Mauricio Pochettino could not pretend Sunday's Classique victory bore any resemblance to the matches he played in with Paris Saint-Germain due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Head coach Pochettino took PSG to Marseille for the first time since his return to the club.

It was a triumphant outing for the former Tottenham manager, who oversaw a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi.

Mbappe said afterwards the fixture had "regained importance" this season, with Marseille having won at PSG early in the season in a game that saw five red cards.

There was only a single dismissal this time – Dimitri Payet sent off late on – but Icardi described the success as "revenge".

For Pochettino, though, who was not involved in the reverse fixture, a big derby merely made him pine for the return of crowds, still missing in Ligue 1 due to COVID-19.

Asked if the mammoth clash was as he remembered as a player, Pochettino replied: "No. I can't find much of the past.

"How beautiful football was before the COVID. It's missing.

"When we look elsewhere, in other championships, we see upsets in the table, surprise results. Some players will suffer, too.

"A club like Paris needs the supporters to sublimate itself and we miss having supporters in the stadium."

Pochettino's pre-match concerns were focused on Neymar's illness, which kept him from training ahead of the match and limited him to a bench role.

Afterwards, Angel Di Maria was the worry, having suffered an injury in assisting Mbappe's opener.

First, Pochettino defended Neymar's involvement despite his ill health, explaining: "I will respond with great respect. If the club communicated that he was sick, it was in total transparency.

"He had been vomiting. He was really sick. He only played 30 minutes because we thought it was better that way. There was really a desire for transparency on the part of the club."

Then, on Di Maria, the coach was hopeful of positive news.

"The medical department will be giving Angel some tests," he said. "For now, the staff are confident enough to say that it is not too serious but we must wait for the exams to know the exact severity of the injury."

Kylian Mbappe has welcomed Neymar's increasingly positive comments on his Paris Saint-Germain future, saying his team-mate deserves to enjoy a historic career in France.

Neymar, who has repeatedly been linked with a move away from PSG since joining the Ligue 1 giants in 2017, last month appeared to give a firm indication he will remain in Paris.

The Brazil superstar told TF1: "I want to stay at PSG and I hope Kylian stays too."

Neymar is reportedly close to agreeing a new four-year contract with the club and played a role in Sunday's 2-0 win over Classique rivals Marseille despite this week suffering with illness.

Keeping Neymar and Mbappe on board would represent a huge boost to PSG in their long-term bid to win the Champions League, having reached the final under Thomas Tuchel last season.

And Mbappe was upbeat as he told Canal+ of his thoughts on Neymar's commitment.

"This is great news. Everyone knows how important he is," the World Cup winner said. "I hope he can write history for Paris for a long time to come. He and the club deserve it."

Mbappe was speaking after netting the opener in the win at Marseille, a ninth-minute effort his only attempt but a vital strike.

No PSG player has made more appearances (26) or scored more goals (18) in all competitions than Mbappe this season, while he trails only Angel Di Maria – an injury worry against OM – in regards to Ligue 1 assists after the Argentine midfielder teed up his latest finish.

Mauro Icardi, now with five league goals in 11 games, added the second from one of his four efforts as PSG stayed within three points of Ligue 1 leaders Lille.

That is still only enough for third place, meaning Mbappe and Co cannot yet allow a Champions League meeting with Neymar's former side Barcelona to become a distraction.

"Unfortunately, we lost points all over the place, so we have to focus on each Ligue 1 game," Mbappe said.

"In previous years, we could have concentrated on the Champions League, but we are behind in Ligue 1. We have to play with intensity to make sure we are not surprised."

There was certainly no shortage of intensity at the Stade Velodrome, even if the one red card – for Dimitri Payet – appeared meek in contrast to the five in the reverse fixture.

PSG lost 1-0 at home and so were determined to respond, Icardi describing a desire for "revenge".

Mbappe added to Telefoot: "Personally, I think [the Classique] has changed a lot. When I arrived, it was not like this, not the same types of matches. It was not the same importance.

"But this year there is a boost and it has regained importance, both for us, the players, and the new staff.

"All week, we prepared like a Champions League match, a big match, a match apart. The team's mentality has changed."

That mentality delivered a 45th PSG victory in 100 Classiques, as Marseille trail on 33 wins against their bitter rivals.

Neymar climbed off his sick bed to help Paris Saint-Germain see out a 2-0 win at Marseille in the 100th Classique on Sunday.

