Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said star Kylian Mbappe asks about England and Spain amid speculation over his future.

Mbappe has been heavily linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, as well as Premier League holders Liverpool previously.

The France international is out of contract in 2022 but Ligue 1 champions PSG remain hopeful of re-signing the 22-year-old forward.

Pochettino was asked about his relationship with Mbappe ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester City.

"Kylian loves football, he loves to talk about football," Pochettino said. "He asks about England – how is the game, the mentality and the culture there? – and also Spain and Argentina. He will watch, every day, games from England, France, Italy, Germany.

"He's only 22 but very mature, confident in his talent and open. He can speak French, of course, but also perfect English and Spanish. I speak in English and Spanish with him – more English than Spanish.

"I said to him the other day: 'I need to practise my French with you, to improve', and he said: 'Sure, but it's better for me to talk in English'. He loves to practise different languages.

"Before the [Champions League last 16] first leg in Barcelona, I told him that I'd won there one time with Espanyol and he said, very seriously: 'OK, tomorrow will be the second time'. I said: 'Are you sure?' And he said: 'Yes, don't worry. We are going to win'. He was laughing after the game and he said to me on the pitch: 'I told you, I told you, I told you'."

Pochettino spoke glowingly of fellow PSG star Neymar, who has also been linked with a move away from the French capital – a return to Barcelona continually discussed after he left Camp Nou in a world-record deal in 2017.

Neymar, who appears set to extend his PSG contract, has either scored (three) or assisted (one) in each of his previous three Champions League semi-final appearances, while he has had a direct hand in nine goals in his 12 matches against English sides in the competition (five goals and four assists).

"It's so easy with Neymar because you don’t need to do too much," Pochettino added. "From day one, he's been very open to work. He's very humble, he listens and always accepts all the instructions in a very good way.

"Brazilian players have something special inside. They love to play football because it's like a dance. They play like they are dancing. Ronaldinho was my team-mate when I was a PSG player and now Neymar. They need to feel good, to feel happy to perform in the best way."

PSG are just the third French team to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup/Champions League in consecutive seasons, after Saint-Etienne in 1975 and 1976 and Marseille in 1990 and 1991.

Pochettino's PSG are also looking to reach their second consecutive Champions League final, following their defeat to Bayern Munich in last season's showpiece.

PSG would be just the ninth side to do so in back-to-back campaigns, while only Atletico Madrid and Valencia failed to lift the trophy in either of their first two final appearances.

"The target in the last 10 years has been to win the Champions League and the club is working really hard to try to be there and win," said Pochettino, who upstaged Pep Guardiola's City en route to Tottenham's Champions League final appearance in 2019.

"It is that last step, which is always the most difficult. If you remember at Tottenham, it was always about the last step being the most difficult thing. But Paris Saint-Germain is there and now it is about winning. I love to feel this. I love to feel that you need to win every single game."

Keylor Navas has agreed a one-year extension to his Paris Saint-Germain contract, keeping him in the French capital until 2024.

The Costa Rica international signed an initial four-year deal in 2019 when he joined PSG from Real Madrid.

Navas had won the Champions League three times in Madrid but made way as Thibaut Courtois was signed from Chelsea.

The 34-year-old has continued to excel in Europe's premier club competition since joining PSG, though.

Navas played nine of his side's 12 games as they reached the final last season, losing to Bayern Munich, and has been outstanding in their run to the 2020-21 semi-finals.

No goalkeeper in the Champions League this season has faced more shots (157) or made more saves (47) than Navas.

He has prevented 4.9 non-penalty goals, using expected goals on target (xGOT) data, including 2.2 in the quarter-final first-leg win against Bayern alone.

Only opposite number Manuel Neuer (5.2) has prevented more goals than Navas, who also saved a penalty from Lionel Messi in the last 16.

News of his new deal comes as the PSG goalkeeper prepares to face Manchester City in the last four, having returned from injury against Metz on Saturday.

Christian Pulisic says Chelsea are "moving on" without former talisman Eden Hazard and insists he is "not trying to be like" the Real Madrid winger ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash.

Hazard left Stamford Bridge at the end of the 2018-19 season as Pulisic arrived, having agreed a move from Borussia Dortmund in January 2019.

Madrid paid a club-record €100million fee to sign Hazard, who won six major honours in seven years with Chelsea, including the Premier League twice and the Europa League twice.

