Lionel Messi is battling hamstring and knee trouble and the struggling superstar will miss Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League match at RB Leipzig on Wednesday.

The Argentine forward was omitted from PSG's 21-man squad for the Group A game, as Mauricio Pochettino's side aim to move a step closer to the last-16 stage.

Messi played only the first half of Friday's Ligue 1 game against Lille, with Mauro Icardi taking his place after the break.

Former Barcelona captain Messi had been a doubt for the Lille game and delivered a disappointing display after being given the nod to start.

He has now had 15 shots without finding the net for PSG in Ligue 1 this season – the joint-second most attempts of any player yet to score in the division (Troyes' Renaud Ripart has had the most: 18).

Messi's three goals for PSG in eight games since arriving from Barcelona have all come in the Champions League. He got his first for his new club against Manchester City, before scoring twice in a 3-2 comeback win against Leipzig two weeks ago. That was his 34th brace in the Champions League – a record only beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo (37).

The 34-year-old's feats in Europe mean Messi has matched a PSG record of scoring three goals in his first three Champions League appearances for the team, equalling Neymar and Icardi in that regard.

PSG named a strong party for the trip to Germany, with the likes of Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe selected – the latter missed the Lille game due to an ear, nose and throat infection.

But the French club said in a medical bulletin published on their official website: "Leo Messi has discomfort in his left hamstring and pain in his knee following a contusion."

It remains to be seen whether Messi can recover to be involved in the Ligue 1 match at Bordeaux on Saturday.

PSG said former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who has been injury-hit and has yet to feature since arriving in the close season, "is continuing his individual training programme and will join up with the rest of the squad in the next few days".

With seven points from three games, PSG lead the way in Champions League Group A, a point ahead of Manchester City. Leipzig have lost each of their opening three games.

Leonardo defended Lionel Messi, Neymar and Mauricio Pochettino, among others, as he said criticism of Paris Saint-Germain has been unfair this season, even if their performances have been below par.

PSG are 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after beating defending champions Lille on Friday – a fact sporting director Leonardo was keen to reiterate – and also lead their Champions League group.

But Pochettino's side have not quite reached the standard expected of an outfit boasting three of the best players in the world in Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

PSG had to come from behind to defeat Lille 2-1, scoring an 88th-minute winner through Angel Di Maria.

It was the fifth time in this calendar year PSG have conceded first but won in Ligue 1, tying a club record, while they have now earned eight points in the final five minutes of matches this season. No other team have collected more than three.

 

Those statistics speak to the fine margins PSG are dealing with, but Leonardo expected progress would be slow and steady after a busy off-season in which Messi arrived alongside Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Nuno Mendes and Georginio Wijnaldum.

"That we have things to improve is obvious," Leonardo said. "But it is normal given the context. There have been players who have reached the end of their preparation, there have been significant changes.

"We are not where we want to be, but the team works a lot. This is very important."

Leonardo feels there has been too much criticism of PSG, suggesting negative press was "starting to exceed the limits".

He added: "To say that the coach does not understand anything about football, that he was born yesterday, that the great players we took suck...

"There are people who want to make their names by talking about PSG, it's a personal promotion.

"We don't play the way we want, but we have 10 wins, a draw and a loss. We are 10 points ahead.

"We don't play the way we want, okay, but we are on a path, we never lack effort, we know how to reverse scenarios. It was the fourth win in the 90th minute.

"You can't talk about Messi, Mbappe, Neymar, [Marco] Verratti, the coach, Marquinhos like that. Ramos, too? We knew Ramos had a problem. You are playing the game of the Spanish press. We knew everything. We know what is going on."

Ramos is yet to play for PSG since joining from Real Madrid in July, while Messi and Neymar have underwhelmed this term.

Messi still waits on his first Ligue 1 goal, making him the player to have had the most shots in the competition without scoring this season (15, including four on target).

 

Meanwhile, Neymar is enduring his longest Ligue 1 drought, going five games without a goal. However, his brilliant assist for Di Maria on Friday was his third in that time.