Superstar forward Neymar was sent off in the reverse fixture and started from the bench after missing training this week with gastroenteritis, while Angel Di Maria departed early through injury at the Stade Velodrome, but Marseille could not capitalise.

First-half goals from Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi instead secured a commanding position against Ligue 1's crisis club, whose troubles are best illustrated by coach Andre Villas-Boas' suspension after offering his resignation.

It meant Neymar could be introduced with little risk of a repeat of the home defeat early in the season and the world's most expensive footballer duly provided a spark that pegged OM back – their frustration evident as Dimitri Payet was sent off – to secure victory and keep PSG within three points of leaders Lille.

Neymar's absence was not felt in a trademark PSG counter-attack after nine minutes when Mbappe skipped beyond Hiroki Sakai's desperate lunge and slid a cool finish under Steve Mandanda.

Di Maria appeared to hurt himself in finding Mbappe and was promptly replaced, although Neymar remained among the substitutes and some slack play at the back ensured a fizzing Pape Gueye drive had to be tipped over.

PSG were ruthless at the other end and Icardi's cute header earned a helpful touch from Alvaro Gonzalez as it looped over the static Mandanda, who might have conceded a third time before the break as Leandro Paredes thundered in an effort that kissed the outside of the post.

Marseille were better after the break and Boubacar Kamara's shot squirmed away from Sergio Rico and wide, but further chances were few and far between.

Neymar was belatedly introduced 25 minutes from time and should have immediately won a penalty, with Alvaro granted a fortunate escape following his clumsy challenge inside the area.

Marseille spent the remaining minutes on the back foot as Neymar found his groove, missing only a finish as he sought the third, before Payet's high boot on Marco Verratti was punished with a late red card.

 

What does it mean? No drama and PSG stay in the hunt

There were five red cards – three for PSG – when the sides met at the Parc des Princes in September in a game that contributed to the chaos of the champions' season to date, going some way to explain their underwhelming league position.

Although there was bite in Sunday's encounter, too, as the two teams shared 24 fouls and Payet was dismissed, the early Mbappe goal made sure there was no unnecessary drama this time, keeping the pressure on Lille and Lyon.

Mauro makes his mark

Only three times in the league this season have PSG started with Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria and Icardi all in the XI as Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino have each struggled to fit the attacking quartet into the same line-up – while also dealing with illness, injuries and suspensions.

Icardi has been restricted to just seven starts, but he showed here what he is all about. Along with a fifth goal of the campaign from his only attempt, the striker used his physicality at both ends of the field, winning his four aerial duels and making three clearances before making way for Neymar.

Alvaro out of his depth

The subject of some scrutiny following a clash with Neymar in Paris, Alvaro was at the centre of the action again in the return fixture and did not fare well.

The centre-back struggled to contain Icardi and got a touch as the second goal deceived Mandanda, before he somehow avoided a penalty for tripping Neymar, then hobbled off having succeeded in only a single duel and failed to make a tackle.

What's next?

PSG's title tilt goes on hold this week as they go to Caen on Wednesday in the Coupe de France, the same competition in which Marseille will visit Auxerre hours earlier.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar is a doubt for Sunday's Ligue 1 match with Marseille after missing training through illness.

The Brazil international sat out Saturday's session due to gastroenteritis and his condition will be assessed later, PSG said in a statement.

Teenage defender Timothee Pembele will be unavailable after returning a positive coronavirus test, with the 18-year-old now self-isolating.

The champions will also be without Keylor Navas and Ander Herrera for Sunday's Classique, with neither player fully fit.

Colin Dagba (thigh) and Juan Bernat (knee) are still out, while Abdou Diallo remains sidelined due to coronavirus protocols after testing positive a week ago.

PSG, who are three points behind league leaders Lille after 23 games, are still favourites for Sunday's game against struggling Marseille.

OM suspended coach Andre Villas-Boas this week after he offered his resignation in protest against the club's "sporting direction", with Olivier Ntcham signed from Celtic without his consent.

Marseille, who are ninth, have won just once in their previous 10 matches in all competitions and lost 2-1 to PSG in the Trophee des Champions match on January 13.

This will be the 100th competitive meeting between the teams, with PSG leading the head-to-head record with 44 wins to 33, 18 of which have come since Qatar Sports Investment took over at Parc des Princes in 2011.

However, Marseille won the reverse game this season 1-0 in September and the potential loss of Neymar could be key, the 29-year-old having scored 11 goals in his previous nine games in all competitions.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has reportedly decided to stay with the Ligue 1 giants.

