Kylian Mbappe is happy at Paris Saint-Germain, team-mate Hugo Ekitike claimed despite fresh reports the France star wants to leave the club.

Mbappe, who scored a penalty in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Benfica, is said to feel betrayed by the club hierarchy and is seeking a move in January. 

Despite intense speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid in the previous transfer window, Mbappe instead decided to stay with the French champions.

But Mbappe is reportedly once more seeking an exit, citing his unhappiness that the club broke several promises they made when he signed his new three-year contract in May.

But speaking after the stalemate with the Benfica, striker Ekitike said: "I often talk with Kylian [Mbappe], I know that he is happy to be at the club."

Ekitike, who turned down a transfer to Newcastle United to move from Reims to PSG, came off the bench to make his Champions League debut against Benfica.

He added: "The Champions League is something magical. Last year I watched it on television so participating in it and having those first minutes is something beautiful."

And looking forward, Ekitike is excited about a potential partnership with Mbappe and the chance to develop.

"I think it [getting to play with Mbappe] would be not bad at all," he said. 

"I came here as a project over several years where I have to progress. I think I'm in the perfect club for that."
 
PSG are joint-top of Group H after four games with Benfica also on eight points. They face Maccabi Haifa next week as they look to secure qualification to the knockout stages.

Mats Hummels lauded Jude Bellingham's leadership after the Borussia Dortmund midfielder replicated the feats of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe in a 1-1 draw with Sevilla.

Dortmund fell behind to Tanguy Nianzou's goal on Tuesday, but Bellingham cancelled out that strike by turning home Thomas Meunier's cross to score in a fourth consecutive Champions League game.

In doing so, Bellingham became just the third teenager to score in four consecutive Champions League appearances after Mbappe (in 2017) and Haaland (2019) – the latter of whom did so in five successive games.

Bellingham's return of four Champions League goals is also a new single-season record for an English teenager, beating Wayne Rooney's benchmark of three in the 2004-05 campaign.

Although the draw represented a frustrating result for BVB, Hummels showered praise on Bellingham, telling Amazon Prime: "Jude always wants to win. In training, in every game. He invests a lot. I think we all love this boy. 

"The fact that at the age of 19, he sometimes has to channel certain energies that I would still like to have, is completely normal. 

"But seriously, if someone - who has played every minute this season - tries to win every minute, to invest for the team, then he's allowed to complain. 

"I'd rather have someone like him who complains five times than someone who doesn't say anything at all. Then he can sometimes make wrong decisions, it doesn't matter."

Although Dortmund hold a five-point advantage over Sevilla in Group G, Hummels was irritated by a meek display which saw them register just seven shots totalling 0.37 expected goals.

"It wasn't a good game for us," Hummels added. "After half-time we lost at least 20 balls easily, unnecessarily leaving the game completely open against an insecure team.

"We didn't have enough game intelligence. I'm sorry, but Sevilla are very unsettled. They were happy with the 1-1 here, we didn't manage to build up any more pressure with the ball. 

"Football is actually a very simple game, but we always make it complicated for ourselves."

Christophe Galtier hailed the performance and focus of Kylian Mbappe against Benfica after "very surprising" reports emerged that the forward again wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe gave PSG the lead at Parc des Princes on Tuesday, converting from the penalty spot in the first half to become the club's leading scorer in the Champions League.

Joao Mario subsequently responded with a spot-kick of his own after the interval, though the result seemingly paled insignificance after reports suggested Mbappe had demanded an exit from PSG.

The World Cup-winning 23-year-old only signed a new three-year extension in May but has reportedly become unsettled once more after a failure to meet his demands both tactically and in recruitment.

PSG football advisor Luis Campos emphatically denied those reports by claiming Mbappe had not informed the club of such intentions, while head coach Galtier also expressed confusion over the speculation.

"We talked a lot about him this afternoon. I didn't talk about it with him, the objective is to stay focused on the match," Galtier told RMC Sport after PSG were held to a 1-1 draw in the Group H encounter.

"He gave a lot, he showed that he is a great player, focused on the game and the competition. We were all focused on the goal and on the match.

"From the rumour, we make information and from information, we make a statement. I find that very surprising a few hours before a very important match..."

Mbappe's goal was not enough to secure progression to the Champions League knockout stages, though Benfica and PSG sit four points clear of Juventus and Maccabi Haifa at the Group H summit.

