Mauricio Pochettino is pleased with the progress made by Paris Saint-Germain since taking over but has warned his players they cannot take anything for granted against Barcelona next week.

The French giants eased to a 3-0 victory over Brest in the last 32 of the Coupe de France on Saturday to make it 12 wins, one draw and two defeats in Pochettino's first two months in place at the Parc des Princes.

That includes a run of three wins in a row in all competitions heading into Wednesday's Champions League last-16 second leg with Barca, which PSG lead 4-1 following an impressive display in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou.

No team in the history of the European Cup has ever progressed from a knockout tie over two legs after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals, but Pochettino is not looking ahead to the quarter-finals just yet.

"We take it match after match and look to win them all in each competition," Pochettino told Eurosport. "For us, this is an extraordinary challenge. 

"Next is the match with Barcelona. You have to be careful because they are a good team and we will have to remain focused."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice for PSG in their cup victory at Stade Francis-Le Ble, either side of Pablo Sarabia's strike, to keep the holders on course for a record-extending 14th triumph in the competition.

PSG had some nervy moments before Mbappe killed things off 17 minutes from time, with keeper Sergio Rico making seven saves in total, compared to three stops for opposite number Sebastien Cibois.

But Pochettino was happy with his side's display, and in particular the manner of their pressing in midfield - Leandro Paredes leading the way in that area with 12 turnovers in total.

"The pressing shows my style, yes. After two months of work, and some 15 games since I joined, it's starting to take shape," he said. "The players are listening to my ideas and the way I want us to play.

"Physically, I am also happy with the way the players work every day and we are approaching our best condition. We are always looking for perfection, but I am already happy on that side.

"The goal today was to win and qualify, so I'm happy with the performance. We gave away a few chances but Sergio was fantastic. We had to think a lot about this match and not the one on Wednesday."

Mbappe's second brace in as many matches took his tally for the season to 25 goals in 32 matches, the forward following up a sublime solo strike that saw him carry the ball half the length of the field with a somewhat fortunate goal with his chest.

"They are a team that are not easy to play at home," Mbappe said. "They play good football, so congratulations to them. 

"But we came here to qualify and that is what we did. Now we will prepare normally for the Barcelona game in a serene way, as we always do."

Thilo Kehrer was substituted at half-time by Pochettino, who later confirmed it was a precautionary measure.

Superstar forward Neymar is another player nursing an injury heading into the clash with former side Barca, but Abdou Diallo is hopeful his team-mate will make his comeback on Wednesday.

"He had a great session yesterday. We'll see how he feels. I hope he will be with us," Diallo said.

"As for Kehrer, we also have Timothee Pembele and [Colin] Dagba standing ready and we trust them."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice and Pablo Sarabia was also on target as Paris Saint-Germain saw off fellow Ligue 1 side Brest 3-0 to book their place in the last 16 of the Coupe de France.

The holders were given a tough time of things in their 1-0 win against Caen in the previous round but made light work of Saturday's clash at Stade Francis-Le Ble.

Sarabia fired in his sixth goal of the campaign shortly before half-time after Mbappe had opened the scoring inside nine minutes with an impressive solo strike that saw him carry the ball half the length of the field.

Mbappe doubled his personal tally for the day with an unorthodox chested finish to ensure comfortable passage through for PSG, who made it three wins in a row heading into Wednesday's Champions League last-16 second leg with Barcelona.

Mbappe also scored a brace in last week's comfortable Ligue 1 win at Dijon and picked up from where he left off with the opener against opponents positioned 13th in the French top flight.

The France international received the ball just inside the opposition half, carried it to the edge of the penalty area and picked out the top-left corner with a thunderous strike that left Sebastien Cibois rooted to the spot.

Mbappe was denied a second by the inside of the post when played in by Marco Verratti but PSG, who survived a penalty scare after Romain Philippoteaux went down under contact from Abdou Diallo and Mitchel Bakker, soon had a second goal.

Julian Draxler took the ball past a couple of opponents and teed up Sarabia to fire away from Cibois, adding to the goal he scored against Brest in PSG's 3-0 league win when the sides last met in January.