Neymar's contract is due to expire in 2022 and the forward has repeatedly been linked with a return to Barcelona.

But the Brazil international seems set to remain at PSG.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR AGREES TO FOUR-YEAR EXTENSION WITH PSG

Neymar has agreed to a four-year extension with PSG, according to TNT Sports Brasil correspondent Marcelo Bechler.

The deal will keep Neymar, who arrived at PSG from Barcelona in 2017, tied to the Parc des Princes until 2026.

Neymar has won nine domestic trophies, including three Ligue 1 titles, since arriving in Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract next year is Neymar's star PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe. TNT Sports Brasil reports selling the forward, who has been linked to Real Madrid previously, would give the Ligue 1 giants the chance to sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi or Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, or both.

- Real Madrid could also be set for other business. AS reports LaLiga's champions are prepared to sell Vinicius Junior in the next transfer window, with the 20-year-old having netted just three times in 25 appearances in all competitions this term.

- Arkadiusz Milik joined Marseille on loan from Napoli in January, but Juventus are still considering a move for the forward, according to CalcioMercato.

- Dele Alli was reportedly wanted by PSG in January, but the midfielder ended up staying at Tottenham. The Telegraph reports Spurs chairman Daniel Levy blocked Alli's move due to the club's injuries and run of poor form.

- A free agent, Daniel Sturridge's future remains unclear. The Daily Mail reports the forward is wanted by MLS clubs.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe said Neymar is the centre of the club's project as he hailed the Brazilian star.

Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona in a world-record € 222million deal in 2017, but he has been repeatedly linked with a return to his former club or LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The PSG forward pledged to remain in Paris alongside Mbappe prior to Sunday's shock 3-2 Ligue 1 defeat to Lorient.

Mbappe – who is also out of contract in 2022 – has similarly been tipped to leave PSG for Madrid amid doubts over his future but talked up his relationship with superstar team-mate Neymar.

"I've always thought that great players were made to play together - and that's clear between us two," Mbappe told France Football.

"Our roles were established when I arrived in Paris: Neymar is the centre of the project and I'm here to help him.

"[This is] because when I arrived at PSG, I was only an emerging star and I had to prove myself on the pitch."

Mbappe has scored 106 goals and set up a further 54 in 148 appearances for PSG.

Since his debut for the club on September 8, 2017, the only players in the top five European leagues to have registered more goal involvements are Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (186) and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (206).

Neymar, meanwhile, became the first PSG player since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2015 to convert two penalties in the same game as the French giants fell to Lorient on Sunday.

It was only the second time in Neymar's career he has converted more than one penalty in the same game in the top five European leagues, having achieved the feat with Barca in October 2015.

"Neymar knows how to do everything," Mbappe added. "He's the best in the world.

"When he arrived in Paris, we realised everything he could do. He's not a player simply for putting on a show and dancing when you're winning 5-0. He also knows how to do spectacular things at 0-0.

"I don't know if everyone is aware, but Neymar understands everything. He has an instinct that makes him know how to do everything straight away."

Mauricio Pochettino is convinced star forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will still be at Paris Saint-Germain next season. 

Brazil superstar Neymar joined after being bought out of his Barcelona contract for €222million in 2017, making it the most expensive transfer in football history.

He has been repeatedly linked with a return to Spain, either at Barcelona or Real Madrid, but the prospects of such a move now appear remote as those clubs battle with the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Madrid have also been linked with a move for World Cup-winning attacker Mbappe, whose contract with PSG is due to expire at the end of next season.

Neymar's deal runs out at the same time but Pochettino, who took over from Thomas Tuchel last month, believes PSG are doing everything in their power to ensure the pair will be lining up for the French champions at the start of the 2021-22 campaign. 

"I believe that both will stay, and will stay a long time at PSG," he told RMC Sport. "And I have no doubts, I am very optimistic. The club is working to succeed in keeping them with us."

Asked if he knew this for certain or whether it was just a feeling, the former Tottenham boss responded: "It's a feeling, but it's also what I see. Neymar and Kylian are happy. They are having fun here and I also believe the club is working to keep them."

Mbappe has scored 106 goals and set up a further 54 in 148 appearances for PSG. Since his debut for the club on September 8, 2017, the only players in the top five European Leagues to have registered more goal involvements are Robert Lewandowski (186) and Lionel Messi (206).