"Messi has spent more time with the national team than here," Leonardo said. "Neymar is the same thing, and he played a great game [against Lille]. They were decisive with Di Maria.

"I am not worried about anything. People think we don't know anything about the players, that the players are all partying. This does not correspond to the truth; if players do things wrong, we talk to them.

"Neymar is unfairly criticised. He played a very big game. If he's a player who parties every day, he doesn't play a game like that, it's impossible."

On Pochettino, Leonardo added: "Pochettino, before arriving here, was a top-five [coach]; now, supposedly, he doesn't understand anything anymore.

"We have changed things. Opinions will be formed at the end. We are in a hurry at PSG, it's normal. With a team like that, we want to win this year, that's for sure.

"If we're going to succeed, I don't know. That we have all the means, I am convinced. We have a coach, we have a very large squad. Why would I be worried? We can be better. If we look at what we have, why would I be worried?"

Lionel Messi was substituted at half-time against Lille as a precautionary measure and should be available for Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

The Argentina international was a doubt heading into Friday's Ligue 1 meeting with Lille and lasted just 45 minutes before being replaced by Mauro Icardi with his side 1-0 down at the time through a Jonathan David strike.

PSG went on to win 2-1 at Parc des Princes thanks to second-half goals from Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria as they returned to winning ways and stretched their lead at the summit to 10 points on Lens, who have a game in hand.

Messi's departure on the back of another below-par display was undoubtedly the big talking point of the game, but Pochettino does not expect the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to spend any further time on the sidelines.

"We don't think he's injured. He saw the doctor as a precaution, in accordance with the medical staff," Pochettino said at his post-match news conference. "It is hoped that he will be available for the next match."

Messi has now had 15 shots without finding the net for PSG in Ligue 1 – the most of any player in the division – with his only three goals for the club in eight games since arriving from Barcelona coming in the Champions League.

 

It is the first time since October 2020 that he has gone five league games without scoring, and PSG coped in his absence on Friday as Di Maria set up Marquinhos for the leveller and then tucked in the winner himself two minutes from time.

The Parisiens have won eight points after the 85th minute in the French top flight this season – at least five more than any other side – and Pochettino put that down to the strong character of his side.

"I don't think it's any coincidence that the team responds this way to adversity," he said. "They showed a good state of mind today. We suffered but responded just as well. It's no coincidence we have won 10 out of 12 games."

PSG had lost their previous two matches to Lille, including a 1-0 loss in this corresponding fixture six months ago, with that the most recent occasion they have dropped points at home following their latest fightback.

The runaway leaders were far from their best once again, but Pochettino is pleased with what he saw from his side in an improved second-half display – notably when Messi was off the field.

"The feeling in the first half is that we didn't manage to have control," he said. "That on recoveries from Lille, they created danger too easily, that each attack ended with an opportunity. 

"In the second half we were much better. We managed to give this security to the team to engage more in attack, to play. There are always things that can be improved, but the important thing was to win."

PSG have now won 76 per cent of their Ligue 1 games in 2021 (25 out of 33), a success rate that is only bettered by Premier League champions Manchester City (79 per cent) from teams in Europe's top five leagues.

Dusan Vlahovic has already made it clear he will not re-sign with Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is wanted by a host of European clubs.

Juventus are reportedly ready to make their move.

 

TOP STORY – VLAHOVIC TO TURIN IN JANUARY?

Juventus are eyeing a January swoop for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Tuttosport.

Vlahovic has no plans to re-sign with Fiorentina and the Serbia forward has been linked to Juve, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.

But Juve are believed to be desperate to prise Vlahovic from Florence amid their struggles, while Gazzetta dello Sport claims contact has already been made.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Star reports Manchester United have cooled their interest in Antonio Conte as a possible replacement for under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer due to his expensive demands. Zinedine Zidane, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino have also been linked.