Cibois denied Mbappe from a one-on-one early in the second half and that sparked Brest into life, with Bandiougou Fadiga testing Sergio Rico with a couple of attempts in the space of a minute, the second requiring Ander Herrera to block the ball on the line.

But the hosts' hopes of a comeback were ended 17 minutes from time as Verratti's pass ricocheted off the chest of Mbappe and trickled in from a few yards out.

Mauricio Pochettino could not confirm Neymar would make his return from injury against former club Barcelona but remains "very happy" with his recovery.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar suffered an adductor injury against Caen in the Coupe de France on February 10.

A predicted four-week lay-off would accommodate a comeback against Barca in the Champions League, having missed the first-leg trip to Camp Nou where Kylian Mbappe inspired a 4-1 away win.

Pochettino has since repeatedly insisted Neymar is on schedule, although PSG's win rate has improved from 66.7 per cent to 73.7 per cent when he has been missing this season.

With the last-16 second leg now just five days away, the PSG coach was asked explicitly about the potential involvement of the world's most expensive footballer against his former club.

"He will not be in the squad for the match against Brest," Pochettino said on the eve of PSG's Coupe de France clash.

"But we are very happy with his progress and we will see in the next few days if he can be part of the group for Barcelona."

Stepping up in Neymar's absence, Mbappe became just the 10th visiting player ever to score a hat-trick away at Barca – and only the second in the Champions League.

But while Neymar – long linked with a transfer back to the Blaugrana – has appeared committed to a future at PSG, speculation persists about Mbappe.

The World Cup winner, back from suspension on Saturday, has been involved in 32 goals in all competitions (23 goals, nine assists), the sixth-most among all players across Europe's top-five leagues in 2020-21.

Pochettino added of Mbappe: "We have a very good relationship, very natural. The club and I want him to stay.

"It's a two-way decision between the club and the player. He is a very important player for us, and we hope he will stay with us for many years to come."

Rather than Mbappe's heroics, Neymar's return or any other Champions League matters, Pochettino is focused on successfully negotiating the Brest tie.

"We have to give importance to [Saturday's] game," he said. "We only think about the Brest game. We know it's going to be a tough game.

"This is an important competition for us. Our focus is on tomorrow's game."

Where will Erling Haaland be playing in 2021-22?

The Borussia Dortmund forward has a long list of admirers, particularly in England.

Both Manchester clubs want Haaland, though City fancy their chances.

 

TOP STORY – CITY BELIEVE THEY HOLD HAALAND EDGE OVER UTD

Manchester City are hoping to use their Jadon Sancho sell-on clause to beat neighbours Manchester United to the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to The Sun.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked to the likes of City, United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool following his exploits for Dortmund.

City have a 15 per cent sell-on clause following Sancho's move to Dortmund in 2017 and they believe it could help in their Haaland pursuit, with the Premier League giants open to waiving or renegotiating the clause.

Sancho was tipped to join United ahead of the 2020-21 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- French journalist Julien Laurens doubts Paris Saint-Germain will be able to afford Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked to PSG, City and Inter but Laurens feels the Ligue 1 champions will not be able to financially accommodate Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Atletico Madrid are poised to prise Moussa Dembele from Lyon, reports Fabrizio Romano. After Diego Costa's exit, Atletico are set to complete a loan deal with the option to buy.

- Le10Sport claims Manchester United are set to rival PSG for the signing of Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

- The Telegraph says Napoli are keen on signing Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney. The Serie A side were keen on the Scotland international before he swapped Celtic for Arsenal in 2019.

Mauricio Pochettino insists there is still room for improvement from his Paris Saint-Germain side after brushing aside Brest 3-0 on Saturday.

Second-half substitutes Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia added to Moise Kean's opener as the reigning Ligue 1 champions ran out comfortable winners at the Parc des Princes.

The win, coming three days on from a 1-1 draw with Saint-Etienne in Pochettino's first game in charge, moves PSG within a point of leaders Lyon, who were held 2-2 by Rennes.

But despite the comfortable manner of the scoreline, Pochettino - named as Thomas Tuchel's successor last week - accepts there are still things to work on.