Pochettino was full of praise for the France international, who he says has the football intelligence of someone much older than 22. 

"The other day I was talking to one of his team-mates about him and we were like: 'Who doesn't love Kylian? His smile, his energy' 

"He's young, a world champion at 19. With the talent he has, it's normal to be in love with Kylian. Everyone around him loves him. 

"He's only 22 but he's a very mature boy. He looks like a 35-year-old trained man already. He's very mature and very intelligent, very intuitive, and he understands that there are periods in football, ups and downs. 

"You have to be positive and you have to keep working to change those difficult times. But we have no doubts. Obviously we are talking with Kylian, but we are talking also to all other players."

PSG will hope to bounce back from Sunday's embarrassing 3-2 defeat to Lorient when they host Nimes on Wednesday.

Neymar has given the firmest indication yet that he will sign a new Paris Saint-Germain contract and urged Kylian Mbappe to make the same commitment.

Brazilian superstar Neymar joined after being bought out of his Barcelona contract for 222million Euros in 2017, making it the most expensive transfer in football history.

He has been repeatedly linked with a return to Spain, either at Barcelona or Real Madrid, but the prospects of such a move now appear remote as those clubs battle with the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Neymar and Mbappe, a player who has also been linked with both LaLiga giants, are contracted to PSG until the end of the 2021-22 season.

The Brazil forward has been unsettled in the past in Paris but now sees his future in the French capital, as he told TF1's Sept a Huit programme: "Yes, I'm very happy today.

"I feel happy. That's changed a lot. I couldn't say exactly why.

"I don't know if it's me or other things that have changed, but today I feel good. I've adapted, I feel more calm and I'm very happy here.

"I want to stay at PSG and I hope Kylian stays too. Of course, that's the wish of all the fans of Paris.

"We want PSG to be a great team. I want to continue what I've always done in Paris, play football and be happy."

His comments came in an interview conducted ahead of Sunday's shock 3-2 defeat to Lorient, in which Neymar scored two penalties.

That outcome gave new PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino a first defeat, and he will want his side to get back on track against Nimes on Wednesday before facing great rivals Marseille on Sunday.

If Neymar and Mbappe stay, and if rumours of a move for Lionel Messi come to fruition, then the Ligue 1 giants will have the most feared forward line in world football next season.

Since arriving at PSG in August 2017, Neymar has scored 53 goals and provided 29 assists in Ligue 1, while Mbappe has hit 78 league goals and registered 26 assists.

According to Neymar, his and Mbappe's connection could hardly be any closer.

"We have a relationship of brothers. Me, I'm the eldest. We really like playing together," said Neymar.

"I call him 'Golden Boy' because he's really golden. He has a huge heart. As a footballer, everyone knows what he's worth, but even off the pitch he's incredible."

Mauricio Pochettino gave a damning assessment of Paris Saint-Germain's 3-2 Ligue 1 defeat at Lorient, declaring the performance to be "an accident".

PSG had the chance to return to the top of the table on Sunday and were on course to do so after a Neymar penalty in either half overturned Laurent Abergel's opener.

But Yoane Wissa netted a superb solo strike in the 80th minute before fellow substitute Terem Moffi streamed into the PSG half unchallenged to seal the points after an injury-time breakaway.

"We never got into the rhythm of the match, except when we managed to score the goal for 2-1," Pochettino told reporters.

"We are really sad with the result. We were too slow in the game, we gave Lorient too many options. We wanted to do something else but we did not succeed."

The defeat was PSG's first since Pochettino was appointed as Thomas Tuchel's successor at the Parc des Princes and the former Tottenham boss conceded there is plenty of work ahead as he tries to shape the team to his specifications.

"It is a problem of collective coordination," he said. "At 2-2, we wanted to go for the victory, which caused disorganisation and ended in our defeat.

"We are constantly looking to improve, to work. It's an accident, like can happen in football. We hope to be better in the next game."

PSG's central midfield two of Leandro Paredes and Danilo Pereira struggled to stamp their authority on the contest despite completing 92.2 and 95.5 per cent of their respective passes.

Marco Verratti was unavailable after testing positive for coronavirus but Pochettino refused to cite the Italy international's absence in mitigation

"Of course Marco is an important element, but you have to know how to play without certain players," he added. "It shouldn't be an excuse."

Lille subsequently beat Dijon 1-0 to move three points clear of PSG at the top, with Pochettino's side down in third behind Lyon.

