Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier has backed Lionel Messi to shake off last term's challenges and have a "great season" after opening the Ligue 1 campaign with a double.

Messi capped off PSG's 5-0 win at Clermont on Saturday with two late goals, including a spectacular over-head strike. Neymar, Achraf Hakimi and Marquinhos all scored in the first half.

The Argentine's double comes after he only managed 11 goals in all competitions in his first season in the French capital following his move from Barcelona, while he struggled to find cohesion alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last term too.

"He had a bit of a difficult season last season, he had to fit in," Galtier told reporters.

"There was a radical change but in every season before that he has at least 30 goals.

"He went through a complete pre-season. When he has his bearing both in terms of his family life but also in terms of his club, the team and his fellow players, there is no reason why Leo should not have a great season."

Galtier, who took over at PSG from Mauricio Pochettino last month, was glowing in his praise of Messi having spoken at length during their pre-season tour of Japan.

"I spoke with Leo during our time in Japan and I also talked with my attacking players to make sure that he could perform well all the time," he said.

"Leo has a very sharp tactical sense, very clear. He has vision. He quickly sees where he has to go.

"The way he defends, the way he positions himself to play with others. He can get into the zone. He likes to play with the players he has around him.

"From there, when Leo smiles obviously, the team smiles too."

PSG are in action next weekend in the league at home to Montpellier.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier confirmed Kylian Mbappe's absence from their Ligue 1 opener was precautionary, with the star striker set to return next week.

The France international sat out the first game of PSG's title defence just under a week on from missing their Trophee des Champions triumph over Nantes.

Mbappe's absence was not particularly felt on Saturday, as a Lionel Messi double and a superb four-goal-involvement performance from Neymar helped PSG to a 5-0 rout of Clermont Foot.

But speaking to Canal+ afterwards, Galtier has assuaged fears the 23-year-old could be a long-term absentee, acknowledging he could have risked him had it been a high-stakes game.

Asked if Mbappe could be back next weekend, Galtier said: "Yes, I think so. He had a little problem, [and] we didn't want to take any risks.

"Obviously, if we had been playing a difficult game or a Champions League game, Kylian might have participated.

"We preferred to delay his return and he will be with us obviously, I think, against Montpellier."

PSG will play their first home game of the season against Montpellier next Saturday, with the club hoping to make it three competitive wins on the bounce under their new boss.

A late Lionel Messi double helped Paris Saint-Germain start their Ligue 1 title defence in inspired fashion despite Kylian Mbappe's absence with a 5-0 rout of Clermont Foot on Saturday.

The Argentinian netted two finishes, including a superb bicycle kick, after goals from Neymar, Achraf Hakimi and Marquinhos got the champions off to a dominant start at Stade Gabriel-Montpied.

On the back of last weekend's Trophee des Champions victory over Nantes, it marks two wins from two for new coach Christophe Galtier following his arrival at the Parc des Princes.

But it will be the manner of their result that pleases supporters most despite the absence of star man Mbappe through injury, with the France international yet to play a competitive fixture since committing his future to the club.

Having struck gold in Israel last month to claim the first silverware of the season, Neymar was on song again for PSG in the ninth minute, producing a low finish following Lionel Messi's neat flick.

The Brazilian turned provider just over a quarter-hour later, passing across the field to the feet of Hakimi, who powered his shot past goalkeeper Mory Diaw to double the visitors' lead.

Any distant hope Clermont may have held of clawing a result back was then duly extinguished seven minutes shy of the interval, when Marquinhos rose to head in a Neymar free-kick delivery from left flank.

With a three-goal cushion to their name, the need to raise the tempo proved less pressing for PSG after the break, and with little in the way of stubborn resistance from their hosts, victory proved a foregone conclusion.

But the best was yet to come from Argentina star Messi, who saved his fireworks for the final 10 minutes, turning a flat Neymar ball home for his first and then unfurling an overhead kick for a stunning second to wrap up the three points in style.

 

Kylian Mbappe must wait to show why he was worth the bumper pay deal that kept him at Paris Saint-Germain, with the striker unexpectedly forced to miss the team's Ligue 1 opener.