PSG will aim to secure qualification with two games left to play, sitting level on eight points with Roger Schmidt's side, though Galtier may be concerned after having to withdraw Mbappe in the closing stages.

"He took a nasty tackle, he has a knock. I preferred to make sure to bring on a fresh player," Galtier added.

"We can regret the penalty we conceded because the action was not dangerous. We lacked verticality in the final third.

"We have played high-intensity matches, obviously that generates tiredness, but fatigue is in everyone, it's not an excuse."

The stalemate left Benfica winless in away six Champions League games against French sides (D3 L3), scoring just two goals in these six games, though the Portuguese side deserve credit.

Schmidt's men are the first team to avoid defeat in both group stage games in the competition against PSG since the Ligue 1 side were twice held by Napoli in the 2018-19 season.

"It makes me proud, of course. The way the players are playing in these difficult games, we never gave up, we always believed in ourselves," Schmidt told Eleven Sport.

"When you can't win, you have to take a point. I said it after the first game and I repeat it now. I think it was a fair result, again. Playing two games like this against Paris says a lot about the quality and attitude of the players."

Sergio Ramos refuted speculation Kylian Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain as he claimed the forward is "happy every day".

Mbappe started in the Champions League against Benfica on Tuesday after reports emerged the France international wants to depart the club in January, despite turning down Real Madrid to sign a new, lucrative three-year contract with PSG in May.

PSG football advisor Luis Campos insisted the 23-year-old has not expressed such intentions to the club, and Mbappe was in the thick of the action on the pitch in Paris.

Mbappe became PSG's all-time top scorer in the Champions League with a first-half penalty before Joao Mario's spot-kick restored parity, with the match petering out to a draw, with both sides sitting on eight points at the top of Group H.

After the game, former Madrid centre-back Ramos echoed Campos' sentiment, telling Canal Plus: "The only thing I can say is that Kylian is a friend and very happy here every day.

"He didn't leave last season, I don't believe the rumours."

As for PSG's performance, Ramos was far from impressed.

"We lacked a bit of determination. It's the little details that make the difference," he explained.

"Physically, [Benfica are] a very strong team, which worked well tactically and we couldn't find a space.

"The Champions League is a complicated competition. The objective is to finish first in the group, there are two games left and we must continue to work to show the best face of the team."

Thierry Henry has warned Kylian Mbappe that no player is bigger than the club, urging the Paris Paris Saint-Germain star to conform to tactical demands amid reports he may seek an exit.

World Cup-winning forward Mbappe signed a bumper three-year extension in Paris ahead of the 2022-23 season, seemingly ending speculation over a move to Real Madrid.

On Tuesday, however, PSG advisor Luis Campos was forced to address reports that Mbappe wants to leave in January, stating the France international has never expressed such intentions to the club.

The 23-year-old responded with a first-half penalty at the Parc des Princes against Benfica, becoming PSG's top scorer in the Champions League as he surpassed Edinson Cavani's 30-goal benchmark.

Reports suggest Mbappe has become unsettled for numerous reasons, including being unwilling to operate out wide, but Henry says his fellow Frenchman must play where he is instructed.

"Nobody likes to be exposed to what you are not good at," Henry said on CBS Sports. "You just don't like it. But there is something that is bigger than anything else and that is the club.

"Did they make him feel like the club was the most important thing or did they make him feel like he was more important than the club?

"I will use my own story. I didn't like to play out high and wide for Barcelona. I hated it, but I did it for the team.

"I didn't like it. After a hundred caps and I don't know how many goals I scored for France, I had to play on the left.

"I didn't hear anyone say, 'Oh, what a nice gesture!' to go on the left instead of players who had fewer goals and fewer caps.

"There is only one rule. If the boss asks you to do something, you do it; if it's good for the team. If it's bad for the team, I would get the argument."

PSG sit level on eight points with Benfica at the Group H summit after Joao Mario cancelled out Mbappe's opener with a spot-kick of his own, earning a point for Roger Schmidt's side.

Kylian Mbappe became Paris Saint-Germain's leading scorer in European competition but Christophe Galtier's side were held to a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the Champions League.

Tuesday's match at the Parc des Princes came on the back of widespread reports Mbappe was unhappy at PSG and would be seeking a January transfer.

PSG's football advisor Luis Campos emphatically denied those reports before kick-off, and the France international put the speculation to one side to convert a first-half penalty, nosing his side ahead and overtaking Edinson Cavani in the club's European record books.

