Under-fire AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli has accepted responsibility for his team’s faltering form as the Rossoneri seek to revive their Champions League campaign against Paris St Germain.

Milan go in to the San Siro clash winless in four games and desperate to recover from the shock 1-0 Serie A home defeat to lowly Udinese.

Boos from disgruntled fans greeted the final whistle on Saturday with the setback coming after losing to Juventus and drawing with Napoli in the league, as well as being beaten 3-0 by PSG at the Parc des Princes two weeks ago.

“In times and situations such as these talk is cheap. It’s all about walking the walk,” Pioli said at his pre-match press conference for Tuesday’s PSG return.

“The club is really doing everything in its power to make sure I can work in the best possible conditions to provide a competitive team.

“If we have produced under-par displays recently then that’s on me, but I will focus on working hard and do everything to best prepare for the match.

“We disappointed our fans and ourselves on Saturday, that’s fairly clear. If they booed us it means we were pretty poor and we’re aware of that.

“But we have the opportunity to put things right and start playing like Milan again.”

Milan have not scored in three Champions League games this term and are bottom of Group F with two points at the halfway stage.

PSG top the section with six points, with Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle – who meet in Germany on Tuesday – both on four.

Pioli said: “We can no longer hope for other results to be positive for us. We need to start getting points ourselves.

“We need to stay very focused and switched on in both phases of the game, as PSG can hit you at any moment because of the pace and quality of their forwards.

“They are also a team that can allow you some space and we need to be more clinical when some of those situations arise, as they did in the first game.”

Former Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma returns to the San Siro for the first time since leaving for PSG in the summer of 2021.

Milan’s current number one Mike Maignan, the former PSG academy goalkeeper and France international, said: “We know he didn’t leave the club on good terms and our supporters are very passionate.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty tricky reception for Donnarumma, but he’s a world-class goalkeeper and he’s had a good start to the season.”

PSG have won five successive games since losing 4-1 in the Champions League to Newcastle on October 4, scoring three times on each occasion.

France forward Ousmane Dembele said: “It’s a great feeling. We’re getting to know each other better and better after playing three to four months together now.

“We’ve received a lot of instructions and tactical work from the coach (Luis Enrique), and we try to apply it in matches.

“We’ve prepared well for the big match in the Champions League.”

Christian Pulisic, Samuel Chukwueze and Theo Hernandez are all available after injury for Milan, while Marco Asensio again misses out for PSG.

Real Madrid have denied they are in transfer talks with Paris St Germain striker Kylian Mbappe.

The France forward is due to leave PSG when his contract expires next summer, with the Bernabeu an expected destination.

But the LaLiga side have rubbished reports they have held any discussions with the World Cup winner.

A club statement read: “Given the information recently issued and published by different media outlets, in which there is speculation about alleged negotiations between the player Kylian Mbappe and our club, Real Madrid C.F. wants to state that this information is flatly false and that no such negotiations have taken place with a player who belongs to PSG.”

The French side accepted a world-record £258million bid from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal last month, but Mbappe turned down the offer.

Paris St Germain climbed to the top of Ligue 1 after goals from Lee Kang-in, Warren Zaire-Emery and Vitinha secured a 3-0 win over Montpellier.

PSG dominated proceedings at the Parc des Princes as they registered a fifth straight victory in all competitions.

It was also a vastly improved display from Luis Enrique’s side following their scratchy 3-2 win over Brest last weekend.

They will be top until Sunday at least, when Nice get the chance to move back to the summit when they host Rennes.

PSG burst into life in the ninth minute when Achraf Hakimi overlapped down the right and squared the ball into the area.

Kylian Mbappe let the ball run between his legs and South Korea forward Lee took a touch before lashing his shot into the top corner from 15 yards.

Montpellier’s cause was not helped when defender Issiaga Sylla limped out of the action after only 20 minutes.

Ousmane Dembele almost doubled the lead when he outstripped substitute Theo Sainte-Luce but his angled drive was well saved by Benjamin Lecomte.