The reigning French champions announced that Mbappe, who was pictured in training on Thursday, would miss Saturday's game away to Clermont due to an adductor injury.

That will surely be welcome news for minnows Clermont, who suffered at Mbappe's hands last season. The France star scored once in PSG's 4-0 home win over Clermont, and then hit a hat-trick in a 6-1 away trouncing in April.

Mbappe's absence came in a team news bulletin from PSG that said an update on the 23-year-old, who signed a new three-year contract in May, would come in 72 hours' time.

It means Christophe Galtier, the coach who replaced Mauricio Pochettino last month, will be unable to field Mbappe together with Neymar and Lionel Messi this weekend.

Galtier's first competitive match with the big three at his disposal must wait, perhaps for the home game against Montpellier on Saturday, August 13.

Mbappe also missed last weekend's Trophee des Champions match. He was absent due to suspension for a game that saw PSG thrash Nantes 4-0, with Messi scoring the opener, Neymar netting twice and Sergio Ramos also weighing in on an all-star demolition of last season's Coupe de France winners.

Reports have claimed Mbappe's new contract, which kept him out of the clutches of long-time admirers Real Madrid, is worth around €50million annually and came with an even heftier signing-on fee.

He was PSG's top scorer last season, netting 39 goals from 46 games across all competitions, playing no part in just three Ligue 1 matches.

Christophe Galtier has told Paris Saint-Germain's superstars that a team that defends together can win big together.

New head coach Galtier believes squad spirit is contagious, and that such togetherness holds the key to getting the best out of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi this season.

The man now at the helm at Parc des Princes watched the PSG trio from afar last term, while bossing Nice. They spluttered at times as a combination when they were widely expected to take French and European football by storm.

Rarely have such a starry trio belonged to the same club at the same time, and they will be expected to better last season's performance as PSG again go after their holy grail: Champions League glory.

In Ligue 1 last season, Mbappe rattled in 28 goals in 35 games, but Neymar again missed chunks of the campaign and finished with 13 goals in 22 outings in the competition, while former Barcelona captain Messi hit the back of the net just six times in 26 league appearances, despite having an expected goals (xG) tally of 11.4.

 

Mbappe was absent through suspension for the 4-0 Trophee des Champions thrashing of Nantes last weekend. Messi opened the scoring, Neymar added a double, and Sergio Ramos completed the rout as Galtier, who took over from the sacked Mauricio Pochettino in July, picked up early silverware.

When the Parisians head to Clermont for their league opener on Saturday, Mbappe will be available once more, and that means in all likelihood the front three will be reunited.

"It's a pleasure to have Kylian Mbappe back for the first league game," said Galtier. "He's been involved in our pre-season."

Galtier was asked directly about what the key would be to getting the best out of the front three, but the coach took a tangential path to offering his view, and in doing so indicated he perhaps expects extra effort from Mbappe, Messi and Neymar when it comes to contributing all over the pitch.

"In terms of our defensive set-up we have a collective desire and responsibility. Also, as individuals. There can be periods in matches where it is very tight and the team hasn't yet got on top of the opposition in terms of the scoreline or finding spaces," Galtier said.

"We want to be very focused on not letting the opposition affect our style of play. We have a priority as a team and as individuals.

"When you have team-mates making a big effort, of course, that is contagious, and it means the players around them want to make the same effort. So we need to make sure this is what happens.

"There might be moments in games where it is not going so well. The midfield and defence might need to accept that there can be periods of the game where, for whatever reason, these attackers might find it hard to get back, or that could also go for the wing-backs.

"We have to accept that we all have to defend together, but sometimes the players who might be involved in the first stage of recovery with our pressing game might not be in the right position. So we have to do everything we can to create time for them to get back into the right position in our defensive block."

 

Galtier said he and PSG would benefit from the experience of former Real Madrid captain Ramos, who spent the majority of his first season with the club on the sidelines due to injury woes.

"It is always good to have players like him, and they can bring their experience," said Galtier. "Professionalism. That is what they bring to their team-mates, and to me they also have experiences that I haven't had, so I can learn from that, and they might also have answers to questions that I am asking myself."