Joao Mario equalised with a penalty of his own after the restart, however, with Mbappe seeing a late goal disallowed for offside as both teams missed the chance to secure progression from Group H.

PSG were thankful for a VAR reprieve in the 18th minute, an offside call seeing referee Michael Oliver change his decision to award Benfica a penalty for an Achraf Hakimi handball.

However, there was no doubt over Oliver's next penalty decision after Antonio Silva clumsily felled Juan Bernat, with Mbappe calmly sending Odysseas Vlachodimos the wrong way for his milestone goal six minutes before half-time.

Mbappe curled just wide in the second half before Marco Verratti brought down Rafa Silva just inside PSG's area.

The foul was initially missed by Oliver, who swiftly changed his decision after consulting the pitchside monitor, with Joao Mario smashing a finish high into the back of Gianluigi Donnarumma's net.

Mbappe thought he had struck a late winner, only to be ruled offside from Sergio Ramos' flick after acrobatically volleying past Vlachodimos.

Kylian Mbappe became Paris Saint-Germain's top scorer in the Champions League with a penalty against Benfica on Tuesday.

Reports this week suggested Mbappe wants to leave the French capital despite signing a bumper three-year extension in May amid continued interest from Real Madrid.

PSG football advisor Luis Campos said Mbappe had not told him of this wish ahead of the Group H clash with Benfica at Parc des Princes, where the 23-year-old soon made club history.

The World Cup winner coolly converted from 12 yards in the 39th minute to open the scoring after referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot following Antonio Silva's careless foul on Juan Bernat.

That took Mbappe's PSG tally to 31 goals in 48 Champions League appearances, surpassing Edinson Cavani as the club's leading marksman in the European Cup.

The France international, who previously netted six Champions League goals for Monaco, has scored four in as many games in Europe this season.

Kylian Mbappe has "never" told Paris Saint-Germain he wants to leave in January, says Luis Campos, despite continued reports of the forward's discontent.

World Cup winner Mbappe signed a new three-year deal with the Ligue 1 champions ahead of the 2022-23 season, seemingly ending speculation around a potential move to Real Madrid.

However, new reports have claimed the France international wants to leave Paris in January, with Madrid again said to be his preferred destination.

Ahead of a crucial Champions League clash with Benfica on Wednesday, PSG football advisor Campos refuted the suggestions Mbappe wants to depart.

"It's information. We have rumours every day, and we can't come and talk about them every day," Campos told Canal+.

"In this case, it's special, because we are a few hours away from a very important match; it is serious. It is serious because my name is also mentioned. And especially because I am with Kylian every day, [and] he never spoke to me about leaving in January.

"I was with the president, and to the president, Kylian never talked about leaving in January, too. That means it's not a statement from the player, it's information.

"Before a match like this, it's very serious and that's why I'm here: it's to deny and say clearly that Kylian never spoke, neither to me nor to the president, about leaving PSG in January. This question never came up."

Reports suggested Mbappe had become unsettled in the French capital, citing his role within the PSG attack, a failure to bolster their defensive options and a breakdown in his relationship with team-mate Neymar.

"Compared to me, I have a three-year contract with PSG, I am very happy to be here in this house, and I work every day so that PSG, at the end of my contract, have something special," Campos added.

"We speak with Kylian daily, as with Neymar, [Lionel] Messi, Danilo [Pereira], Vitinha, [Marco] Verratti, all the players. We discuss.

"Regarding recruitment, I have already said what I had to say last month [about a disappointing transfer window], I was very clear.

"The most important thing is to let people know that we work very hard every day, we are very happy to be here, and we are giving our all to satisfy PSG."

Kylian Mbappe's future with Paris Saint-Germain has come under scrutiny once again, with reports the French World Cup winner is pushing for an exit in January.

The 23-year-old signed a new three-year deal with PSG prior to the 2022-23 season, when he could have left the club on a free transfer, and made him the highest-earner in world football.

Just months after bringing the saga to a close, however, a new chapter in Mbappe's story looks to be opened, as his relationship with PSG is said to have broken down.

The list of clubs who could land Mbappe is a very small one, with PSG understandably ready to demand a world-record fee for his services, and Stats Perform has looked at his options.

Real Madrid

The frontrunners for Mbappe's services before he penned a new deal with PSG, Real Madrid will be firmly established as favourites for the France international should he be available – although securing a deal with the Ligue 1 champions will be difficult.