The Belgium international scored 110 goals and provided 81 assists in all competitions for the Premier League side but has struggled to make the same impact in Spain, dogged by injury woes.

Hazard has just four goals and five assists in 37 games in Madrid colours, although he has been involved in a goal every 165 minutes this season, a vast improvement on one every 309 minutes in 2019-20.

Chelsea have not been serious title contenders in either season since Hazard's departure but will now hope to dump their fit-again former superstar out of the Champions League.

Pulisic, wearing Hazard's number 10 shirt and playing a similar role, has predictably been measured against the 30-year-old.

A strong end to 2019-20 saw Pulisic finish with nine Premier League goals, scoring 0.47 times per 90 minutes, comparable to Hazard's rate of 0.49 when he netted 16 times in his final campaign in England.

Pulisic has found life a little more difficult this season, providing four goals (0.26 per 90), but he is determined to forge his own legacy.

"[Hazard] was an incredible player at this football club, of course," Pulisic told reporters. "It's someone that I've definitely looked up to.

"I'm not comparing myself to him in any way or trying to be like him, I'm my own player and I'm doing my best for this club.

"Obviously I can say he was a massive player for this club so it's an honour to hear comparisons like that, but I still have a ways to go.

"He was an incredible player - he did a lot for this football club - and obviously we're moving on without him.

"I never played with him, so I only know how it is without him, but I think we're in a good place now, in the semi-final of the Champions League with a lot left to play for this season.

"I think this team definitely has a good situation at the moment. It's looking positive."

Like Hazard, Pulisic has had fitness issues, limiting his involvement.

"I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment," he said. "I've played a string of games. I've never thought of myself as a player who's injury-prone or anything.

"Obviously I've had a tough time the past year and a bit, but really it's about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every single game. I feel good about that."

One such problem - a hamstring blow in last season's FA Cup final - kept Pulisic out of the second leg of a 7-1 aggregate Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Chelsea are hoping this year's campaign ends in more satisfactory fashion.

"I think the guys definitely gained from that, taking that experience from last season, being able to play in the Champions League - a lot of the guys for the first time," Pulisic said.

"The next season you feel more prepared, a bit more confident, and ready to go for this year's competition.

"I think that experience does help and I'm hoping we can take it into the game tomorrow."

Thomas Tuchel believes Chelsea can overcome a lack of Champions League semi-final experience by playing with hunger and enthusiasm when they go up against Real Madrid.

The Blues have made it through to the last four of Europe's premier club competition for the first time since 2013-2014, a season that finished with Madrid winning the trophy in Lisbon.

Los Blancos also won the competition for three successive seasons during Zinedine Zidane's first spell in charge, with many of the key players involved in that impressive hat-trick still at the club now.

However, Tuchel feels his Chelsea squad are in "a good moment" heading into Tuesday's first leg in the Spanish capital.

"Every match I feel that we are able to play on a very high level," Tuchel, who confirmed Mateo Kovacic will miss the game in Madrid through injury, told the media.

"If it's not possible to play our nicest match, we are always able to not let the opponents play their best match – which is also a definition of performance.

"We have a strong bond; I feel a strong bond within the squad. I feel us very involved physically in the games, ready to work together, to suffer together and, when it's needed, to respond to the questions. If it's necessary to fight, then fight; if it's necessary to run, then run.

"We should not expect crazy things from us, but the same again on the highest level.

"The good thing is we have had the experiences together, tough matches, tight matches, very important matches in the Premier League and the FA Cup, so we feel it's a good moment to play this match.

"We want to play hungry; we want to play adventurous. Maybe, considering a lack of experience in semi-finals, to compensate with hunger and enthusiasm."

Both Chelsea and Madrid were involved in the doomed European Super League proposal, leading to speculation they could be kicked out of this season's Champions League as a consequence.

While that has not happened, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear there will be consequences for the 12 clubs involved.

"We deserve to be in the semi-final, like Real Madrid deserve to be," Tuchel said. "We have come a long way.

"Of course we deserve to play in a semi-final. If problems persist on a sports political level then they have to be solved at that level, not on the pitch.

"We deserve, through the competition, to be here."

UEFA announced Champions League reforms last week, including an increase in number of teams from 32 to 36 as the format switches to a league system for the 2024-25 season.