In Clermont's debut Ligue 1 season last term, they were beaten 4-0 and 6-1 by PSG on the way to finishing 17th, just avoiding the drop.

PSG have won each of their past seven opening games in Ligue 1, a sequence which has only previously been surpassed by Marseille (10) and Bordeaux (9).

This will be PSG's 50th season in Ligue 1, and it brings them an opportunity to land an 11th league title, which would take them ahead of Saint-Etienne to become the outright most successful team in the competition's history. Anything less would be considered a failure.

Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

Neymar hailed fellow hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe and PSG assists king Lionel Messi as "geniuses" after the 6-1 win over Clermont.

The Brazilian also echoed Mbappe's verdict that it was a "shame" the superstar trio had not been able to link up more often this season.

Messi claimed three assists in the Ligue 1 leaders' rampant away victory on Saturday night, becoming the first player to claim three assists on two separate occasions in the French top flight since Opta data for the competition began in 2006-07, having previously assisted three goals against Saint-Etienne in November.

The former Barcelona captain has averaged an impressive 0.73 assists per 90 minutes on the pitch during his first season in Ligue 1, a team-high.

Meanwhile, the trebles scored by Mbappe and Neymar meant they became the first Ligue 1 team-mates to net hat-tricks in the same game since Mbappe and Edinson Cavani did so against Guingamp in January 2019. Prior to that, the last team to achieve the feat were Bordeaux against Valenciennes in August 1979.

Speaking after reaching double figures for Ligue 1 goals this season, Neymar was delighted with PSG's performance and said the relationship between the front three is improving with every match.

"I am very pleased to have scored my first hat-trick of the season," Neymar said.

"And [I'm] even happier with the win and our attitude. It's important that the chemistry between us get stronger in every match."

The win represented just the 14th occasion across all competitions when all three attackers have started together this season, leading Mbappe to say it was a "shame" PSG fans had been forced to wait until now to see them perform regularly together.

Neymar delivered a similar sentiment, while labelling his attacking partners "extraordinary".

"Unfortunately, everyone has gotten to pretty much 100 per cent only at the end of the season," Neymar said, quoted on the official Ligue 1 website.

"It's a shame, but I am very happy with everything that we are showing on the pitch. It's a lot easier to play with players who are very intelligent.

"Leo and Kylian are extraordinary, they are two geniuses."

PSG's last 11 Ligue 1 goals have been scored by Mbappe (five), Neymar (five) or Messi (one), and Mauricio Pochettino's men are closing in on the French title.

Neymar, meanwhile, has now scored against 24 of the 25 opponents he has faced in Ligue 1, the exception being Brest, and the treble was his first since January 2018, when he scored four goals against Dijon.

Kylian Mbappe regretted only getting a chance to click with Neymar and Lionel Messi late in Paris Saint-Germain's season and was guarded on how it would affect his future.

Mbappe and Neymar scored hat-tricks as PSG claimed a 6-1 victory over Clermont on Saturday, sending Mauricio Pochettino's men 15 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit.

It was the first time two team-mates have scored trebles in the same top-flight game since Mbappe and Edinson Cavani did so for PSG against Guingamp in January 2019. The most recent occasion prior to that was Albert Gemmrich and Gerard Soler for Bordeaux against Valenciennes in August 1979.

Neymar and Mbappe set one another up once each, while Messi had a trio of assists to become the first player to achieve that on three occasions in a single Ligue 1 season since Opta began collecting the data in 2006-07.

However, it was only the 14th match the trio have started together in all competitions this season. Last weekend's 5-1 success at Lorient was the first time they had all found the back of the net in the same game.

It remains to be seen whether Mbappe will continue to play with Messi and Neymar next season, as his contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign and he has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid.

Mbappe admitted it was frustrating the trio were only getting a chance to meet expectations with the Ligue 1 title the only trophy available to them. 

"It's a shame it's only happening now. There were a lot of circumstances and events that caused us to be delayed a little," Mbappe told Canal+. 

"We feel that we are three quality players and try to help the team as much as possible. 