Madrid have a frosty relationship with their French counterparts, who were not included in the European Super League plans, still supported by Real's Florentino Perez, while LaLiga announced intentions to sue PSG after the European champions' approaches for Mbappe in the last transfer window fell flat.

Mbappe, meanwhile, is still reported to aspire to play for Madrid and will hope that player power triumphs, with any move adding to the strong French contingent currently on display in the Spanish capital.

The Santiago Bernabeu is already the home of Ferland Mendy, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni and Karim Benzema, to whom Mbappe would be a natural successor.

Liverpool

First linked with Liverpool three years ago, the Reds are reported to have explored the option of landing Mbappe had he become available for free.

Jurgen Klopp's side had little chance of such a deal, with Madrid the player's preferred option, but the sour relationship between the Spanish side and PSG may provide a boost to any hopes of the Frenchman arriving at Anfield.

Liverpool saw Sadio Mane depart for Bayern Munich and Roberto Firmino looks set to leave when his contract expires in 2023, while Mohamed Salah has struggled for form since penning a lucrative three-year deal in July.

A poor start to the season has seen Liverpool win just two of their opening eight matches, with the Reds already 14 points adrift of leaders Arsenal, while rivals Manchester City, who Liverpool have fought relentlessly in recent seasons, are enjoying the fruits of Erling Haaland's labour – so landing Mbappe could be the ideal response.

Chelsea

Todd Boehly's multi-billion-pound takeover prior to the start of the 2022-23 season saw a wealth of new additions, while a swift managerial change after a slow start led to Graham Potter arriving to lead the side.

It's no secret that the American owner is keen for a star addition to the squad, with Cristiano Ronaldo heavily touted for a move to Stamford Bridge from Manchester United. While that ultimately did not happen, Mbappe could be the answer to Boehly's prayers.

Landing Mbappe, arguably the biggest name in world football beyond Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, would represent a major coup and would also be a big hit with club sponsors Nike, who also have Mbappe among their list of clientele.

Chelsea's recent success in the Champions League would be appealing to Mbappe, who is yet to win Europe's elite competition, and a switch to the Blues could be the ideal fit for all parties.

Manchester City

City already have their mega-star well established in the side with Haaland but could an opportunity to partner him with Mbappe and boast a striking partnership that strikes fear into world football really be turned down?

Despite City's domestic dominance under Pep Guardiola, a Champions League title is yet to arrive at the club and Mbappe could get them over the line – particularly with Haaland already making his mark.

Few managers in world football have the pull that Guardiola does and Mbappe may feel he has not had the opportunity to work under an elite boss, with PSG's merry-go-round in the dugout yet to include a bona fide managerial great.

PSG would have no concerns that City do not have the money to secure such a transfer, with the Premier League side perhaps the only one in world football who undoubtedly have the full financial power to pull off a record-breaking move.

Kylian Mbappe has been told to "grow up" and be more of a team player, with former France star Emmanuel Petit saying the Paris Saint-Germain striker's behaviour "annoys everyone".

France international Mbappe was linked with a move away from PSG on Tuesday, as Spanish newspaper Marca claimed his relationship with the Ligue 1 club has broken down.

It was reported Mbappe would be keen to move in January, despite only signing a new contract at the end of last season.

The deal came amid strong interest from Real Madrid, with Mbappe agreeing hugely lucrative terms to remain at PSG rather than depart as a free agent at the end of his contract.

He deleted an Instagram post recently that appeared to be critical of his role in coach Christophe Galtier's team, with Mbappe giving the impression he is displeased at being used as a lone out-and-out striker.

Speaking to RMC Sport, former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Petit said: "In recent weeks, I find him off-topic in his communication. I find that he is moving more and more from the central subject, which is the game and the pitch. He is making it more and more a personal business.

"Of course, I hear rumours that promises have not been kept, but I want to tell him: 'Kylian, grow up, that's life.'

"It's the same every day. You are made promises that no one keeps most of the time, does that mean you have to stop working and question everything? Of course not.

"It's called everyday life, the life of grown-ups, that of adults. Kylian, the sooner you have solved your problems with yourself, the sooner your performance will be felt on the pitch and your relationships with the public and your team-mates will find a certain appeasement."

There remains a clamour in Madrid for Mbappe to join Los Blancos, but there would need to be a huge shift in PSG's position for that to be an option before the end of next season.

At the same time, any sign of a dispirited Mbappe could have serious consequences for team morale.