The changes will see more matches for those teams concerned, leaving Tuchel to question why coaches and players were not involved in the planning process.

"I'm not sure if I like it, because I can only see more games out of it," he said when asked about the new-look competition.

"More games in the schedule that we have is very hard for me to be excited at all. All the discussions about Super League made us forget that we have a new format of the Champions League.

"Did they ask any coach about this? I don't think so – they didn't ask me. Did they ask any player about this? I don't think so.

"We have so many new formats, so many more games. It's more, more games. It's not more quality, it's just more games.

"Who should play in these games? We have three substitutes allowed in the Premier League, one of the toughest competitions. No, I'm not happy about this new format at all."

Zinedine Zidane says the idea of Real Madrid being banned from the Champions League for their part in the attempted European Super League breakaway is "absurd".

Madrid were among the 12 founding clubs of the competition that was announced earlier this month, with club president Florentino Perez installed as the Super League's chairman.

But last week, within 48 hours of the plans being confirmed, the six English clubs involved all withdrew, and they were soon followed by Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan. Juventus remain supportive of the Super League but did acknowledge the collapse of the initial proposal.

Madrid and Barcelona have been defiant since, however, adamant their plans still have merit and are not completely dead.

UEFA is threatening to punish all of the 12, but the English clubs withdrawing early could earn them some leniency, though Zidane is not worried about the idea of Madrid being barred from the Champions League next term.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's semi-final first leg with Chelsea, Zidane said: "You have already asked me about all this and I have already answered.

"It is absurd to think that we will not be in the Champions League. There is a lot of talk from outside. There is going to be a lot of talk, but we don't control it, I just focus on the game.

"But my opinion is that we all want to see Madrid in the Champions League."

It was also put to Zidane that UEFA's stance could potentially be reflected by the officials being harsh on Madrid against Chelsea.

"The referee is going to do his job and we are going to play football," he replied. "We just have to think about that.

"If we start to think that what is being said is going to harm us, we are screwed. We are going to compete from minute one to 90. The rest, we don't get involved in."

The Champions League fixture follows a tricky LaLiga title tussle for Madrid, whose 0-0 draw with Real Betis on Saturday seeing them miss out on going top of the table.

With leaders Atletico losing to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and Sevilla beating Granada, just three points separate top from fourth in what is shaping up to be the most thrilling title race in years, but Zidane insists Madrid will not be giving one competition priority over the other.

"We are not going to choose. We are alive in both competitions," he added. "We have had a lot of difficulties this year, but we have always been able to lift ourselves.

"There is a month left and we are going to compete until the end. There is no other thought in my head.

"What we want to do is give everything on the field, without thinking that winning will not be possible."

Raphael Varane is focused only on finishing the season strongly amid rumours the centre-back could be set to end his long association with Real Madrid.

The centre-back is under contract at Madrid – whom he joined a decade ago – until 2022, and while reports in Spain suggest there have been negotiations over a new deal, it remains unclear if he will sign an extension.

Chelsea are one of the teams linked with a move for Varane, who is preparing to go up against the Blues in the Champions League semi-finals.

Ahead of the first leg in the Spanish capital, the France international made clear that speculation surrounding his future will not overshadow a pivotal run-in for Los Blancos, both at home and in Europe.

The reigning LaLiga champions remain firmly in the title race despite a 0-0 draw at home to Real Betis on Saturday.

"My future is clear: my focus is on the end of the season," Varane told the media on Monday.

"We are in a very intense moment and we have to be focused on the games that lie ahead.

"It is normal that the focus is on the end of the season. The message to the fans is that I am 100 per cent committed to the team. 

"We have some challenges that encourage us a lot. I'm focused on giving it my all on the pitch."

Varane missed both meetings with Liverpool in the quarter-finals while isolating following a positive COVID-19 test result.

Madrid were also without injured captain Sergio Ramos for those games, yet Eder Militao and Nacho Fernandez formed an impressive partnership at the heart of a defence that kept a clean sheet against the Reds at Anfield.

Militao had struggled previously since his arrival from Porto but an extended run of games in the starting XI allowed him to showcase his abilities, a situation Varane can relate to during his own career.

"I talk to him a lot. When I had little rhythm, it was difficult to enter the team," Varane said. "I've been through the situation too. You have few minutes to demonstrate a lot, and it's complicated. It requires a lot and it is not easy.