From the corner, Mbappe met a headed clearance with a volley which flew narrowly wide.

In first-half stoppage time another sweeping move saw Lee and Mbappe combine to tee up Dembele but his shot was deflected over by Sainte-Luce.

After the break Zaire-Emery waltzed into the Montpellier area only to place his effort straight at Lecomte.

The visiting keeper then palmed away a fierce drive from Hakimi with Dembele unable to convert the rebound.

The second goal arrived in the 58th minute, and it was another spectacular strike.

Zaire-Emery, still only 17, played in Dembele and continued his run into the area, collecting a clever backheel from his team-mate and thumping the finish past Lecomte.

Substitute Vitinha added the third eight minutes later, sweeping Hakimi’s pull-back from the byline past Lecomte from the edge of the box.

Mbappe, for once overshadowed by his goalscoring team-mates, tried to get in on the act but his drive from 20 yards flew over the crossbar.

The busy Lecomte had to be on his toes to prevent another sub, Fabian Ruiz, adding his name to the scoresheet with a fine save low to his right as PSG were forced to settle for three.

Luis Enrique has insisted he is still only in the early phases of developing his Paris St Germain side.

After a sometimes bumpy start to the season results-wise, PSG found some consistency in October, responding to the 4-1 Champions League defeat away to Newcastle with four straight victories in all competitions.

That has seen them move up to second in Ligue 1, one point behind Nice ahead of Friday’s home match against Montpellier, while topping their so-called Champions League ‘group of death’ ahead of Borussia Dortmund, Newcastle and AC Milan.

But although there has been progress, former Barcelona and Spain coach Enrique, appointed at the start of July, said he was only just getting started.

“This is part of a learning process,” he said. “The team is doing many things well but it is still the initial phase and we always need to remember the principles and the things we need to do…

“We are undergoing a constant development process. What I like and what we are trying to do is have an unpredictable team for our opponents, but predictable for ourselves.

“We need to generate uncertainty in our opponents but no uncertainty at PSG. That process takes longer than a usual process…

“I have coached teams that dominate and that means the opponents need to adapt their style of play and we get to play the same style.

“That is why you want different options in your team. I am pleased with the way the players have taken it in and this is only the start.”

When asked if he could quantify how far into the process he might be, Enrique said at a press conference on Thursday that would be difficult to do, but he insisted he was happy with the progress that was being made and the time taken to do it.

“If you look at the way of analysing training sessions and matches I am very pleased with all of that,” he said. “It is a very long process. I struggle to say exactly where we are.

“But I am optimistic in general and certainly pleased with what I can see. But I also know there is plenty of room for improvement because I am an ambitious person.”

Marco Asensio has returned to training after two months out but Enrique said the forward still needed some time to get back up to speed.

Danilo Pereira has been ruled out until after the upcoming international break while Keylor Navas, Nuno Mendes and Presnel Kimpembe are out.

Montpellier sit 11th in the table ahead of their trip to the capital, but Michel Der Zakarian’s side have found some form of late, losing only one of their last five and beating Toulouse 3-0 last weekend.

Swiss international Becir Omeragic is doubtful with a foot injury, but Issiaga Sylla is fit again after a calf injury.

Kylian Mbappe scored an 89th-minute winner as Paris St Germain secured a dramatic 3-2 Ligue 1 victory at Brest.

Mbappe’s second goal of the game – knocking home the rebound after Marco Bizot had saved his penalty – gave PSG three hard-fought points after Brest had battled back from 2-0 down.

First-half goals from Warren Zaire-Emery and Mbappe had put PSG in command, but Steve Mounie and Jeremy Le Douaron rocked the French champions either side of the interval.

PSG showed their intent in the opening 10 minutes as Lee Kang-in and Zaire-Emery had powerful shots beaten away by Bizot and Achraf Hakimi fired over from the edge of the box.

Brest responded with Le Douaron shooting in to the side netting after goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma had offered encouragement with a careless pass in his own penalty area.