Mbappe had 60 goals involvements in 46 games for PSG last season, with 39 goals and 21 assists.

This term, he has 11 goals from 12 games but has yet to have an assist, and he has often been outperformed by team-mate Neymar, who has managed 11 goals and nine assists in 14 appearances, while Lionel Messi also has eight goals and eight assists.

Mbappe, perhaps thinking he was going to be the main man this season, has been frequently overshadowed by others, making just about as many headlines for his perceived unhappiness as for his football.

He was due to be in action for PSG against Benfica on Tuesday in the Champions League, ahead of a Ligue 1 'Classique' against Marseille on Sunday.

"He annoys everyone today," said Petit. "He constantly makes it a personal matter.

"He even puts himself above the institution. Has everything that happened in recent months gone to his head?"

Kylian Mbappe has been named football's highest earner in the world by Forbes magazine, overtaking Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi and Ronaldo had locked out the top spot since 2014, but Mbappe's new deal with Paris Saint-Germain has seen him overtake his PSG team-mate and the Manchester United star.

The France international had been linked with a move to Real Madrid as his previous deal in Paris was set to expire at the end of last season, only for him to sensationally agree to a three-year extension in May to stay at his hometown club.

Forbes' highest earners in football list also takes into account a player's earnings off the field, and Mbappe is not short of significant sponsorship deals, while also starting his own production company in the last year, Zebra Valley.

Messi and Ronaldo are in second and third place as they continue to earn plenty in the autumn years of their careers, while a third PSG player, Neymar, completes the top four.

As well as Ronaldo, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (fifth) and Manchester City duo Erling Haaland (sixth) and Kevin De Bruyne (10th) are the three other Premier League representatives on the list.

Barcelona's Robert Lewandowski (seventh) and Madrid's Eden Hazard (eighth) are the only two players from LaLiga.

Former Barca star Andres Iniesta is in ninth, despite leaving Europe to play in Japan in 2018.

2022 Forbes highest earners in football top 10 list

1. Kylian Mbappe - PSG: $128m (£115.2m/€130.9m)

2. Lionel Messi - PSG: $120m (£108.0m/€122.7m)

3. Cristiano Ronaldo - Man Utd: $100m (£90.0m/€102.3m)

4. Neymar - PSG: $87m (£78.3m/€88.9m)

5. Mohamed Salah - Liverpool: $53m (£47.7m/€54.2m)

6. Erling Haaland - Man City: $39m (£35.1m/€39.9m)

7. Robert Lewandowski - Barcelona: $35m (£31.5m/€35.8m)

8. Eden Hazard - Real Madrid: $31m (£27.9m/€31.7m)

9. Andres Iniesta - Vissel Kobe: $30m (£27.0m/€30.7m)

10. Kevin De Bruyne - Man City: $29m (£26.1m/€29.7m)

Chelsea will host Milan on Wednesday in what could well be a must-win fixture for the Blues, who sit last in Champions League Group E.

England has not been a happy hunting ground for Milan, but the group leaders and reigning Serie A champions will be hoping for a change of fortune when they roll into Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, Mykhaylo Mudryk will get a chance to show why he is considered one of the top young talents in Europe as Shakhtar Donetsk head to the Santiago Bernabeu to take on Real Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain will look to change their poor historical record against Benfica, with Kylian Mbappe on the brink of becoming the club's record European goalscorer.

Stats Perform has dug up the most interesting facts and angles for each contest on Wednesday.

Chelsea v Milan

This is the first time these two teams will meet in the Champions League since they were in the same group in 1999, with both of those matches ending in draws. They have not met in a competitive game since, with all four of their 21st-century contests coming in the International Champions Cup (Chelsea won three of those with Milan recording one victory).

Chelsea have only lost twice at home to Italian teams in continental competition, collecting eight wins and three draws. They lost to Lazio 1-2 in 2000, and to Inter 1-0 in 2010.

Milan's record in England also gives no reason for optimism, with only one win from 20 tries in European play (D7 L12). 

Olivier Giroud was subbed off in Milan's dramatic 3-1 win over Empoli on Saturday. The France striker could become the 10th player to score for and against Chelsea in the Champions League, and first since Loic Rémy for Lille in December 2019, should he net in this meeting.

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk

This is the third consecutive season these sides have met in the group stages. It is the fifth time teams have ever been paired together in three consecutive seasons, and Shakhtar was involved in the most recent occasion as well, against Manchester City from 2017-18 through to 2019-20.