"We are happy. We had a lot of fun and I think we gave the fans some too. We remain on the road to the 10th title, which is not very far away." 

However, Mbappe refused to be drawn on whether his relationship with Messi and Neymar would encourage him to stay at the Parc des Princes. 

"I've already answered," he said. "Neymar and Messi have been here since July. I've seen them many times. I've already answered." 

PSG were eliminated from the Coupe de France on penalties by Nice in January and failed to get past Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League. 

Mbappe added: "Life is like this. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You always have to look ahead. 

"It's gone now. We had pain, it is still present but we must be positive, show we are a great club, a great team and we are here to win trophies." 

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar scored hat-tricks as Paris Saint-Germain brought an emphatic end to their poor away form with a resounding 6-1 victory at Clermont in Ligue 1. 

Neymar and Mbappe struck in the opening 19 minutes as PSG ended a run of four straight losses on the road in all competitions and moved 15 points clear at the summit.

Jodel Dossou pulled one back for Clermont but Neymar scored from the spot and then set up Mbappe three minutes later as Mauricio Pochettino's men showed their teeth in the closing stages.

Mbappe completed his hat-trick with 10 minutes remaining and then returned the favour for Neymar, teeing him up for his third as PSG stayed on track for the title.

The visitors took the lead in controversial circumstances, Neymar's goal being allowed to stand despite Alidu Seidu being prone in the box after having his foot stepped on by Mbappe. 

Lionel Messi controlled Neymar's pass on his chest and volleyed a throughball in behind for Mbappe to poke past Arthur Desmas, but Clermont grew into the game and halved the deficit through Dossou before half-time.

Messi had a goal disallowed for offside before Mbappe was felled by Akim Zedadka in the box and Neymar slotted home the resulting spot-kick with the utmost composure in the 71st minute 

A magnificent outside-of-the-boot throughball over the top from Neymar set Mbappe on his way to his second and the France star made it three with a powerful finish from the edge of the box.

Mbappe then raced onto a pass from Georginio Wijnaldum and squared across the face of goal for Neymar to round off the scoring with 83 minutes played.

What does it mean? PSG close in on title 

With Rennes moving level on points with Marseille in second earlier on Saturday, PSG could find themselves a point away from reclaiming their Ligue 1 crown by the end of next weekend. 

Victory over Marseille at the Parc des Princes combined with Rennes losing to Monaco would leave them 18 points clear with just six games to play. 

Magical Messi-Mbappe link-up 

His first season at PSG has not quite lived up to expectations, but Messi was at his creative best against Clermont. The Argentina captain has now combined with Mbappe for eight goals in Ligue 1 this season.

Full-backs switch off 

Achraf Hakimi was caught in possession ahead of Clermont's goal and Dossou's run to the back post was not tracked by Nuno Mendes. Neither will be pleased with their role in PSG failing to keep an away clean sheet in Ligue 1 for the first time since October. 

What's next? 

PSG have Le Classique against Marseille to look forward to next Sunday, when Clermont will hope to boost their survival hopes at 19th-placed Metz. 

Serial trophy winner Medhi Benatia announced his retirement on Thursday as Juventus and Bayern Munich stars past and present hailed the powerhouse defender.

The 34-year-old former Morocco captain played a part in five consecutive league championship wins, firstly when landing two Bundesliga titles at Bayern in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

He joined Juventus from the German giants and featured in each of the next three campaigns as the Turin giants mopped up successive Scudetto triumphs, also leading his country at the 2018 World Cup.

Benatia was born in France and began his career in the Marseille youth set-up. He shot to prominence after a move from Clermont to Udinese in 2010, which paved the way for a switch to Roma in 2013, and one year later he was prised away by Bayern amid a scramble by elite clubs for his services.

After a double-winning second season, Benatia moved on to Juventus in 2016, before leaving the Bianconeri to sign for Qatari outfit Al-Duhail midway through the 2018-19 season.

While at Juventus, he was part of the squad that reached the 2016-17 Champions League final and also won the Coppa Italia twice. Most recently he has been with Turkish Super Lig side Fatih Karagumruk, who said Benatia had retired because of injury.