The opening goal arrived after 16 minutes in sensational fashion as Bradley Barcola found Zaire-Emery following some clever footwork.

The 17-year-old hammered home from 20 yards, his first goal of the season flying past a startled Bizot.

PSG almost doubled their lead when the overworked Bizot tipped over Lee’s effort but, after Mahdi Camara fired over from 20 yards at the other end, the inevitable second did arrive.

Lee released Mbappe with a delicious pass after 28 minutes, and the France forward advanced to score with a shot which took a slight deflection off Brendan Chardonnet to wrong-foot Bizot.

Mbappe went close again before Brest, who had a penalty claim turned down when Barcola tangled with Bradley Locko, halved the deficit two minutes before the break.

Mounie exploited some poor marking on the edge of the six-yard area to meet Kenny Lala’s cross and beat Donnarumma with a firm downward header.

The goal rocked PSG and parity was restored within seven minutes of the restart after Milan Skriniar had thwarted Mounie with a desperate block.

Le Douaron met the resulting in-swinging corner to send a looping header beyond Donnarumma and inside the far post.

Brest were sensing a famous victory after losing their previous 11 games against the Parisians, and Donnarumma produced a brilliant double stop to deny Pierre Lees-Melou and Le Douaron.

PSG turned to their bench and Vitinha and Ousmane Dembele both saw efforts scrambled clear before Lilian Brassier clumsily challenged substitute Randal Kolo Muani.

The penalty was rewarded after a VAR review, a decision which sparked angry scenes between the two sets of players.

Hugo Magnetti appeared to push his hand into the face of Mbappe before the PSG captain stepped up to take the spot-kick

Mbappe’s kick was pushed out by Bizot but the ball fell kindly for him to stroke home the rebound and, his 10th goal of the league campaign, as PSG made it four successive wins in all competitions.

Luis Enrique has warned Paris St Germain against falling into the “trap” of being overconfident when they visit surprise package Brest in Ligue 1 on Sunday just because the reigning champions blew away AC Milan in midweek.

PSG pulled off the perfect response to their shock defeat by Newcastle in the previous round of the Champions League by cruising past Serie A giants Milan 3-0 to take charge of their tough group at the halfway stage.

The Spaniard’s men have won three of their last four league games but a win at Stade Francis-Le Ble would only boost them to within a point of leaders Nice, so Enrique is taking the assignment very seriously.

He told reporters: “Every match is a trap but this one might especially be one because of the kick-off time of 1pm (12pm GMT). We’ve never played at that time before.

“We’re also away from home and there are reasons why we might not be focused, so there are things we need to be wary of.

“They’re a team who defend well and put in a lot of crosses. It will be tricky, especially after a Champions League match. We have to be very careful.

“I’ve seen their ground and it’s like an English stadium with stands close to the pitch. The schedule is unusual but we have to be able to overcome that, too.”

Marquinhos (adductor), Layvin Kurzawa (illness), Keylor Navas (back), Marco Asensio, Presnel Kimpembe and Nuno Mendes are all unavailable due to injury.

Opponents Brest have raised eyebrows so far this season after charging into the European places before, after failing to win any of their last three matches, slipping down to fifth.

Their rise has created more buzz around this fixture and head coach Eric Roy was bemused by the increased number of reporters at his Friday press conference, saying: “Oh dear, oh dear, who are all these people?”

He was, however, keen to play down any hopes of strolling to a home win in front of a sellout crowd.

“I don’t think it changes much for us,” Roy told L’Equipe. “Against Toulouse the stadium was full too… perhaps that’s because it is small. The Parisians won’t bring many so we will have a 100 per cent Brestois backing.

“I hope that we will live up to the expectations of our supporters. We would like to play a great match and take on the challenge. If we ‘crush’ them 1-0, it will be magnificent.”

Paris St Germain claimed a 3-0 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League to go top of Group F.