Over the past two seasons, they have split the wins evenly, with Shakhtar winning both games in the 2020-21 campaign, before Madrid triumphed in both fixtures last season.

After a win and a draw in the first two matchdays, Shakhtar boast the highest shot conversion rate in the competition, scoring with five of their 10 shots, including two goals from 21-year-old rising star Mudryk.

On the other side, Vinicius Junior leads the Champions League with 33 chances created and seven assists from open play since the start of last season, and he shares the mantle for most goal involvements at 18 with Barcelona's Robert Lewandowski.

Benfica v Paris Saint-Germain

Benfica are looking to extend their surprisingly strong record against Paris Saint-Germain, having won three of their six previous meetings (1D 2L) in European competitions, including the past three in a row. Their last fixture came in the 2013-14 season, with Benfica winning 2-1 at home.

In fact, Benfica have enjoyed plenty of success while hosting French sides, with five consecutive home wins – twice against Lyon, as well as beating Lille, Monaco and PSG.

However, PSG are a different beast now then they were back in 2014, and have only lost one of their past 11 matches in the group stage (8W 2D).

At only 23, Mbappe can become the club's all-time leading scorer in European competitions with one more goal. He is currently tied at 30 with Edinson Cavani.

RB Leipzig v Celtic

These sides both won their home fixtures when they were matched up in the 2018-19 group stage, and they will be desperate for a result as they enter Wednesday's game with only one point between them in Group F.

Celtic will be looking to make history as they have never won a European game away in Germany (10L 3D), failing to score on nine of those 13 occasions.

But it might be a case of a stoppable force meeting a movable object, as Leipzig have not kept a clean sheet in their last seven home games in the competition. They have only shut out their opponents twice from 15 Champions League home games.

Jota will be the key for Celtic's chances, with his six chances created trailing only Napoli's Piotr Zielinski (eight), while only Madrid star Vinicius is credited with more take-on dribbles (11) than Jota's nine.

Other fixtures:

Manchester City v FC Copenhagen

23 – Manchester City are two games away from tying Manchester United's record of 23 consecutive Champions League home fixtures without a loss. They are unbeaten at home in the competition since 2018.

62 – City's Erling Haaland averages a goal every 62 minutes in the competition, netting 26 goals in 21 appearances. He is well clear of second-placed Mario Gomez, who scored his 26 goals on an average of every 102 minutes.

Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

1 – Borussia Dortmund have only won one of their past 11 trips to Spain in the Champions League (L7 D3), but that win came from their most recent opportunity, against Sevilla in February 2021.

3 – Sevilla have failed to score in each of their past three Champions League games. They have never gone four consecutive games in European competition without scoring.

Juventus v Maccabi Haifa

29 – It has been 29 years since Maccabi Haifa defeated an Italian team in European competition (3L 1D), with their only victory coming in 1993 against Parma. 

8 – The Israeli side have lost all eight of their Champions League fixtures since 2002, by a combined aggregate score of 13-1.

Salzburg v Dinamo Zagreb

6 – Salzburg can become the first Austrian team to ever go six games unbeaten in the Champions League if they can avoid defeat against Dinamo Zagreb, with three wins and two draws from their past five.

23 – The last time Zagreb kept a clean sheet away from home in this competition was 23 years ago, drawing 0-0 against United at Old Trafford in 1999. Since then, they have conceded 52 goals in 18 away games (2.9 per game).

Lionel Messi showed against Nice he has the quality to become the world's best player again, according to Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier.

The Argentina international opened the scoring in PSG's 2-1 Ligue 1 win at Parc des Princes on Saturday with a lofted free-kick from 22 yards that he had won himself.

That was Messi's first direct free-kick goal for PSG since joining from Barcelona in August 2021 and the 60th of his career overall for club and country.

On the back of an underwhelming first campaign in the French capital, Messi has five goals and seven assists in his first nine Ligue 1 outings this season.

And after registering a goal in successive league games for the first time as a PSG player, Galtier has backed the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to maintain his consistency.

"I have an incredible pleasure to see him every morning in training," Galtier said in his post-match press conference. "He is playing well and is happy every day when he trains.

"He is a player who has always had a habit of scoring a lot of goals in a season. This year he's regaining a taste for scoring and is becoming decisive for us.

"Whether he can be the best player in the world again, I'd say yes because he's in incredible shape and he's well prepared.