"He has a good mentality and is always in a good mood. We see it on a daily basis and know the quality he has - now he has been able to demonstrate it by playing.

"It's very good to have players like him who are positive and always give their all."

Pep Guardiola may be remembered as the greatest manager of all time but will not want to leave Manchester City without winning the Champions League, says Gary Neville.

City defeated Tottenham 1-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to lift the EFL Cup for a fourth successive season under the Spaniard, while a third Premier League title of his reign looks a certainty – they hold a 10-point lead at the summit with just five games remaining.

Guardiola arrived in England following hugely successful spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, winning the league on three occasions at each club.

However, according to former Manchester United defender Neville, the impact of the former Spain international goes well beyond just what he has achieved with his own teams.

"You just have to recognise Manchester City's outstanding football, the outstanding achievement of winning this trophy four times on the bounce," Neville said on his podcast for Sky Sports.

"Pep Guardiola has an outstanding record in cup competitions, it's 14 victories and one defeat in 15 finals, it's absolutely out of this world. The football they play is magnificent, it really is.

"I think Manchester City may have the greatest manager of all time and we'll look back in 10, 15, 20 years' time… just the way he has infiltrated countries, dominated football but also influenced others, I don't think I've ever seen it.

"You look at how he's won in three different countries, he's now dominating in this country – he's going to win the league title in the next few weeks, that's three in five years and these are massive achievements."

Yet while Guardiola has dominated domestically with City, Champions League glory has eluded him, as it did with Bayern.

He won the competition twice with Barca – in 2009 and then again in 2011 – but has never made it beyond the last eight with City prior to this season, with Paris Saint-Germain standing in their way of a place in the final for the first time in the club's history.

"The big one is the Champions League and it's a huge couple of weeks coming up against Paris Saint-Germain because if they were to win that, then they would have a great chance," Neville said.

"That would be the cherry on the icing on the top of the cake of Guardiola's reign because I don't think he can leave without winning it. It would feel incomplete if he left this country without winning the Champions League.

"I know it happened in Germany but here, Man City will give him the time to do it and it almost feels like he has to so he can say that the job is done."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear the 12 European Super League clubs must face the consequences for their involvement in the planned breakaway competition.

Less than 48 hours after the official announcement of the tournament, and following a huge public backlash to the plan, the 'big six' from the Premier League – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – all ended their involvement.

Ceferin has praised the English clubs for a willingness to admit they made a mistake, but that will not mean they avoid punishment – albeit it is unclear yet what action the governing body will take.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the UEFA chief revealed how he has placed the teams in different tiers while comparing Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid to those who believe Earth is flat, with that trio still remaining aligned to the initial proposal.

"Everyone has to take consequences for what they did and we cannot pretend nothing happened," Ceferin told the newspaper.

"You cannot do something like that and just say: 'I've been punished because everybody hates me'. They don't have problems because of anyone else but themselves. It's not okay what they did and we will see in next few days what we have to do.

"But for me it's a clear difference between the English clubs and the other six. They pulled out first, they admitted they made a mistake. You have to have some greatness to say: 'I was wrong'.

"For me there are three groups of this 12 — the English six, who went out first, then the other three [Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan] after them and then the ones who feel that Earth is flat and they think the Super League still exists. And there is a big difference between those.

"But everyone will be held responsible. In what way, we will see. I don't want to say disciplinary process but it has to be clear that everyone has to be held responsible in a different way.

"Is it disciplinary? Is it the decision of the executive committee? We will see. It's too early to say."

There was widespread condemnation of the Super League from fans, governing bodies and former players alike, leading to financial backers JP Morgan to admit they "misjudged how the deal would be viewed by the wider football community".

UEFA announced changes to the Champions League format on Monday, including an increase from 32 to 36 clubs as the current group stage system is to be shelved in favour of a single league.

Clubs will get to play four extra matches per season, with the top eight in the final table advancing through to the last 16. Those placed between ninth and 24th will enter a play-off round to decide who else will qualify for the knockout stages, while those 25th and lower are eliminated and do not enter the Europa League.

The radical reforms to the competition are scheduled to come into place for the 2024-25 season.

Zinedine Zidane portrayed a relaxed figure despite Real Madrid suffering something of a setback in their title challenge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Betis.

Madrid were looking to go top of the table – at least until Sunday – with a victory at Valdebebas, but in the end they were arguably fortunate to leave with a point.