Real Madrid and Liverpool are considering moves for United midfielder Paul Pogba, says Ekrem Konur. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and he has been linked with Barcelona, PSG and Juventus also.

- ESPN claims Chelsea and Newcastle United have been sounded out over their possible interest in struggling Madrid star Eden Hazard.

- Serie A rivals Inter and Juve are set to battle it out to sign Borussia Monchengladbach star Matthias Ginter, per Sport Bild.

Nicolo Barella will sign his new Inter deal next week, according to Fabrizio Romano. Barella had been linked with the likes of PSG, Atletico and Liverpool.

Kylian Mbappe has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash with Lille through illness, while Lionel Messi is doubtful due to a minor injury.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG welcome reigning champions Lille to the Parc des Princes on Friday aiming to return to winning ways after last week's goalless draw with rivals Marseille.

Mauricio Pochettino's side will do so without Mbappe, who played a full part in Le Classique but has since been struck down by an ear, nose and throat infection.

Mbappe was not the only superstar forward missing from training on Thursday, with Messi also absent due to what Pochettino described as "muscle discomfort".

PSG will make a late decision on Messi's fitness and Pochettino has suggested he may field the Argentina captain through the middle, should he be fit.

"Messi missed training as a precaution," Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference. "He did an individual session instead. We will see tomorrow if he can play.

"Kylian is of course important to us. As he is absent, there are several other possibilities over who plays through the middle.

"Messi can play there, but there are other alternatives. We'll have to see what the final decision is. As Pep Guardiola says, Messi can play anywhere."

 

Since arriving at PSG from Barcelona on a shock free transfer in August, Messi has played either on the right of a 4-3-3 or behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1.

Messi is still finding his feet in the French capital, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored three goals in his first seven appearances in all competitions - each of those coming in the Champions League.

He is yet to score in Ligue 1, making this the first time he has failed to score in his first four league appearances of a league season since 2005-06 with Barcelona.

And with PSG failing to find the net in two of their last three league games, Pochettino was pressed on whether it is time to use Messi as the focal point of the attack.

"The tactical disposition of the team provides us with a base that can vary," he said. "We have a reference for offensive and defensive systems.

"Each player has, in principle, certain responsibilities depending on his position and that of others. Leo is a player who can play on the right, the centre or in the number 10.

"He is a player who can play anywhere. He is the best player in the world, who positions himself where the game demands it, according to the needs of the team."

PSG are also without the suspended Achraf Hakimi for the visit of Lille, while Marco Verratti will be absent for the next month and Sergio Ramos is still not ready for his debut.

However, Neymar is available after recovering from an abductor injury to play a part against Marseille.

Neymar has just one goal and two assists in eight games this season and Pochettino admits he is after more from the Brazil international.

"The circumstances are always different. The comparisons are not fair," he said when asked if Neymar is regressing from previous seasons. 

"For me, Neymar is a player with enormous talent, one of the best players in the world. 

"When we arrived at PSG, we tried to give him everything he needed. He needs to be at his best. I'm happy with him. For me, he's a player with enormous talent. 

"We always hope that he will continue to improve. But this is not enough, because we know that we must continue to do better."

Asked if it was possible Neymar could be benched, Pochettino said: "All the players can be on the bench, or on the field. There are 33 players who think they are playing. 

"If they are not playing, they are not happy. It is not only at PSG, but in the the whole football world. I couldn't give a clearer answer."

PSG have lost their last two games against 10th-place Lille in all competitions and could lose three in a row in this fixture for the first time since a run of four between March 1987 and September 1988.

Manchester United's 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool could prove to be the beginning of the end, or indeed the final straw, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The team have performed poorly this season, failing to win any of their last five domestic games (losing four) and requiring last-minute winners from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League following an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Young Boys.

Sunday's embarrassing scoreline set a number of unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against Liverpool at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Solskjaer only signed a new three-year deal with an option for an additional year in July, but disappointing results have sparked speculation about the Norwegian's future.