The Parisians bounced back from their 4-1 defeat to Newcastle earlier this month with strikes from Kylian Mbappe, Randal Kolo Muani and Lee Kang-in.

Barcelona moved a step closer to reaching the knockout stages after a 2-1 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Goals from Ferran Torres and Fermin Lopez made it three wins from three for Xavi’s side.

Newcastle’s campaign took a setback after a 1-0 defeat at home to Borussia Dortmund, with Felix Nmecha’s effort enough for the Germans to take all three points.

It was a better night for holders Manchester City as they overcame Young Boys 3-1 courtesy of an Erling Haaland double in Switzerland.

Haaland converted a second-half penalty and scored late on after Manuel Akanji’s opener had been cancelled out by Meschack Elia’s superb finish.

Celtic twice lost the lead but picked up their first Champions League point in a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid at Celtic Park.

Kyogo Furuhashi got the hosts off to a flying start with his second goal in two Champions League games and Luis Palma quickly restored the lead after Antoine Griezmann had equalised from the rebound of his own saved penalty.

Celtic were deservedly on course for a first Champions League group-stage home win in 10 years following a first-half display full of pace and purpose but they started slowly after the break and Alvaro Morata levelled inside eight minutes of the restart.

The Scottish champions never rediscovered their spark – even after Atletico had Rodrigo Paul sent off in the 82nd minute – and their run without a home win at this level is now at 12 games.

Santiago Gimenez helped Feyenoord to a 3-1 win over Lazio.

The Mexican scored twice during a convincing win at De Kuip.

Evanilson scored a second-half hat-trick as Porto clinched a dominant 4-1 win over Antwerp and RB Leipzig’s 3-1 victory over Red Star Belgrade gave them a five-point advantage over third-placed Young Boys in Group G.

Kylian Mbappe and 17-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery starred to help Paris St Germain get their Champions League campaign back on track with a 3-0 win over AC Milan.

The Ligue 1 champions had been humiliated by Newcastle with a 4-1 loss at St James’ Park before the international break, but a second victory in Group F sent them to first position with six points after dismantling last season’s semi-finalists.

Mbappe opened the scoring after collecting Zaire-Emery’s pass before Randal Kolo Muani made it 2-0 at the start of the second half.

There was still time for a flourish in Paris with Zaire-Emery again showing his class with a second assist to set up Lee Kang-in late on.

PSG’s success coupled with Newcastle’s loss at home to Borussia Dortmund has further changed the complexion of the group with Milan bottom on two points ahead of welcoming the French outfit to the San Siro in a fortnight.

Luis Enrique had rested Achraf Hakimi, Milan Skriniar, Ousmane Dembele and Kolo Muani for their weekend win over Strasbourg, but recalled his big guns in an effort to help PSG regain control of Group F.

It was visiting Milan who dominated possession in the opening exchanges and Rafael Leao fired wide from Christian Pulisic’s quick corner.

Yellow cards were also frequent with Malick Thiaw, who was sent off in Milan’s loss at home to Juventus on Sunday, booked for a foul on Kolo Muani after only four minutes.

Mbappe’s involvement during the first quarter of an hour had been minimal, but the PSG talisman signalled his intentions with a snapshot straight at Mike Maignan in the 22nd minute.

Soon after Mbappe sent another effort wide from range before the breakthrough did occur with the World Cup winner able to provide the opener after 32 minutes.

Zaire-Emery was at the heart of the goal with the 17-year-old able to impressively hold off Tijjani Reijnders before he passed into Mbappe, who squared up Fikayo Tomori and then curled into the bottom corner in a flash for his 10th goal of the campaign.

It was the moment of magic the anxious Parc des Princes crowd wanted but no further goals were forthcoming before the break after PSG had penalty appeals waved away following a tangle between Mbappe and the already-booked Thiaw in the area.

The hosts did have the ball in the net three minutes into the second half when Dembele appeared to open his account for the club, but VAR awarded a foul for Manuel Ugarte’s cynical tackle on Rade Krunic in the build-up.