Betis had the best chances of the match, with Guido Rodriguez and Borja Iglesias spurning glorious opportunities in the second half.

While Madrid managed five shots on target, their cumulative expected goals value of 1.02 was only marginally more than Betis' 0.92.

It was an underwhelming showing ahead of their Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea on Tuesday, while they will finish the weekend five points off the top of LaLiga if Atletico beat Athletic Bilbao.

But Zidane stressed there was no need to panic, even if he was irritated by Madrid's issues in attack during Saturday's stalemate.

"We lose two points and we don't like it but there is still a lot of LaLiga to go, it doesn't end today," he said.

"The rest of the teams have to play and we'll see what happens. We now focus on Tuesday's game.

"Defensively we were very good, but offensively we lacked many things. We lacked something, we were not fine at the top end of the pitch.

"We are prepared for the next game, which is going to be the most difficult of the whole season."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Eden Hazard, who made only his second LaLiga appearance since the end of January.

The Belgium winger had been blighted by calf and thigh issues but looked lively in his cameo, suggesting he could play a role against his former club over the next couple of weeks.

"I was very happy to see Eden Hazard because it was important to have him with us again," Zidane said.

"We know the quality he has and I hope to be able to count on him until the end of the season."

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe is not thought to be in danger of missing Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester City despite sustaining a knock on Saturday.

Mbappe scored two of PSG's goals in their straightforward 3-1 win at Metz, a victory that lifted the Parisians back to the top of the table – at least until Sunday.

Those goals took Mbappe to 19 goal involvements away from home this season, more than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues, while only Erling Haaland (10) and Robert Lewandowski (nine) have more braces.

It continued the France striker's hot streak, taking him to nine goals in seven league games having previously only netted four times in nine top-flight matches.

There was a cause for concern late on as Mbappe suffered what appeared to be a heavy blow to his knee, with the 22-year-old subsequently substituted.

But Pochettino is not worried about his star man, who would be a major miss against City.

"It's a blow to the quads," Pochettino told Canal Plus. "I don't think it's much, we hope it's not serious.

"I don't think he's in danger for Wednesday. It's just a blow. It does not give us that impression [that he'll miss the City game].

"Kylian was calm at the time of his substitution, even though the blow was painful."

Marco Verratti, who also assured fans regarding Mbappe, felt that winning on Saturday was vital for ensuring a positive mentality going into the City clash and keeping the pressure on title rivals Lille, who face fourth-placed Lyon on Sunday.

"You have to win if you want to win this title," the Italy international said. "We want to win as many games as possible.

"I think we are having a good run. We are happy with what we have done so far.

"We are on our way to winning all the titles. We are coming into this match [City game] in the best possible way. We know that we meet a team like us who can also achieve a treble.

"They have confidence in themselves. It's going to be a nice game. We know that we have to be 100 per cent.

"We are there, we are ready. We will fight for 90 minutes on Wednesday. Then we will move on to the return leg."

Florentino Perez says the clubs who claimed this week to have abandoned the European Super League remain contractually tied to the project.

The Real Madrid president, who has been a driving force and staunch defender of the controversial breakaway, says those that signed up "can't leave", even if they say they have quit the league.

Twelve teams declared last Sunday that they had committed to the Super League, but on Tuesday all six Premier League clubs announced they had quit. Inter and Atletico Madrid soon followed, Milan may also withdraw, while Juventus remain advocates of the league but have acknowledged its collapse.

Real Madrid and Barcelona very much remain, but for all the merits of Clasico clashes, they need other clubs to firmly commit.

Perez was asked in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS whether it was true that clubs would have to buy themselves out of binding contracts.

He said: "I'm not going to take my time to explain what a binding contract is here. But the fact is, the clubs can't leave.

"Some, because of the pressure, have had to say they'll leave. But this project, or something very similar, will happen, and I hope it's in the near future."

Supporters, players, coaches, politicians and even royalty have come out in opposition of the plans, with the 'closed-shop' nature of the Super League, whereby the 12 founding clubs would be guaranteed continuing membership, being criticised as an anti-competitive concept.

UEFA and FIFA, the long-time governing bodies of the European and world game, have been scathing and pointed to the possibility of punishments being imposed on the clubs involved.

Perez vowed the Super League has not yet been killed off and is merely a sleeping project, poised to be resurrected.