If Solskjaer is indeed replaced, who might take his spot and be charged with guiding United back to the top? Stats Perform takes a look at some of the favourites.

 

Antonio Conte

Conte seems, in many ways, to be an ideal appointment for United. For starters, the Italian is a free agent, having left Inter after winning Serie A last season – breaking Juventus' nine-year grip in the process and ending the Nerazzurri’s long wait for a league title.

The first three of those nine consecutive league titles for Juventus were won by Conte himself, who took a Bianconeri side that had not won the Scudetto since their revoked success in 2005 and established an era of dominance, going undefeated in the league in his first season (2011-12) and setting the Serie A points record (102) in his third.

His achievements in Italy are coupled with experience and success in England, winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017 (racking up an impressive 93 points) and claiming an FA Cup the year after.

Conte does have a reputation for being a volatile coach, but his track record of titles will surely be tempting for United, who have not won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

However, former United defender Gary Neville does not think the ex-Italy coach is a good fit for the club, telling Sky Sports: "Conte's available but I wouldn't bring him to Manchester United. I wouldn't bring him here now. I don't think Antonio Conte is a fit for Manchester United."

Zinedine Zidane

Another free agent – and a particularly glamorous option – is Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman's second stint as Real Madrid boss came to an end in May and he remains available.

Zidane won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell as Los Blancos head coach and also claimed two LaLiga titles over his five years in the role.

The 49-year-old is the record holder for most consecutive LaLiga away wins (13) and the longest unbeaten run in Spanish football (40 games) and United would surely see him as an upgrade on Solskjaer.

He has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively. 

 

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous two names on this list, but has a wealth of experience in the English game and has done an admirable job in his current post as Leicester City head coach, guiding the Foxes to their first-ever FA Cup last season as well as successive fifth-placed Premier League finishes.

He also claimed back-to-back domestic trebles in his two-and-a-half seasons with Celtic, but his association with United's rivals Liverpool may prove to be an obstacle, having come within two points of winning the Premier League in his second season on Merseyside.

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has reportedly long been admired by United, being regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in his five-year spell in north London, having taken Tottenham to a Champions League final in that time.

However, the Argentine only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and signed a contract extension until 2023 in July, and is coaching a team that includes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, not to mention the rest of PSG's star-studded squad.

Never say never, but this deal would certainly be a difficult one for United to pull off given the timing.

 

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag has impressed in his time in the Netherlands, winning two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and embarking on a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, knocking Madrid and Juventus out before falling going out on away goals to Pochettino's Spurs.

Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag and are four points clear at the top of the league once more this season, beating title rivals PSV 5-0 on Sunday.

However, it remains to be seen if the Dutchman – who has also been linked with Newcastle United – would be willing to leave mid-season.

What does the future hold for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

His position as Manchester United manager is becoming more uncertain after an embarrassing loss to Liverpool.

A former Premier League-winning boss, Antonio Conte, is believed to be waiting in the wings.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE EYEING UNITED ROLE?

The Manchester United job would be a priority for Antonio Conte should the Red Devils part with embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Sportitalia journalist Gianluigi Longari.

Solskjaer is facing fierce criticism following Sunday's humiliating 5-0 defeat to Premier League rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Former Inter and Chelsea boss Conte has been linked with Newcastle United following talk of a pre-season move to Tottenham, while the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino could reportedly be considered for the United role.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is in talks with Manchester City, Tottenham and Juventus, per Gianluca Di Marzio. The Germany international is available on a free transfer at season's end amid reported interest from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Marcelo wants to leave Madrid for Fluminense in 2022, claims El Nacional. Marcelo is out of contract at the end of the season.

- El Nacional says Barcelona have decided to sell United States international Sergino Dest. The 20-year-old has struggled for form at Camp Nou and he has been linked with Bayern.