"We are satisfied with the result, it is the fruit of the effort of all the players," he told Canal+.

"But there is still a lot we have to correct. We must continue to work with high standards."

Kylian Mbappe fired a blank for the third time in four outings, failing to find the net from any of his three shots on target - more than any other player on the field.

But the France forward claimed an impressive assist for Sarabia's goal by taking the ball past a couple of opponents and teeing up his team-mate.

He cut a frustrated figure at times but Pochettino is pleased with Mbappe's overall display.

"Mbappe has done good things," Pochettino said. "He had chances and it's a shame he didn't score. But he had a good game."

PSG had 60.9 per cent of the ball against Brest - compared to an average of 63.9 per cent under former boss Tuchel - and attempted 11 shots on target.

Sarabia, who netted his third league goal of the season 27 minutes after being brought off the bench, believes Pochettino's style of play is already clear to see just two games in.

"He wants us to have a lot of the ball and to knock the ball a lot to destabilise the opponent," he said.

"He asks us to do a lot of pressing, very high. It is very important to capture all the ideas of the coach to try to do the best possible. 

"There are things that are similar between Tuchel and Pochettino but there are things that are very different. We have to work because there are a lot of things that are new."

PSG now switch focus to Wednesday's Trophee des Champions clash with Marseille and a chance to win a first piece of silverware of the Pochettino tenure.

"It's a very special match for Paris and for me too," the former Tottenham boss said. 

"We hope to have a good match and to arrive in the best conditions to be competitive. And of course, like every time we play Marseille, we have to win."

Paris Saint-Germain saw off Brest 3-0 to collect their first victory under new head coach Mauricio Pochettino and close the gap on Ligue 1 leaders Lyon.

PSG were held to a 1-1 draw by Saint-Etienne in Pochettino's first game in charge on Wednesday but had too much quality for Brest in Saturday's encounter at the Parc des Princes.

Moise Kean's 11th goal of the campaign in all competitions set the reigning champions on their way with 16 minutes played and substitutes Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia each got on the scoresheet in the final 10 minutes.

The win - less emphatic than the scoreline may suggest - moved Pochettino's men within a point of pacesetters Lyon, who battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Rennes and retain top spot.

Thilo Kehrer has tested positive for coronavirus, Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed.

Kehrer played the full 90 minutes of PSG's 1-1 draw with Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, the French champions' first game with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm. 

PSG face Brest on Saturday in Ligue 1 before taking on Marseille in the Trophee des Champions on Wednesday. 

A club statement read: "Thilo Kehrer has returned a positive test for COVID-19. He will start a period of isolation and is subject to the appropriate health protocols."

Kehrer – a 2018 signing from Schalke – has made 14 appearances across all competitions so far this season.

 

Mauricio Pochettino wants "special player" Kylian Mbappe to enjoy himself on the pitch, which could help him to regain his best form.

Mbappe has 12 goals in 14 Ligue 1 matches this season but has not been at the peak of his powers amid concerns over burnout.

Pochettino said the 22-year-old needed to improve after Paris Saint-Germain were held to a 1-1 draw at Saint-Etienne in the new head coach's first game in charge on Wednesday.

Ahead of facing Brest in his first home game since replacing Thomas Tuchel on Saturday, Pochettino was asked if forward Mbappe still seemed tired.

"It is a question about a special player," Pochettino said of Mbappe, who is in negotiations to renew his contract beyond 2022 amid speculation he could move on.

"He came back in good shape after the break, with a very good state of mind. 

"He is the top scorer in the championship. We hope that he will have fun and find the performance of which he is capable."

Returning to Parc des Princes, where he played from 2001 until 2003, is an occasion former Tottenham boss Pochettino – who will again be without star forward Neymar - is looking forward to.

"It's going to be a special night and a joy, yes, 20 years after wearing this jersey," he said.

"Unfortunately there will be no supporters, it's a shame and that will be missing. 

"In any case, we talked about it among ourselves and with our families: we have the impression that we have been here for a year, whereas it's only been five or six days!"

With one game to go until Ligue 1 reaches its halfway stage, champions PSG are three points behind leaders Lyon.