Neymar converted a penalty in each half but Paris Saint-Germain collapsed to a sensational 3-2 defeat at relegation-threatened Lorient in Ligue 1

Mauricio Pochettino's first loss as head coach means PSG missed out on the chance to return to the top of Ligue 1 in place of Lyon after sub Terem Moffi broke clear to net a stoppage-time winner.

Lorient were the better team before half-time and led through Laurent Abergel's first goal in almost a year

However, a tale of woe then unfolded for Houboulang Mendes, who conceded 45th and 58th-minute penalties, from which Neymar made no mistake.

Yoane Wissa replaced the embattled right wing-back soon afterwards and levelled with a fine solo effort before fellow sub Moffi snatched glory.

Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil forward Neymar has denied he is planning to throw a party to celebrate his birthday next month.

Brazilian newspaper Extra claimed Neymar is preparing to host an event in Paris for his 29th birthday on February 5 with guests flying in from Brazil.

Mass gatherings are banned in France under coronavirus restrictions and any such party would likely be in breach of them.

Neymar described the story as "wrong gossip" in a message posted on Twitter on Saturday and added: "There will be no party!"

It is not the first time Neymar's famed party reputation has come under scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former Barcelona man denied he was hosting a New Year's Eve bash for 150 guests at his private condominium in Mangaratiba, down the coast from Rio de Janeiro.

Mauricio Pochettino knew it was only a matter of time before Kylian Mbappe returned to goalscoring form after netting a brace in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-0 rout of Montpellier.

Mbappe had been criticised following four games without a goal for PSG, and just two in his previous eight matches across all competitions.

But Mbappe responded to his critics with two goals and an assist as Ligue 1 champions PSG eased past 10-man Montpellier in Paris on Friday.

Mbappe is decisive every 58 minutes this season in Ligue 1 (14 goals and six assists) – the best ratio among players involved in more than one goal, per Opta. This is the first time he has been involved in three goals in the same league game (two goals and one assist) since February 2020 (against Dijon).

"I was happy before with his performance because his compromise, but also now that he has scored," PSG head coach Pochettino told reporters.

"We know that for a forward, to score goals or give assists it is fundamental, is part to generate this confidence that they need. So we are happy.

"We knew it was only a matter of time for Kylian to find himself again with the goal and the good performances."

After Montpellier goalkeeper Jonas Omlin was sent off in the 19th minute, Mbappe broke the deadlock 15 minutes later before teeing up star team-mate Neymar on the hour in the French capital.

PSG forward Mauro Icardi made it 3-0 a minute later, and Mbappe completed the scoring in the 63rd minute as the league leaders moved three points clear atop the table, with Lille due to play Rennes.

It was the first time in PSG's history that they scored three goals in the space of three minutes (three minutes and nine seconds exactly) in a Ligue 1 game.

Neymar and Mbappe have combined for 21 goals in Ligue 1 since 2017-18 – only the duos of Luis Suarez-Lionel Messi (31), Harry Kane-Son Heung-min (21) and Robert Lewandowski-Thomas Muller (25) have combined for more over the period.

Since his world-record arrival from Barcelona in 2017, Neymar has been involved in one Ligue 1 goal every 66 minutes (51 goals and 29 assists) – the best ratio among players involved in more than one goal over the period.

Neymar has scored 81 goals in 100 games in all competitions for PSG, but Pochettino praised the Brazilian's defensive contribution.

"I believe that the defensive and offensive balance is very important on every team," Pochettino said. "When you have so much talent inside the pitch, players so destabilising, you also run the risk of losing this defensive stability which is so much needed to compete in really big occasions.

"When the level of your opponent can be compared to you, the difference is not only made in the offensive phase, but if you are capable to defend and be able to recover the ball as soon as possible.

"I am happy too with the effort that Neymar has been doing in the last weeks. It is a player with an enormous amount of compromise. It makes us really happy but we already know what he does with the ball on his feet, but when he does this effort to help the team, that talks very well about him."

Kylian Mbappe said he is considering a new long-term contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The 22-year-old forward ended a four-game goal drought on Friday, scoring twice and setting up another as Mauricio Pochettino's side beat Montpellier 4-0.

The France star's future has come under scrutiny during a recent loss of form, with his deal set to expire at the end of next season.

Sporting director Leonardo confirmed to France Football this week that he was confident Mbappe and team-mate Neymar would agree to fresh terms at Parc des Princes.