"The entity exists and the members who make up the Super League are there too," he said.

"What we've done is given ourselves a few weeks to reflect on the hostility with which certain people who don't want to lose their privileges have manipulated the project."

He said financial backers JP Morgan remain involved, despite the investment banking firm stating it "clearly misjudged" the depth of feeling that would be stirred in the football community by the league.

"They've taken time to reflect, like the 12 clubs," Perez said. "If something needs to be changed, it'll be changed, but the Super League is the best project we've thought can be carried out."

Perez said he was baffled by UEFA's Champions League expansion plans, announced on Monday, which will see 36 teams rather than the current 32 compete from the 2024-25 season, each guaranteed at least 10 games per season, and he said the start date was too far away.

Madrid, Barcelona and all major European clubs have been hit heavily financially by the COVID-19 crisis, with major revenue streams such as matchday income cut off.

Perez said there was a danger that "all the clubs go bankrupt" unless there is immediate action.

Florentino Perez remains adamant the European Super League must go ahead as "football is severely damaged", with the Real Madrid president suggesting the possibility of the top-four teams from each country featuring in the breakaway competition.

Plans for a Super League to rival UEFA's Champions League were announced on Sunday, with 12 founding members – Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus, Inter and Milan.

But after widespread criticism from UEFA, FIFA, clubs, governments, fans and pundits, all six Premier League clubs pulled out, while Atletico, Inter, Milan and Juve followed suit.

Perez – who had been appointed as chairman of the competition – has continued to stress the need for the Super League and he flagged the idea of moving away from an exclusive group of clubs.

"These things get manipulated," Perez told Diario AS, with the full interview to be published on Saturday. "It is not a plan which excludes club and nor is it designed to go against other leagues.

"The Super League project is the best possible solution, and it has been created to help football get out of the crisis. Football is severely damaged because its economy has been ruined and it has to adapt to the new era we are living in. The Super League does not go against domestic competitions and its objective is to ensure that more money is available for all sections of football. The concept is to generate more interest for the games. Nor do I think that the changes which UEFA have made are a real solution to the problem because what has been proposed isn't even an improvement on the current model.

"Also, we cannot wait until 2024. But in any case, we must have done something badly. We are going to try to turn this around and develop more ideas. Maybe the solution is for the top four teams in every league to play. I don't know, but something needs to be done because today's youth, those between 14 and 24 years of age, are abandoning football because they see it as being boring compared to the other forms of entertainment which they prefer.

"There are four billion football fans all over the world and half of them are fans of the clubs in the Super League. Football is the only global sport."

Perez added: "Lets look at the data: a recent report by KPMG - in the first three months of the pandemic alone last season, the 12 clubs in the Super League reported losses of 650 million euros.

"By the end of this season, with the pandemic still ongoing, the losses will be between 2,000 and 2,500 million euros. Girondins [Bordeaux] have recently gone into administration. Either we do something soon or many more clubs will go under."

Mauricio Pochettino knows the importance of rotation within his squad as Paris Saint-Germain prepare to fight on three fronts in the closing weeks of the season.

PSG secured a place in the Coupe de France semi-finals in midweek thanks to a 5-0 win over Angers, striker Mauro Icardi scoring a hat-trick on his return following a month out with injury.

Marco Verratti is also available again after overcoming COVID-19, though Pochettino did not reveal if the Italian midfielder will make his first start for the club since March 21 in Saturday's Ligue 1 trip to Metz.

As well as bidding to complete a league and cup double on the domestic front, PSG also have a Champions League semi-final coming up against Manchester City - they host the English side in the first leg on Wednesday.

"We need to manage the squad and the players well for every game so that we always send out a competitive team," Pochettino told the media on Friday.

"We have been playing every three days for three and a half months now and if we want to achieve our goals, all the players will be important.

"They will all need to take part and perform at a high standard, especially if we want to win all three competitions that we are competing in.

"We are happy with the team and the players and the effort they are making. Our idea is to always improve and evolve.

"We want to be better in every game. We are going to enter the most important part of the season, and we want to win all the competitions in which we are involved."

PSG sit a point behind leaders Lille in the table with five games to go as they chase a 10th Ligue 1 title.

They have won their previous nine league meetings against weekend opponents Metz, scoring 28 goals in the process at an average of 3.1 per game.