Neymar is not fit to make his return from injury when Paris Saint-Germain take on Brest in Ligue 1, though Mauro Icardi is one of a trio returning to action.

Icardi, Layvin Kurzawa and Alessandro Florenzi will all be available at Parc des Princes on Saturday after injury absences.

PSG laboured to a 1-1 draw in Mauricio Pochettino's opening game in charge away to Saint-Etienne on Wednesday

He will seek his first win since replacing Thomas Tuchel at home to Brest, with PSG looking for a sixth straight Ligue 1 win against them.

With 36 points after 18 games this season, it is their worst opening to a top-flight campaign since 2012-13.

Pochettino will bid to start improving their results without Neymar – who has not played since suffering an ankle injury on December 13 – while Rafinha and Juan Bernat are also out.

"We need to get the players who are out back in action as soon as possible so that we can be as competitive as we want to be," Pochettino said ahead of facing Brest.

"The team have shown a fantastic attitude and an ability to learn quickly from us in a short period of time."

Neymar will then have missed five matches, with the next decision to be whether he plays any part against Marseille in the Trophee des Champions on Wednesday.

Central to PSG's thoughts is February's crucial Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona.

Paris Saint-Germain will begin their Ligue 1 title defence at home to Metz after the French Professional Football League (LFP) announced its 2020-21 top-flight schedule.

The first round of matches will take place on the weekend of August 22-23, with the season set to conclude on May 23 next year.

PSG were awarded their seventh top-flight title in eight seasons after the 2019-20 campaign was abandoned and decided on a point-per-game basis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The abandonment move has since been questioned amid other elite divisions in Europe successfully resuming their seasons behind closed doors.

An LFP vote sealed Amiens and Toulouse's relegation, with Lorient and Lens promoted from Ligue 2 in their place.

Lorient host Strasbourg on the opening weekend, while Lens are on the road at Nice.

The first Classique of the season comes in the third round of fixtures, with PSG welcoming Marseille to the Parc des Princes in mid-September. The return is billed for February 7.

Marseille start at home to Saint-Etienne, with Bordeaux and Lille hosting Nantes and Rennes respectively.

Lyon begin on the road at Montpellier, with the first of their always feisty clashes against Marseille coming at Groupama Stadium on October 4. The rivalry is then scheduled to resume at the Stade Velodrome on February 28.

Ligue 1 2020-21 – Opening weekend fixtures in full:

Lorient v Strasbourg
Nimes v Brest
Dijon v Angers
Bordeaux v Nantes
Monaco v Reims
Montpellier v Lyon
Nice v Lens
Lille v Rennes
Marseille v Saint-Etienne
PSG v Metz

Paris Saint-Germain will face Saint-Etienne in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue.

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria were on target as a much-changed PSG line-up secured a 4-1 victory over Le Mans in the last 16 on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel's side were eliminated by Guingamp in the quarter-finals last season and will hope to go one step further when they entertain Saint-Etienne.

Reigning champions Strasbourg were handed a trip to Reims after Nuno Da Costa's 78th-minute goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Nantes.

Lyon beat Toulouse 4-1 in the absence of Memphis Depay and will take on Brest at Groupama Stadium, while Lille's reward for overcoming Monaco is a home encounter with Amiens.

The matches are scheduled to be played on January 7 or 8.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel says Edinson Cavani will need to learn how to manage the competition with Mauro Icardi for a starting berth in attack.

Cavani made his first start for PSG since August 25 in Saturday's 2-1 win over Brest but struggled to make an impact at Stade Francis-Le Ble.

He was replaced in the 80th minute by Icardi, who scored the winner five minutes later after Samuel Grandsir had cancelled out Angel Di Maria's first-half opener.

Tuchel conceded Cavani lacked rhythm against Brest and has challenged the Uruguay international to relish the competition for places in attack.

"It's not easy to play against this team here for an attacker," he told Canal+.

"He [Cavani] lacks rhythm. He must manage this competition. It's like that for his job. It's always difficult for an attacker, a very sensitive position. But we have no choice but to accept this situation and work hard. 

"Sometimes you are in a phase where you feel good. There is a bit of luck and everything goes perfectly. Mauro is in this phase."