Milan threatened moments later but Olivier Giroud could only fire into the side-netting from Pulisic’s centre and the second did arrive in the 53rd minute for PSG.

Mbappe’s quick thinking saw the French attacker take a quick corner into the path of Dembele, who had a low shot parried out by Maignan to Kolo Muani and he made no mistake from close range.

While Leao continued to carry Milan’s attacking threat, their race was run and only a stunning finger-tip stop from Maignan to deny Mbappe prevented PSG making it 3-0.

It would prove brief respite with Luis Enrique’s team adding a third after 89 minutes when teenager Zaire-Emery raced down the right and squared for substitute Lee to curl into the bottom corner to help PSG leapfrog Newcastle to move top of Group F.

Paris St Germain coach Luis Enrique is treating the upcoming home and away Champions League fixtures as a knock-out tie as they try to navigate their way out of a ‘group of death’.

The heavyweight Group F, which also includes Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle, remains tight after the opening two fixtures, and Enrique believes the next two games could determine PSG’s fate as Milan visit the French capital on Wednesday before the return fixture in two weeks’ time.

“This is a turning point for everyone,” Enrique said. “For us, this is a great opportunity. There are two matches against Milan, it’s almost a direct elimination. But it’s the same for them. You have to take it game by game. We will try to do things better than AC Milan.”

PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will face his boyhood club, having first broken into the Milan side at the tender age of just 16, making the switch to PSG in 2021.

The 24-year-old admitted it would be a special occasion, but promised it would not affect his game.

“There will be a lot of emotion, it will be special,” Donnarumma said. “We have to put that aside and just think about the match.

“I feel very good here, it’s like a big family, like I had in Milan. I will always be grateful to Milan. I found a wonderful atmosphere in Paris from the first day. I want to give everything for PSG now.

“The beginnings were not easy here because I had a lot of friends and family in Milan. But little by little, I was able to get my bearings here, and now I have friends, I speak a little of the language and I feel very good.”

PSG were on the wrong end of a 4-1 thrashing in their last Champions League match, away to Newcastle, another night that put the spotlight on Donnarumma, who has often been criticised for his game with the ball at his feet.

“I’m always trying to improve,” Donnarumma said. “I always said I had to improve on everything. Every day I want to learn and listen to my coaches. My goal every day is to grow. I am very happy with my growth. I have a little experience and I try to help young people too.

“(The Newcastle game) was one where we had to do better. We were very upset, but we have to look forward. We know that the group is very balanced, very difficult. It will be a great game, with a lot of emotions for me.”

Milan go into the game looking to extend a four-game unbeaten run against French opposition, but coming off the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Juventus in Serie A, and they are yet to win in the Champions League this season.

“We have to do better,” coach Stefano Pioli said. “Each game tells us where we need to improve. Becoming more concrete is an objective.”

Luis Enrique says Paris St Germain face a tougher task on their Ligue 1 return against Strasbourg than they will playing AC Milan in the Champions League four days later.

PSG return to action after the international break on Saturday behind top two Monaco and Nice, and with former France midfielder Patrick Vieira in the Strasbourg dug out at the Parc des Princes.

“As a player, I experienced it for years when I played for Real Madrid and Barcelona, then I experienced it as a coach at Barça and now at Paris St Germain,” head coach Enrique said ahead of side’s contest with 11th-placed Strasbourg.

“When players are in the national team, they are always very excited. That’s logical and normal, and I accept it.

“After that, it depends on the match that follows, the opponent. It can be more or less motivating.

“When you’re part of a great team, you have to be able to play even when you’re not optimally motivated.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, especially with these breaks where the first match back is a league game and the next a Champions League match, like the one against Milan, where the motivation will be high.”

PSG must revive their Champions League campaign on Wednesday after losing 4-1 at Newcastle. They beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at home in their opening match.

The Ligue 1 champions have stuttered domestically with a home defeat to Nice and three draws in their eight games, although PSG did win 3-1 at Rennes before the international break.