For Pochettino, making use of the resources he has available to him within the squad is crucial, considering the schedule during a campaign played out amid the backdrop of a health pandemic.

"It is not an advantage or a disadvantage. It is a case of adapting to the circumstances that we have never lived through in or life or in football," he replied when asked about constantly changing the starting line-up.

"It is down to the reasons and the circumstances which have meant that with COVID-19, our team has not been consistent in terms of having the same team.

"That is just a reality but is has nothing to with transfers in the future. It is to do with the circumstances we have had to live through with coronavirus and injuries. It doesn't just apply to us either, it goes for almost every club in the world.

"On top of that, we have been playing every three days, so rotation is needed to put out a competitive team and a fresh team at all times."

Metz are winless in their previous six Ligue 1 games (D2 L4) while PSG have won their past five away on the spin, their best run on the road since November 2019-February 2020.

Pep Guardiola took another shot at UEFA over its expanded Champions League format, claiming European football's governing body does not care about player workloads.

Guardiola came out strongly against the ill-fated Super League plans this week, decrying the closed-shop format as "not sport", despite Manchester City being one of the 12 teams to sign up before withdrawing.

But the City boss also said the launch of a breakaway project was evidence UEFA had "failed" and he was similarly uncomplimentary about reforms that will see the Champions League contested by 36 teams as opposed to its current 32 from the 2024-25 season, with 10 group games instead of six for each side.

"Every time it’s the same. All the managers and players ask for better quality and the football world goes for quantity," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final against Tottenham at Wembley.

"But we are not in charge of that. We have to ask UEFA and FIFA to extend the year, maybe have 400 days a year. Maybe then they can find a solution on that."

City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan tweeted his opposition to the Champions League revamp, branding it "the lesser of two evils" when set against the Super League.

Guardiola feels the schedule for elite teams is already at breaking point, claiming he has been unable to undertake significant tactical and coaching work with the Premier League leaders throughout a compacted 2020-21 calendar.

"Every season is the same and, at the end of the day, the players they play because they love to play, but the injuries come," he said.

"UEFA knows that, of course they know it. Do they care? Absolutely not. They put on more games and more competitions to do it.

"And we are going to play of course. We are lucky. We are going to be in the Champions League next season, we are going to play this competition, but it's a lot, honestly.

"We didn't have one midweek off. So you cannot train. I cannot train, I'm not a manager, I cannot train. I do not train. We just handle the team, make them as sharp as possible and the best as possible.

"I cannot train anything. It's just videos, and just [telling the players to] remember what we have to do. We don't have time in the pre-season to make the principles.

"We cannot forget that we started the season against Wolves without one friendly game. We didn't have a friendly to prepare. Since then we didn't have one midweek off. As a manager, yes, we had the international break, but the players went to national teams for three games in six or seven or 10 days.

"It's crazy, but every time we speak about that, when we go to UEFA meetings, we talk about that and they say, 'Yes, yes, well done. We take note'.

"But then we play more games, and next season we will create a new competition for the guys not in the Champions League or the Europa League [the Europa Conference League]. They will play a new competition, yes, another one."

Despite there being plenty of praise for UEFA over how it handled football's crisis this week, Guardiola for one is not screaming "encore".

"It's a lot," he reiterated. "It's like an actor or an actress in the theatre making three shows a day. They don't enjoy it. Once a day they like it, to go on stage and make a good performance. But three times a day is too much."

Inter great Walter Zenga dismissed criticism of Antonio Conte and his side as they close in on the Scudetto, while insisting mentality is the key to the Nerazzurri making the leap from Serie A to European success.

Not since their treble-winning season under Jose Mourinho in 2009-10 have Inter claimed the Scudetto, rivals Juventus dominating domestic Italian football with nine consecutive Serie A titles.

But Inter – led by head coach Conte and spearheaded by Romelu Lukaku – are on the cusp of glory this season, with the Nerazzurri 10 points clear atop the table after 32 rounds.

Only Atalanta (73) have scored more goals than Inter (71) this season, while Conte's men have the joint-meanest defence in the league alongside Juve, having conceded 29 goals with six rounds remaining.

However, Conte and Inter have still been criticised for their performances in 2020-21.

Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Zenga – who amassed 473 appearances for Inter, winning two UEFA Cup titles, the Serie A trophy and Supercoppa Italiana during his time at San Siro – was asked about the criticism and he told Stats Perform News: "Now listen, you don't have to make a confusion about this point because the only person that knows everything is the coach because the coach has the players every day, takes training, decide the tactics, decides everything because he knows the quality of the player. 

"All the other people me and you included, we cannot talk about if they play good or not because first of all, we never watched one training, secondly we don't see from the stadium, we watch on TV and it's totally different. We make a confusion between playing well, tactics and everything. But then we forget one point, the only real things important in football are the end of the game, the table, what the result is, rankings and if you play in the Europa League, Champions League or whatever. These are the only important things. Then if we want to talk about one club like Inter who are first in the standings, they won 11 games in a row, they are almost close to winning the championship. 

"So, if it means that they play poor football, I would like to be a coach that plays poor football and wins the league! How many times do you read an interview about some coaches that say we play very, very well but we missed a chance, we are still in the middle of the rankings. We are in trouble, but we play well, we play well. With Crotone, two years ago in the first division we played very well but we got relegated to the second division. Probably if we play worst, and we just pray for a draw in some games probably we would still be in the first division but we are looking for our philosophy to play, play, play. But any coach, any game that they have, the philosophy for themselves depends on the quality of the player, depends on the quality of the mentality of the player."

Lukaku has been instrumental for Inter, scoring 21 league goals this term – only Juve's Cristiano Ronaldo (25) has managed more.

The Belgium international has barely missed a beat since Inter splashed out a club-record €80million to prise him from Manchester United in 2019, the Italian giants quickly moving on from former captain Mauro Icardi – who was deemed surplus to requirements by Conte.

Lukaku – linked with a return to Chelsea, as well as Clasico rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona – has netted 44 times in 67 league appearances for Inter, while he boasts an overall total of 61 goals in 90 matches since arriving in Milan.

"Icardi, he had a great balance between games and goals. He was a killer in the box. It's not easy to replace a player with this goal average," said Hall of Famer Zenga, who last coached Cagliari in 2020.

"Lukaku, Conte wanted him with his whole soul and heart. When one player arrives and he knows that the coach believes in him 100 per cent, he gives 200 per cent for him and himself not to disappoint the coach. 

"What I appreciated about Lukaku that I know him personally, he is a quiet man and a gentleman. He follows only one way, to close the mouth to everybody, work and work hard, not for himself, for the team. And this is the difference between one big player and one normal player. Talent is not enough.

"Now he is the top striker in Italy in my opinion. I think that now, there is not one club around the world that doesn't want him."

For all of Inter's success this season, their Champions League campaign left a sour taste.

Inter – Europa League finalists in 2019-20 – looked on track to the Champions League last 16 in a group featuring Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk. Instead the 2009-10 winners finished bottom.

Conte's Inter also failed to make it out of the group last season, taking a backseat to Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

As Inter dream of a 19th Serie A trophy, are they capable of mounting a European challenge next term or do they require reinforcements in the transfer market?

"In Europe you play different. In the Champions League you play totally different, in the Champions League it looks like no tactics, only who is stronger," said the 60-year-old Zenga, who emerged from Inter's youth team in 1978 before leaving the club permanently in 1994.

"We are thinking about tactics all the time [in Italy] and this is our mentality. If you see the game of the Italian league, it is a very strong game, if you think that is boring, in the stands it is not boring because if you are involved, you have to take an aspirin after the game because it's so strong. If you see the Spanish league, it looks like they play slow, but when you play against the Spanish teams, [sometimes] you don't touch the ball because you don't know where they are. 

"In Germany or in France, it is less interesting the season, then when you play against them in in Champions League, you have to make a big effort because you're thinking, 'Oh in Germany there are only two teams, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, it is not competitive championship' and then when you play against them, you see it is so strong.

"So it's a question about the mentality and everything. To win in Europe in my opinion, you have to play to win. And probably you find either the clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, like this team that if you read the line-up specially at the top… the talent and the quality, class is the difference in Europe. I don't know what is in the mind of Conte or of the management of Inter, but in Europe, I think that you need the world-class players."

Zenga added: "Don't forget, you can buy either three-four great players, then the most important thing is that all good players they must play good together. I buy the best central defender, I buy the best striker and I put together and the quality together doesn't work. If we follow this idea, Inter of the [Massimo] Moratti era with [Christian] Vieri and Ronaldo up front, they should be winning every single day."

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