Inter and Juve both identified Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic and Sampdoria's Mikkel Damsgaard, per Calciomercato. Vlahovic has also been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

- Calciomercato claims Serie A high-flyers Milan are eyeing Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

 

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino declared himself "satisfied" with what he saw from Neymar in the Ligue 1 leaders' 0-0 draw with rivals Marseille in Le Classique.

Neymar returned to the squad after missing PSG's Champions League win over RB Leipzig on Tuesday with a groin injury and started up front alongside Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi on Sunday.

That reunion did not produce the desired effect, with the vaunted attacking trio unable to find the net away to Marseille at the Velodrome. 

PSG were forced to play with 10 men from the 57th minute, when star full-back Achraf Hakimi was sent off.

That tactical disadvantage forced Neymar to drop back into the midfield after Thilo Kehrer replaced Angel Di Maria just past the hour.

Neymar gave way himself in the 83rd minute, as Georginio Wijnaldum came on to see out the draw. 

It was the first 0-0 between Marseille and PSG at the Velodrome in Ligue 1 since November 1998, the end of a 21-match run.

"After the sending off, a choice needed to be made, and at that point, we thought we had to bring on Kehrer and bring Neymar back as a third midfielder," Pochettino told reporters.

He added: "I am very satisfied with Neymar's game, he has sacrificed a lot for the team after returning from the Brazilian national team and being inactive."

Neymar played all 90 minutes in Brazil's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Uruguay during the international break, producing a goal and two assists as Brazil won the latter fixture 4-1. 

Though the Brazilian has not scored for his club since September 19, PSG have plenty of options.

PSG are unbeaten in their last nine trips to Marseille in Ligue 1 (W6 D3), and remain on a run of three clean sheets at their rivals in the top flight – a first in their history.

None of them came through on Sunday, but Pochettino sounded an upbeat note afterward. 

"There are several positive things to take from the game," he said. "The team was solid, it showed character, it was well-organised with and without the ball.

"It's a shame to have played with 10 men for nearly 40 minutes. But even in these conditions, we controlled the game.

"We don't want to celebrate the point because there's a bitter feeling with this game. But there were some good things from an attacking point of view, we just lacked in finishing. I think we were a bit better than OM, not by much, but we deserved to win."

Mauricio Pochettino believes Paris Saint-Germain displayed "character and personality" in their 0-0 draw with Marseille on Sunday.

PSG largely struggled to break down a stubborn Marseille defence despite starting with Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, before their hopes of claiming all three points were dented when Achraf Hakimi received a straight red card in the 57th minute for bringing down Cengiz Under.

Marseille went close to finding a winner in the closing stages, while Messi was chased by a spectator late in the second half, with security slow to apprehend the man.

The result stretched PSG's unbeaten run at Marseille in Ligue 1 to nine games, while they have now kept clean sheets at the Orange Velodrome in three straight matches for the first time in their history.

Despite PSG's lacklustre showing in attack, Pochettino was pleased with his side's efforts in front of a hostile home crowd, who routinely threw objects at PSG players as they took corners.

"I think overall our performance was good," he told RMC Sport. 

"We played almost 40 minutes with 10 men because of Hakimi's red card. Yes, we wanted to win, it was our idea. But, in the end, we are quite happy with this performance.

"I think we played well. Yes, it was a very good game, with different phases. I think we just missed scoring. We did a lot of positive things. I'm pretty happy because it was a very difficult game. 

"The team showed character and personality. By playing with 10 for 40 minutes, I think we showed a lot of character. Of course, we showed identity and style in the game."

 

The result means PSG are seven points clear at the Ligue 1 summit, while Marseille are 10 points behind in fourth, although Jorge Sampaoli's side have a game in hand.

It was their first draw of the season and, while happy with the performance, Pochettino expects his side to return to winning ways soon.

"Obviously, as coach of PSG, we always hope to win, but I can only congratulate the players for what they did today," he added.

"We are in search of a balance. From experience, we know that these periods in October and November are always difficult.

"But I am happy with the progress of the team, I am satisfied with where it is today in its course of evolution."