Responding to Benatia's announcement, which he revealed on Instagram, Juventus striker Paulo Dybala sent a heart emoji to his former team-mate. Ex-Bayern winger Franck Ribery did likewise, with current Juve full-back Juan Cuadrado and former favourite Sami Khedira also among those that sent greetings.

Blaise Matuidi, the former Juventus and France midfield general, wrote: "What a career, my brother. I remember those days at [French national football centre] Clairefontaine where we began to dream of being a professional footballer, but by dint of work you did much more than that. Incredible clubs, captain of a nation and having won a good number of titles, you can only be proud brother."

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly joined in the praise, writing: "Bravo capitano. Great man, great career, very good player and finally an example."

Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi praised his former national team skipper, with the message: "Capitanooo. Good luck in your new stage big bro."

Announcing his decision to retire, Benatia said: "From a young age I had only one dream, to become a professional footballer. To get there, I had to force myself to work hard, make sacrifices, but above all set new goals at each stage of my career.

"This job has also allowed me to defend and represent my country, Morocco, with whom I have experienced unforgettable moments... in particular the 2018 World Cup."

Mauricio Pochettino insisted Kylian Mbappe has plenty of love for Paris Saint-Germain after the speculation surrounding a move to Real Madrid last month.

PSG reportedly rejected three bids - the last one said to be worth up to €200million - from Madrid for the 22-year-old, whose contract with the Ligue 1 giants runs out at the end of the season.

Mbappe has so far turned down the opportunity to sign a new deal, though the speculation has not affected his form, and he scored with a typically composed finish in PSG's 4-0 rout of Clermont on Saturday.

The France forward has now scored against 26 of the 27 teams he has faced in Ligue 1, while he has also directly contributed to a goal in each of his last 10 appearances in the competition.

Mbappe, who was taken off with 11 minutes remaining, ended Saturday's match with a game-leading five attempts, with three of those on target, including a shot that was parried out to Idrissa Gueye for PSG's fourth goal.

However, prior to his strike against Clermont, there appeared to be something of a mixed reaction from the PSG faithful at Parc des Princes, with some sections of the home fans appearing to whistle and jeer the youngster.

Pochettino claimed not to have heard anything untoward, but was adamant that Mbappe has nothing but respect for PSG.

"I didn't hear the whistles, but I heard the ovation he received when he went to take a corner in the second half with the affection of all the supporters of Paris," Pochettino told a news conference.

"He is a great professional, a great player and a good boy, he has a lot of love for this club. He has shown it since he got here.

"He is focused on improving every day, helping the team and fulfilling the club's goals. He shows great respect every day for this club, you have to salute him."

Next up for PSG is a Champions League encounter with Club Brugge. Lionel Messi and Neymar, who were both absent for Saturday's match, are likely to return and may well start in a front three with Mbappe for the first time.

Paris Saint-Germain maintained their 100 per cent record in Ligue 1 this season as Kylian Mbappe and Ander Herrera propelled Mauricio Pochettino's team to a 4-0 victory over Clermont.

Without Lionel Messi and Neymar, who along with Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria were given extra rest following their international exploits in midweek, PSG still made light work of sealing a fifth straight win.

Passed fit to feature after sustaining a calf injury while on France duty, Mbappe – the subject of three failed bids from Real Madrid at the end of August – scored his fourth goal of the season on a typically blistering counter-attack 10 minutes into the second half.

Herrera's first-half double had put PSG into a comfortable position, with promoted Clermont failing to test debutant Gianluigi Donnarumma despite plenty of attacking intent as Idrissa Gueye wrapped up an emphatic win.

Mbappe created PSG's first chance after 11 minutes, though Marquinhos was unable to direct the forward's free-kick either side of Arthur Desmas.

Clermont's resolve was punctured in the 20th minute, though – Herrera on hand to head home after Desmas had parried Achraf Hakimi's cross-shot.

Danilo Pereira would have made it 2-0 four minutes later if not for Akim Zedadka's block, yet PSG would not be denied for long.

Herrera was once again in the right place at the right time to pounce on a loose ball, this time lashing a finish into the roof of the net, while a goal-line block prevented Julian Draxler netting a third before half-time.