Enrique said: “It would be a mistake to think that the match against Strasbourg will be easy. It’s a much tougher match than the one against Milan.

“For Milan, I’ll have to calm the players down. Whereas on Saturday, I’m going to have to motivate them, get them excited.

“That’s why this match against Strasbourg involves a lot more problems for me, with a very young opposition, super-motivated and coached by a very good coach.

“The first thing to do after a two-week break is to get the players back into the swing of things at the club.

“It’s going to be a special week because there are three matches.”

Kylian Mbappe has not scored for PSG since converting from the penalty spot against Dortmund on September 19.

The four-game run is the longest Mbappe has gone without a goal for the club in five years.

Paris St Germain returned to winning ways following their Champions League thrashing at Newcastle with a 3-1 Ligue 1 victory over Rennes.

First-half goals from Vitinha and Achraf Hakimi put Luis Enrique’s side in the ascendancy at Roazhon Park.

Amine Gouiri pulled one back for the hosts on 57 minutes but substitute Randal Kolo Muani swiftly restored the visitors’ two-goal advantage.

PSG, who suffered a 4-1 hammering on Tyneside on Wednesday, made their intentions clear by peppering the Rennes back line from the start.

Kylian Mbappe, making his 400th professional appearance, found space in neat pockets on the left and nearly opened the scoring with a curled effort which flew narrowly over.

Superstar forward Mbappe was largely anonymous in midweek but had the bit between his teeth on Sunday evening as he looked to break the deadlock.

And the French champions did just that after 33 minutes through Vitinha’s blockbuster.

The Portugal international picked up the ball just inside the box and produced a stunning dipping effort into the top corner which caught Steve Mandanda flat-footed.

The opener seemed to relax PSG, who upped the tempo and doubled their advantage four minutes later.

The creative Warren Zaire-Emery picked up the ball and whipped it to the back post, where Hakimi nodded home his side’s second goal.

PSG picked up where they had left off after the interval, with a lightning Mbappe run resulting in the winger slipping in the well positioned Goncalo Ramos, but he was unable to stroke the ball pass Mandanda.

Despite having been largely outplayed, Rennes managed to get themselves on the scoresheet in the 57th minute, when Ludovic Blas cut in and picked out the unmarked Gouiri, whose header beat Gianluigi Donnarumma.

But any hopes the hosts had of getting back on level terms were quashed almost immediately when a lapse in concentration proved costly.

Hakimi burst forward, glided past his marker as if he was not there and produced an inch-perfect cross to Kolo Muani who undid Rennes’ hard work straight from the restart to make it 3-1.

Kolo Muani had another effort chalked off for offside, with PSG then having to be on their guard as Blas looked to add to his assist tally.

The Rennes midfielder kept Lucas Hernandez busy on the right and produced a couple of dangerous passes into the box which were dealt with by the composed Marquinhos and Milan Skriniar.

Mbappe conjured up one of the misses of the season when, after a great run, he rounded Mandanda only to blast his shot over with the goal gaping, but PSG were well worth the points and saw out five minutes of stoppage time to claim a convincing away win.

Luis Enrique has vowed to get the best out of superstar Kylian Mbappe as he attempts to address Paris St Germain’s stuttering form.

The Ligue 1 champions return to domestic action at Rennes on Sunday still smarting from their 4-1 Champions League drubbing at Newcastle on Wednesday evening, during which Mbappe cut a frustrated figure.

However speaking at his pre-match press conference, PSG boss Enrique dismissed concerns over the striker’s fitness – he limped out of the 4-0 win over Marseille a fortnight ago with an ankle injury, but has started the two games since – and backed him to return to his best form.

He said: “Kylian is 100 per cent. Like all players, his fitness varies throughout the season. Not everything can be black and white.

“He’s a decisive player for us and my aim as coach is to make the most of his qualities.”

Like Mbappe, summer signing Ousmane Dembele made little impact at St James’ Park, but Enrique called for patience with the former Barcelona star as he adapts to his new surroundings.