PSG were far from their fluid best but did enough to ensure they returned to winning ways domestically after a shock defeat to Dijon last time out.

Tuchel, who made six changes from the side that beat Club Brugge in the Champions League in midweek, praised his side after they became the first side to beat Brest at home this season.

"I really like this victory," he added. "A lot of changes have been made, including players lacking rhythm and confidence like Layvin [Kurzawa], Edinson [Cavani] and [Julian] Draxler. The changes were necessary to stay fresh. 

"It was not easy in the first period with the wind against us. We had opportunities to accelerate but we made technical mistakes. The second period was easier to control but we gave an opportunity to the opponent, who scored. 

"A good reaction was shown afterwards. I felt like we really believed it. We deserved to win. We are the first to win here! [this season]"

Edinson Cavani was upstaged by Mauro Icardi as Paris Saint-Germain returned to winning ways in Ligue 1, securing a nervy 2-1 triumph over Brest on Saturday.

Uruguay international Cavani had been restricted to appearances off the bench after sustaining a hip injury but was chosen from the start by Thomas Tuchel.

However, the striker struggled to make an impact against a spirited Brest side, with Icardi scoring the winner just five minutes after replacing his team-mate.

Samuel Grandsir had earlier cancelled out Angel Di Maria's strike for PSG, who recovered to secure victory and ensure they did not drop points for the second consecutive Ligue 1 game following their shock defeat to Dijon last time out.

Kylian Mbappe has been left out of Paris Saint-Germain's squad for Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with Brest, but Mauro Icardi has been passed fit.

France international Mbappe is being rested after he sustained an adductor problem in the 1-0 Champions League win over Club Brugge on Wednesday.

It is unclear whether he will now be a doubt for France's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Albania on November 14 and November 17.

Fellow attacker Icardi injured his foot during that match, in which he scored the only goal of the game, but he is included in Thomas Tuchel's 19-man selection.

As confirmed by PSG on Thursday, Ander Herrera is absent with a thigh injury while Thilo Kehrer and Thomas Meunier are also out until after the international break.

This weekend's trip to Brest also comes too soon for Neymar, who is due to resume full training next week following more than a month out of action.

PSG suffered their third defeat of the Ligue 1 campaign last Friday, going down 2-1 to Dijon, yet they remain seven points clear at the summit.

Edinson Cavani is in line to start Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash with Brest on Saturday, head coach Thomas Tuchel has confirmed.

The French club's all-time leading scorer is out of contract at the end of the season and has cut a frustrated figure since returning from a hip injury last month.

He was an unused sub in the wins over Nice and Club Brugge last month and has been restricted to appearances off the bench in PSG's three most recent matches.

However, in-form striker Mauro Icardi is a fitness doubt with a foot injury sustained in Wednesday's 1-0 win against Club Brugge, opening the door for Cavani to make his first start since August 25.

"It is complicated for him because he's used to starting every game," Tuchel said at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"For the last few weeks, it has been a big difference for him in terms of pace and speed. He has trained well and it is important he starts and regains his rhythm.

"He is disappointed not to play but accepts the decision and has kept a good state of mind."

Cavani has finished as Ligue 1 top scorer in two of the past three seasons and scored twice in as many matches prior to picking up his injury against Toulouse.

PSG boss Tuchel is hopeful that this weekend's clash will give the Uruguay international an opportunity to revive his campaign.

"I'm hoping that playing on Saturday will be a trigger for him," he said. "I do not like having Edinson on the bench, but I have made that decision. 

"He is an important player for us and I want him to start tomorrow. If he can score that would be good news for PSG."

PSG suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at Dijon last week - their third loss of the campaign - and Tuchel suggested motivation may be an issue against lesser opposition.

"We can lose, it happens, but it must only happen against better sides than us," he said. "If we are missing key players, that matters - like [Marco] Verratti against Dijon.

"We do not always perform at the same level. That doesn't mean the match isn't important.

"We have to accept that the tension is different before Champions League games, or the Marseille match, compared to when we faced Dijon.

"We have to respect the opposition and prepare ourselves in the same way. I have players who know that and are super reliable."

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