Sunday's game, having not scored in their last two Ligue 1 games and with PSG having won 12 and drawn one of their last 13 home games in the competition.

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