He said: “I’m very happy with Ousmane’s work so far. I don’t think we need to put any particular pressure on him.

“The first person to blame when things aren’t going well is the coach. My real objective is to attack with 11 attackers and defend with 11 defenders.

“Ousmane Dembele plays on the flanks but he can also come into the middle to provide support. He’s an ideal player for my playing philosophy, with the ability to unbalance opponents. I’m happy with his attitude and his performances.”

PSG headed into the weekend sitting in fifth place in the table, two points behind early leaders Monaco, but having won only four of their nine games in all competitions to date to leave Enrique himself in the firing line.

However, the Spaniard remained defiant in the wake of intense criticism of his side’s performance at Newcastle.

He said: “My job is to find the best way to achieve the best possible results. In any case, I have every confidence in my players and my staff going forward.”

Rennes, who lost for the first time this season when they went down 1-0 at Villarreal in the Europa League on Thursday evening, have frustrated PSG in recent seasons, completing a league double over them last season.

The Parisians have not returned from Rennes with all three points since September 2018 and have managed just a single draw in their last four visits.

Enrique said: “Rennes are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the league. Historically, they’re a club that we’ve had some difficulty facing, especially when we play them away.

“They have some very interesting attacking systems, with some very strong individual attacking players.”

The sight of a bloodied and bandaged Alexander Isak scrapping with Paris St Germain’s defence signalled a new step in his blossoming career for Newcastle boss Eddie Howe.

Isak rekindled memories of Magpies warhorse Alan Shearer during Wednesday night’s 4-1 Champions League demolition of the French champions when – after he had been left bleeding in a clash of heads with full-back Lucas Hernandez – he picked himself up and redoubled his efforts to spearhead the attack once again.

Head coach Howe was delighted with the 24-year-old Sweden international’s response to his midweek misfortune.

He said: “Especially in recent weeks, I’ve seen a real desire off the ball from Alex to press, to work, to set the standards, really, from the front in terms of how we play off the ball and I think he’s been terrific.

“It was not nice to see him cut and bandaged, I’d never say that, but it was nice to see a response to it. He responded and worked even harder, so full credit to him.”

Isak scored twice in his first three games for Newcastle, including a fine strike on his debut at Liverpool, but was then sidelined for almost four months with a thigh injury he sustained on international duty, although Howe admits even that enforced lay-off proved fruitful.

He said: “It was a big change for him when he came to England because just the style of play and our style of play is different, so I think there was a period of adjustment for him.

“But I think probably what helped him, actually, was his early injury gave him a chance to sit back and watch the team and to understand the expectations and how we do things. Sometimes you can see that even clearer from watching.”

Former Real Sociedad frontman Isak, who is again likely to lead the line at West Ham on Sunday with Callum Wilson – like midfielder Joelinton – battling a hamstring injury, is the newly-enriched club’s record signing with his fee eventually set to reach £63million.

But his efforts this week have been celebrated no more than those of defender Fabian Schar, whose £3m price tag when he joined the club from Deportivo la Coruna in July 2018, is starting to look like a spectacular bargain.

Schar’s form under Howe has been superb and the 31-year-old capped a fine defensive display against PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe and company with a stunning injury-time strike from distance.


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Howe said: “It’s not about price because that’s only what someone pays and what someone agrees to receive for the player. He’s just been excellent, he really has.

“It’s not a conventional centre-half’s finish that, it’s a centre-forward’s finish, really. But he has the capability to produce moments that take your breath away. Technically he is so good.

“If he was starting his career now, he’d be worth an absolute fortune. He’s a top player and I’m really pleased that he’s getting the consistency and the accolades for his performances.”

Lionel Messi's World Cup success with Argentina should be enough to win him the upcoming Ballon d'Or, says former England striker Jermain Defoe.

Messi finally achieved World Cup glory with La Albiceleste in Qatar last year as Argentina beat France on penalties in the final to win international football's top prize for a third time and the first since 1986.