PSG are next in action on Friday when they host reigning champions Lille at the Parc des Princes.

Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed that Mauro Icardi would be available for Sunday's Le Classique clash at Marseille.

The 28-year-old has missed several training sessions and was not named in the squad that beat RB Leipzig 3-2 in the Champions League due to personal issues, but Pochettino has confirmed that the striker is now back in contention.

Icardi is PSG's joint-second highest scorer in the league and, of players at the club to have played at least 300 minutes in the competition, the striker has the best minutes per goal ratio (159.67) and ranks second for expected goals (2.37).

"Mauro is a mentally strong person," Pochettino said. "He trained with us before Leipzig, although he didn't play, and [he came back on Thursday]. 

"He will be in the group [on Sunday]. The club, from the president to the staff, makes sure to support him and be present if necessary. But he's good, available."

Pochettino was also boosted by the availability of Neymar on Friday, but Leandro Paredes remains sidelined, with a return scheduled after the next international break, as do Spanish pair Sergio Ramos - who still has yet to make his debut - and back-up goalkeeper Sergio Rico, who is expected to be back in training in a week.

The former Tottenham and Southampton boss in relishing a special contest between the Ligue 1 leaders and third-placed Marseille.

"Tomorrow's game is different," Pochettino added. "I've experienced it as a player and as a coach last year. 

"We know each other well, it will be a special game. We play for the three points, but also for pride, joy."

PSG are top of Ligue 1 with 27 points from their opening 10 games, winning nine and losing one, while Marseille are third on 17 points, although they have a game in hand.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said his "under construction" team can count on Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe's individual talent after the pair starred in Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League win over RB Leipzig.

Leipzig had six more shots (18-12) as they came from behind to grab a 2-1 lead early in the second half after Mbappe opened the scoring for PSG following a swift counter-attack in the ninth minute of the Group A fixture.

PSG regained control, with Mbappe setting up Messi for a 67th-minute equaliser, before the Argentine superstar coolly dinked home from the spot after the French forward was brought down.

The Parisians had more possession (64.5 per cent) but Pochettino acknowledged too much was in their own half, forcing them to play on the break, rather than force the game.

"It takes time, we are a team under construction," Pochettino said during the news conference. "We had the possession, but we prefer to have it more high on the pitch. But I have also seen good things offensively, which are improving, and which will work better over time.

"Messi and Mbappe? It is difficult to find collective solutions, this is where we can count on players like them. Talents are easily found, there is no time for these automatisms to come back more easily."

Messi became the fourth player to score in their first two home Champions League matches for PSG after Neymar (2017), Alex (2012) and George Weah (1994), while he has now scored 19 goals in 18 games against German opposition in the competition.

Mbappe, who does not turn 23 until December, has already scored 28 Champions League goals – it is the most by any player in the competition before their 23rd birthday, ahead of Messi (25).

Pochettino added that while utilising six-time Ballon d'Or Messi and Mbappe's qualities on the break was effective, he still was aiming to dominate games more in the opposition's half yet needed more time.

"Kylian's qualities are perfect for playing in transition," he told RMC Sport. "When you have Leo, with his passing quality, [Achraf] Hakimi and [Nuno] Mendes on the sides capable of attacking spaces … You can play that way. But we can also progress in the positional game, but that takes time."

PSG, who were also missing Neymar to injury, had 72 per cent possession in the first half, however. Pochettino said his side turned over the ball too much.

Leipzig may have capitalised more with Andre Silva, who equalised in the 28th minute, also hitting the woodwork, while Christopher Nkunku went close on a few occasions before Nordi Mukiele put the German visitors ahead in Paris.

"We have to correct things, we lost too many balls in the first half under the pressure from Leipzig, our midfielders were down," Pochettino said.

"We had trouble connecting with our attackers. In difficult times, we conceded two goals in the counterattack where we had the numerical superiority, we have to improve.

"But we have the satisfaction of having shown character to get back from 2-1."