"He has a relationship with his team-mates that makes him happy. When he's happy, he performs; when he performs, he can reach the standards seen throughout his career."

 

Messi's sublime effort was cancelled out by Gaetan Laborde two minutes into the second half and PSG were then largely frustrated by Nice, the side Galtier left to join PSG in July.

But Kylian Mbappe proved to be the match-winner from the bench with his 83rd-minute strike, coming from his only shot on target, as PSG leapfrogged Marseille at the summit.

Asked about his decision to start with Mbappe on the bench following his return from France duty, Galtier said: "He picked up a knock to the hip against Denmark.

"He returned on Wednesday and only had 48 hours to rest. He still had a hip hematoma today. He had this apprehension but still remained available to the team.

"I had the same discussion with Lionel when he returned to the group [from Argentina action]. Unlike Kylian, he didn't pick up an injury during his time away."

PSG now have 25 points after nine unbeaten matches to start the campaign, matching their previous best starts from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns.

However, it was not all good news for the Parisians as Renato Sanches lasted only 16 minutes after being brought off the bench, aggravating an injury problem.

"Renato felt a little stretch of his left leg as he slid," Galtier said. "It's his left leg, so on the side where he was previously injured.

"He was returning from injury and preferred to come off rather than stay on. Regarding the seriousness of the injury, it is still far too early to know."

Kylian Mbappe was brought off the substitutes' bench to rescue a late 2-1 win for Paris Saint-Germain against Nice in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Former Nice coach Christophe Galtier decided against starting Mbappe, but it did not appear to matter when Lionel Messi opened the scoring from a free-kick he had won himself.

That was Messi's first direct free-kick goal for PSG – and the 60th of his career – yet Gaetan Laborde equalised two minutes into the second half for Nice.

Although Mbappe's introduction on the hour did not initially make much difference, the France forward's quality told as he swept in an 83rd-minute winner at the Parc des Princes.

Kylian Mbappe is a smart enough player to create space and play with freedom alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, according to Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier.

France international Mbappe appeared to question the tactics used at PSG when admitting last week he has "a lot more freedom" when playing for his country.

The 23-year-old was speaking on the back a 2-0 win over Austria in which he and strike partner Olivier Giroud linked up throughout, with both players on the scoresheet.

But while Galtier agrees that PSG could do with a Giroud-type player in their squad, he does not believe his side have a problem getting the most out of Mbappe in attack.

"I don't think he has less freedom," Galtier said ahead of Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with his former club Nice. "With Giroud, he has someone who opens up spaces for him.

"We don't have that player profile but he's just as smart to find other moves with Leo and Neymar giving him the ball in his preferred space.

"Kylian's analysis is correct. He's not in the same system for his club and national team. This is a discussion I've had with the president and Luis Campos about our attack.

"We were all convinced we needed a fourth player in that position with a different profile, but that player did not come [in the transfer window]. It's a shame but that's how it is.

"The technical relationship between Neymar, Leo and Kylian is different to what he has with the national team."

The relationship between PSG's star-studded front three was again in the spotlight this week when Neymar declined to comment on his relationship with Mbappe.

Speaking earlier this month, Mbappe admitted he has "hotter and colder moments" with the Brazil international, though added they have a strong mutual respect.

But when probed on the pair's relationship on Thursday, Galtier insisted he is more than happy with the chemistry in the dressing room.

"I am surprised I have to always repeat the same thing," he said. "Since I arrived here, to the current day, all I've experienced is normal things in the life of a locker room.

"There is nothing that's surprised me, nothing that has challenged me. The players here want to win together and they are also in competition [for a place in the side].

"They are all great champions with competitiveness, with egos. We have a pleasant dressing room. There is a discrepancy between what you hear and the reality."

 

The Parisians enter the contest with Nice top of Ligue 1 with seven wins and a draw from the opening eight matches of their latest title defence.

However, PSG have scored only one goal in both of their past two league outings – not since September 2020 have they failed to score more than once in three straight games.

Galtier said during the international break that his side need to show more of a "killer" instinct in front of goal, having managed 12 shots on target across the two matches.

"I want to remind the players that it would be beneficial to us to hurt teams quickly," Galtier added at Thursday's press conference.

"It will help with the management of the squad and playing time. But it must be said that opposing goalkeepers have also performed well against us."

PSG are unbeaten in their past 17 Ligue 1 games ahead of their return to action this weekend, which is the longest current run in the division.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.