Mbappe, who has been linked with clubs including Real Madrid and Liverpool, said he would commit to a new deal if he decided his long-term future would be best spent in the French capital.

"We are talking with the club," he told Telefoot. "I am also reflecting on it. If I sign, it will be to invest myself in the long term here.

"I feel good here. I will soon have to make a decision. If I extend, it's so that I stay."

Mbappe was the star performer in the win over 10-man Montpellier, PSG's fourth in a row in all competitions and their third in succession without conceding in Ligue 1.

The champions have enjoyed an encouraging start to life under coach Mauricio Pochettino, who replaced Thomas Tuchel this month.

"I'm really satisfied; it was a great game," said Angel Di Maria. "We had a lot of chances that we managed to take.

"We have to adapt to a new football, but it's going well physically, and that's very important."

Kylian Mbappe scored two and set up another as Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier 4-0 in Ligue 1 on Friday.

Having faced recent questions over his form and focus, Mbappe responded with a decisive display at Parc des Princes to help Mauricio Pochettino's men to three points.

Mbappe broke the deadlock after Montpellier goalkeeper Jonas Omlin had earlier been sent off for fouling the France star, and he set up Neymar to mark his 100th PSG appearance with the second goal.

Mauro Icardi and Mbappe added two further goals within three minutes as the champions eased to a routine win, their fourth in a row by at least four goals against Michel Der Zakarian's side.

Montpellier, six games without a win in Ligue 1 before this contest, were left with a huge task when Omlin flattened Mbappe following a stunning throughball from Leandro Paredes, with a VAR review leading to the keeper's dismissal.

PSG eventually capitalised on their dominance 34 minutes in, Neymar and Angel Di Maria each playing decisive passes before Mbappe clipped a cool finish over substitute keeper Dimitry Bertaud.

It was Mbappe's 13th league goal of the season and the 13th time he has been assisted by Di Maria in the competition.

Neymar almost doubled the lead before the break but was thwarted by a good save from Bertaud, who then denied Mauro Icardi acrobatically early in the second period.

The second goal came on the hour mark, though, Mbappe teeing up Neymar for a simple finish after a fine lofted pass from Marco Verratti.

With the floodgates suddenly open, PSG scored a further two goals inside three minutes, Icardi drilling high into the net after good work from Alessandro Florenzi and then setting up Mbappe for a routine finish after Neymar led a quick break.

Bertaud did manage to deny Layvin Kurzawa a stunning fifth, tipping the full-back's bicycle kick onto the crossbar.

 

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman has dismissed comments by Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo confirming they would be interested in signing Lionel Messi.

Leonardo said on Monday PSG have a seat "reserved" at the table of clubs who are "following closely" the developments around Messi's future.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is in the final six months of his Barca contract and could leave on a free transfer after this season.

Koeman, though, thinks it is normal for top players to be coveted by other clubs, saying he could never claim to have no interest in having PSG's star forwards at his disposal.

"If you ask me if I'm interested in Neymar and [Kylian] Mbappe, I'd say yes," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I don't know what will happen in the future; I can't give an opinion on those. We try to have the best squad possible."

Messi is serving a two-match ban for his red card in Barca's Supercopa de Espana final defeat to Athletic Bilbao, although the club are appealing against the punishment.

"The club told me it's two games, the club doesn't agree [with the sanction] and we'll see," said Koeman. "There are things that can be defended and hopefully they reduce the sanction. If not, we play two games without Leo.

"We've trained, Leo has trained with a lot of eagerness and I haven't seen anything odd. Everyone is sad for the Supercopa result, but we're on the road to better things, above all defensively. Leo is right in the middle of this."

Barca face a Copa del Rey clash at Cornella, the team that shocked LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid in the previous round, on Thursday.

Sergino Dest and Sergi Roberto are sidelined with minor injury problems and Koeman says further first-team regulars will be rested given both Barca games at the Supercopa went to extra time.

"For them, it's the game of the year and for us it's the next one to be ready for. We have to go through because we're Barcelona. It depends a lot on mentality," he said.

"We're angry, it's normal. We have to be like that because we had the Supercopa close and they equalised in the last minute.

"I think we're on a good path - I think so, at least. And we have to keep moving forward. There are players with knocks but it's normal after two matches in extra time and two flights.

"We're going to make changes. We'll see tomorrow [how many]. We want to put out a strong team and, above all, a team that's strong mentally."

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