PSG have been defeated only four times in 44 home matches in the group stages of the Champions League (W34 D6), winning all six of their games against German sides (Bayern Munich on four occasions and Leipzig twice).

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino has "no doubt" Lionel Messi will continue to perform at the highest level when playing for the Ligue 1 giants.

Messi and PSG will host Group A rivals RB Leipzig on matchday three of the Champions League on Tuesday.

After netting in PSG's win against Manchester City three weeks ago, Messi is looking to join team-mate Neymar (2017), Alex (2012) and George Weah (1994) in scoring in his first two home games for the club in the competition.

As Messi continues to find his feet in the French capital following his blockbuster switch from Barcelona, Pochettino praised the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"Leo [Messi] shines by himself.  He shone in Barcelona, [he] shines with Argentina and shines at PSG," Pochettino told reporters, with PSG level on four points with Club Brugge – a point above City and four clear of winless Leipzig.

"He is absolutely adapted, he has the intelligence and the adaptation ability at the highest level. He is now more relaxed and with the experience of being at the club and in the city a few months he is very happy here.

"We are very happy and we expect that everything goes naturally and him to perform the way he expects and everyone expects. I have no doubt about that."

PSG have a great record against German opponents, having won seven of their eight meetings with Bundesliga clubs on home soil, though the exception in that run was in April this year when Bayern Munich won 1-0 at the Parc des Princes.

Champions League runners-up in 2019-20, PSG do not tend to slip up at home in the group stage, losing just one of their past 28 such games – against Manchester United in October 2020 – and netting 2.7 goals per game on average.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said he understood Angers' frustration after a controversial late penalty gave the Ligue 1 leaders a 2-1 victory.

PSG trailed following Angelo Fulgini's 36th-minute opener before Danilo Pereira's header, their first shot on target, levelled matters on Friday.

It looked as if they would have to settle for a share of the spoils, but PSG were awarded a penalty after a VAR check for handball against Pierrick Capelle.

Kylian Mbappe swept home from 12 yards in the 87th minute, with Angers left to fume.

Romain Thomas felt he was fouled by PSG forward Mauro Icardi in the lead-up to the penalty incident.

He told Prime Video: "It's incredible what's happened.

"Losing 2-1 at the end, losing here isn't shameful, but [to lose] like that... no, it's not possible.

"We worked all week to do something properly and the referees can't take the time to do theirs.

"VAR... I'm starting to get tired of this story. Putting millions into something when you don't even know how to use it, it annoys me because I'm passionate, I'm dedicated.

"At the start of the play, he [Icardi] pulled me on the arm, I fell and then he plays from that position for the penalty. So, I'm frustrated."

Asked about Angers' complaints, Pochettino said: "It's difficult. I haven't seen the action footage yet. I couldn't see correctly whether there was a hand, a penalty or a foul ... I don't know. 

"I understand Angers' feelings. I myself have often known these situations where the decisions are a little against us. But these are game situations."

PSG have won 24 Ligue 1 games since the start of the Pochettino era in January 2021 (D2 L5) – at least four more than any other team over the period.

Mbappe's penalty was his only shot on target from three attempts, his winner following his decisive goal in France's victory over Spain in the Nations League final.

On Mbappe's performance, Pochettino added: "He is a player about whom we are full of praise. He has enormous qualities, especially that of being decisive when the team needs it."

Mbappe has scored and delivered an assist in the same Ligue 1 game for only the third time in 2021, after January against Montpellier (two goals, one assist) and April at Strasbourg (one goal, one assist). He has been involved in 27 league goals for the year (20 goals, seven assists) – at least four more than any other player in the top flight.

PSG are nine points clear at the top of Ligue 1, though they have played a game more than second-place Lens.

Sergio Ramos' debut for Paris Saint-Germain has been pushed back again as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.

Ramos ended a 16-year association with Real Madrid as he joined PSG in July on a free transfer, but he has not played since Los Blancos' Champions League semi-final loss against Chelsea in early May.

