Mbappe will be at the level of Messi and Ronaldo – Griezmann

By Sports Desk February 16, 2021

Kylian Mbappe can go on to be the equal of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after his hat-trick saw Paris Saint-Germain destroy Barcelona 4-1 in the Champions League.

That was the gracious take of Mbappe's France team-mate Antoine Griezmann, who was on the receiving end of his countryman's heroics at Camp Nou in Tuesday's last-16 first leg.

Messi gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot to score in Europe's top competition for a 17th consecutive season, matching a record set by Real Madrid great Raul.

From then on, however, it was the Mbappe show as Barcelona suffered another humiliating outing on the biggest stage.

A superb equaliser created by Marco Verratti meant it was all square at the interval and Mbappe fired Mauricio Pochettino's men ahead after the hour and completed the rout with a sumptuous finish into the top corner after Moise Kean headed home Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

"PSG have a very big star of the future who will be at the level of Leo and Cristiano," Griezmann told RMC sport.

"I can only congratulate him."

Mbappe became the third player in Champions League history to score a hat-trick against Barcelona and the first for almost a quarter of century after Newcastle United's Faustino Asprilla and Dynamo Kiev's Andriy Shevchenko both achieved the feat in 1997.

It was a sensational all-round performance from the 22-year-old, who also made four key passes to create chances for his team-mates.

"We needed to have a perfect match. We didn't and they did. It's a big defeat," Griezmann said.

"We were ready, we wanted to play a big game, but they were better than us. There is nothing to say. Kylian was having a great night."

Barca need an improbable repeat of the heroics that saw them overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit against PSG at the same stage in 2017 when they head to Paris for the return next month.

Despite the odds being stacked heavily against Ronald Koeman's side, Griezmann is not giving up.

"You have to go there to win and turn the situation around. We're not going to go there as tourists," he added.

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    Anyone concerned that famous old fixtures like the Manchester derby are becoming devoid of emotion without supporters need only have looked at Gabriel Jesus' expression as Ederson just failed to keep out Bruno Fernandes' second-minute penalty.

    Manchester City's Brazil forward netted a midweek brace in the 4-1 win over Wolves to persuade Pep Guardiola to keep him in the line-up on Sunday.

    One of Jesus' big calling cards is his work rate, never one to shirk defensive duties that plenty of attackers dread.

    Even so, haring back into his own area to clumsily foul Anthony Martial after mis-controlling a throw-in was taking that trait to unhelpful extremes.

    Ederson got a firm hand to Fernandes' strike but could not prevent City from conceding their earliest ever Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium. Jesus hit his head with his hands and howled in frustration.

    At that moment it was easy to remember the eye-opening quotes the 23-year-old supplied during a goal drought last season

    "Always I think, 'Wow I have to score' because I'm playing for a big club in big competitions with big players," he said.

    "I think it happens with other players. I cannot talk about other players I can only talk about me when I'm not happy with me I want to shoot myself in the head because it's difficult for me."

    If City's collective demeanour had been one of swaggering confidence fuelled by inevitable triumph during their 21-match winning run, it was never one Jesus could comfortably tap into.

    He now has no goals in 10 derby appearances, but you won't need to tell him that. Sergio Aguero's expiring contract and the likelihood of City bringing in an elite forward replacement probably weighs heavily, too.

    Nevertheless, Jesus led from the front as Guardiola's side sought to recover from a shambling start.

    He was lurking when Harry Maguire cleared a dangerous Kevin De Bruyne cross – despite a patchy performance, City's midfield talisman created eight opportunities for team-mates – and a running battle before half-time saw the United centre-back booked for a foul on his opponent.

    Jesus had two shots blocked and concluded a half he began clattering into Martial by clattering into the post in a vain attempt to convert Riyad Mahrez's cross-cum-shot.

    In the opening stages of the second period, it was Jesus' lay-off that saw Rodri hit the crossbar. An equaliser felt close, but then the roof caved in on Guardiola's men.

    Joao Cancelo has been a revelation in his hybrid full-back/midfielder role, but Martial and Marcus Rashford's tirelessly penetrative running offered a reminder he can still lack when it comes to purely defensive duties.

    The Portugal international veered into no-mans land under Dean Henderson's throw, allowing the excellent Luke Shaw to start and finish a wonderful counter-attack.

    For a spell in the middle of the second half, a defence breached only 19 times in the Premier League this season appeared to be wearing an 'all through traffic' sign. Cancelo was spared from himself as Kyle Walker entered the fray to shore up City's right-hand side before a dejected Jesus made way for Phil Foden.

    The lead at the top of the Premier League is 11 points and this result – Solskjaer's third win in succession at the Etihad Stadium – should count for little beyond bragging rights. But Europe's elite will have taken note.

    As City strained to get back into the match, ghosts of other Guardiola setbacks returned. Raheem Sterling, like Jesus still without a goal in this fixture, spurned glorious chances; players did not get shots away in a crowded penalty area; individual errors piled up and counter-attacking routes were left wide open.

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    Their collective loss of heads can only be partially explained by Jesus shooting himself in the foot.

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    Luis Suarez scored a dazzling goal and was named man of the match, but on the day his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard finally became a league champion, did Suarez have his own 'Gerrard's slip'?

    Championships are often decided on fine margins, and it is almost seven years since Liverpool's Premier League title hopes were brutally hit by Chelsea, when Gerrard's famous stumble let in Demba Ba to score. Manchester City snatched the silverware from the long-time favourites, and Liverpool had to wait another six years before landing the trophy.

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    Kingpins, that's what Suarez and Benzema are to their teams. Like Gerrard at Liverpool. They are the players whose influence is felt throughout the team, the squad, the club and beyond.

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    This was a result that would have been cheered in Barcelona, if they were paying attention in Catalonia and not all-consumed by the elections for a new club president.

    Maybe a Madrid win would have been an even better result for Barcelona's title prospects, but nobody among the Blaugranas would dare admit that.

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    And now Atletico are 10 league games without a win against their neighbours.

    "We know how difficult this championship is," Simeone said in his pre-match news conference, pointing to how Madrid and Barcelona have been gradually reeling in Atletico in recent weeks.

    It may get a whole lot harder now.

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