There was to be no such reprieve for Clermont early in the second half – Mbappe rounding the goalkeeper to finish coolly after racing onto Draxler's lofted pass.

Mbappe should have doubled his tally, or teed up Rafinha, just after the hour, only for the youngster to chip wide when one-on-one with Desmas.

He atoned moments later, a rebound from his shot falling to Gueye, who nodded in at the back post to cap off a slick display.

Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed Lionel Messi and Neymar will not play against Clermont, while reaffirming that Kylian Mbappe is perfectly happy at Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi, who made his PSG debut at Reims before the international break, and Neymar both played as late as Thursday in respective World Cup qualifiers for Argentina and Brazil.

While Neymar scored and provided an assist in Brazil's 2-0 win over Peru, Messi netted a hat-trick against Bolivia, surpassing Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation in the process. Argentina subsequently celebrated their recent Copa America triumph with fans finally allowed back into the stadium in Buenos Aires.

Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes also featured for Argentina and Pochettino said a common-sense approach dictated none of the players would be involved in Saturday's home match against newly promoted Clermont.

"Di Maria, Paredes, Neymar and Messi, due to common sense, they are not going to be involved in the squad tomorrow," Pochettino told a news conference, though PSG's coach is hoping to have Mauro Icardi, Presnel Kimpembe and Mbappe – who suffered a calf injury while on France duty – will be fit to feature.

 

Mbappe was at the centre of one of the biggest stories of the recently closed transfer window, with PSG rejecting three bids from Real Madrid for their star striker.

The 22-year-old only has a year left to run on his contract and reports have suggested Madrid are confident he will sign for them as a free agent in 2022. For now, though, he remains at PSG, where Pochettino insists he is content.

"Mbappe is happy. He is emotionally stable. Before the end of the transfer window and now, he has stayed in the same positive mindset with the desire to play and enjoy himself," he said.

"So we are happy with how he is feeling. He has been training and recovering from the injury that he picked up on international duty. We hope he can be available tomorrow."

While PSG have incredible star power in attack, Pochettino has been keen to point out there is a balance to be struck. Indeed, his side conceded five goals across their opening three Ligue 1 fixtures and though they sit pretty on 12 points from four matches, the former Tottenham boss knows there is work to do.

"I think all the players at PSG are stars. Some might play more or less, but they are all stars," added Pochettino, who is also set to be shorn of Marco Verratti on Saturday.

"PSG as a club is bigger than any individual. We have a squad of around 35 players, they all need to feel important. In terms of managing the squad, which is our job, we need the tools so that the 35 players can feel at home and accept their place but at the same time, there are some fantastic names.

"We have to make sure they work as a team because this is a team sport and that is a big challenge that we face. I have been saying that since the start, so we are going to work hard so that it is not just about the names of Kylian, Neymar or Messi, but so that everyone feels comfortable.

"They all need a team, a structure and an organisation to win games so that has to be our main thought. We all drive towards that."

Two of PSG's latest arrivals are yet to make their debuts. Euro 2020 winner Gianluigi Donnarumma has been on the bench for the last two games, while Sergio Ramos is still working his way back to fitness.

Asked if Donnarumma could make his bow against Clermont, Pochettino replied: "We haven't decided yet who is going to be in goal. We have different options – Donnarumma is one of those options."

Pochettino also confirmed Saturday's game, as well as next week's Champions League meeting with Club Brugge, would come too soon for former Madrid captain Ramos.

"Ramos is still undergoing recovery and will not be available for that match," he explained.

"He is following the steps. We want all the players to be available as quickly as possible but it is not something that worries me. I am sure Sergio will recover well and be available soon."

France striker Kylian Mbappe has been granted permission to return to Paris Saint-Germain after suffering a right calf injury.  

Mbappe will miss the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday as a result. 

The French Football Federation confirmed that no replacement would be called up.  

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of France’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday. 

Despite the draw, Les Bleus sit top of Group D, four points clear of their next opponents Ukraine with four games remaining.  

The 22-year-old will hope to recover in time to return to league action for his club against Clermont on September 11. 

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