Reports suggested the centre-back, who signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes, could make his debut on Friday against Angers. However, PSG have confirmed that is not the case.

The Ligue 1 champions released an update on Thursday, announcing Ramos is still in individual training with a view to joining the squad in 10 days, which means he will also seemingly miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig and the trip to Marseille for Le Classique on October 24.

When asked about the Spain international's prolonged absence, Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference: "I am convinced he will get back to his best.

"It is clear that every player, in this case Sergio Ramos, does not enjoy the situations when they are out and unable to train with their team-mates and play for such a long time.

"He is suffering but is strong mentally and he is coping with it as well as he can. The performance team are helping him stay at a high level and full of motivation to get over this problem."

Ramos appeared in 469 top-flight games for Madrid – with only three players racking up more appearances in the competition for Los Blancos.

He lifted 22 trophies at the club – with only Paco Gento (23) bettering that haul – and started all of his 129 Champions League matches, the most of any player in the competition without a single substitute appearance.

When fit, Pochettino will not just have a defensive leader to call upon, Ramos is also one of the best defenders in terms of attacking returns.

Since the turn of the century, Ramos is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five leagues, and only three players have netted more headed LaLiga goals in that period than the 35-year-old (39).

Neymar will find all the support he needs at Paris Saint-Germain after the Brazil superstar questioned his long-term future in football, head coach Mauricio Pochettino has promised.

In May, Neymar signed a new contract to stay with PSG until 2025, and this season he has been joined by Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes.

Along with Kylian Mbappe, they could forge one of the great strike forces in the game, although at this stage the trio are still finding their way as a combination.

Despite the challenge of making such an exciting alliance work, Neymar has said he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer and would likely play his final World Cup in Qatar next year.

"Neymar is an honest person and a player who expresses his feelings quickly," PSG boss Pochettino told a news conference on Thursday.

"But I think his mental strength, considering he has been playing football since a very young age and has always had the media spotlight on him, I don't think there are any problems.

"Sometimes things are taken out of context, but I have no doubt he enjoys his football and I'm sure he will play for many years. I don't have any doubts about that."

Asked about mental health in football, in relation to Neymar's comments, Pochettino said: "This is something that exists in high-level sport. As the coaching staff it is our job to have certain tools in place to help our players.

"But I also don't like talking about this in such a surface-level way, because I think it is much more complicated than that. Certain things cannot be taken out of context and we can't simplify these situations, particularly ones that we are not going through ourselves.

"We are always very worried about our players' physical and mental well-being, so we are always available to help them."

 

Focusing on Neymar, Pochettino said: "His passion for football is on display with us every day so I have no doubts about that."

The former Barcelona forward has experienced a slow start to the campaign in terms of his productivity, scoring only once and having just two shots on target in his first seven club games of the season across all competitions.

Yet only Pele (77) has scored more goals for Brazil than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with his country, along with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.

His suggestion that the 2022 World Cup may be his last also reflects that Neymar will be 34 by the time the 2026 tournament comes around.

It remains to be seen how PSG are as a force by then, but for now they are expected to win every game, which made the 2-0 loss to Rennes before the international break such a surprise.

That shock reverse followed on from a victory by the same scoreline against Manchester City in the Champions League, and Pochettino reflected on the Rennes game again on Thursday, choosing to describe it as "a slip-up".

On Friday, his team tackle Angers at the Parc des Princes, when they will be expected to get back on track, albeit hampered by absences caused by stars such as Neymar being on World Cup qualifying duty this week in South America.

PSG are unbeaten in their past 21 Ligue 1 games against Angers (W14 D7), which is their longest run without defeat against a single top-flight opponent.

After his Nations League efforts for France, PSG will hope to have a firing Mbappe on the pitch. The striker has failed to score in his previous four Ligue 1 games, his longest top-flight drought since March-May 2018 (six games). None of his past 17 shots in Ligue 1 has found the net.

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