Messi won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, finishing with seven goals and three assists from seven appearances, playing every single minute of Argentina's campaign to lead them to silverware.

Defoe believes Messi's talismanic displays in Qatar make him the rightful winner of the upcoming Ballon d'Or, having already claimed the coveted award seven times before, two more than any other player has managed.

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Legends of Football event, in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, Defoe said: "Messi won a World Cup, so it's difficult to see past that.

"I think what he's done for the game – him and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, and other players as well – but because he's won a World Cup, and not only winning the World Cup but the way he performed in the tournament.

"Because the pressure was on, and it's probably his last, so to do that, go out the way he has, in terms of World Cups – I think you just have to give it to him."


Messi's World Cup heroics cap glittering career

Many felt Messi needed to win the World Cup to confirm his place as the best football player of all time, and he responded with a magnificent campaign in Qatar before Argentina ultimately took the crown.

Messi scored twice in the final, finishing just one goal behind Golden Boot winner Kylian Mbappe, who netted a hat-trick on the losing side as his side finished runners-up.

His extraordinary tournament saw him score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final, the first player to ever achieve that feat at a World Cup, while his 26 appearances at the tournament is also a record, after he surpassed Lothar Matthaus.

Messi's goals made him the first ever South American player to score in both the World Cup and Champions League final, and he joined his idol Diego Maradona as the only two players to score five or more goals and create 20 or more chances in a single World Cup tournament.


The now-Inter Miami forward became the first player to win the Golden Ball at two World Cup editions, while his 26 goals for Argentina at major tournaments is the most of any South American player in history.

Whether all that will be enough for Messi to win the Ballon d'Or will be revealed on October 30 at a ceremony in Paris, with the likes of Manchester City's Erling Haaland and Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior expected to challenge.

Dan Burn realised a dream he never imagined would come true when he scored in Newcastle’s Champions League triumph over Paris St Germain.

The Magpies defender was earning £9 an hour collecting trolleys when he got his break in football as a 17-year-old YTS trainee with Darlington.

On Wednesday night, his header put his side 2-0 ahead in their Group F clash with the French champions at St James’ Park, and they went on to secure a famous 4-1 victory to give themselves a genuine chance of qualification.


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Asked afterwards if he had ever dreamt of scoring in the Champions League, the 31-year-old said: “I dreamt of it. I never thought it was going to happen.


“I don’t think it’s really sunk in. The next few days once I’ve watched it back about a hundred times and managed to celebrate with my family, it probably will.

“But (it was) just a special night all round for the city.”

Burn’s big moment, which came after Miguel Almiron had fired the home side in front, was surrounded by drama after he headed home Bruno Guimaraes’ cross and immediately saw the flag go up to spark a lengthy VAR check.

But the 6ft 6in defender eventually got the answer he craved to spark wild celebrations on and off the pitch.

He said: “It spoiled it a little bit because as soon as I scored, I looked up and saw the offside flag and you’re a bit deflated.

“But as it went longer and longer, you think it might be a goal and just to have the lads jumping on you and looking around, and I’ve got all my family here as well…

“To be able to say that I’ve scored in the Champions League for Newcastle is amazing.”

Much of the talk before the game centred on how a Newcastle defence shorn of the services of key man Sven Botman would handle the threat of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Goncalo Ramos and Randal Kolo Muani.

In the event, Burn, Kieran Trippier, Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar – who also got his name on the scoresheet – coped admirably to blunt a potentially lethal attack.

Asked about Mbappe, Burn said with a smile: “He stayed on the left side, so I was quite happy, to be fair. But even to say I was playing against Mbappe is crazy.

“As I said, he kept over to Tripps’ side more, so I was happy with him.”


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The Magpies will resume their campaign after the international break with another home tie against Borussia Dortmund, but will do so having made a significant statement about their prospects.


Burn said: “We don’t fear anyone. We worked very, very hard to get to this point and we want to enjoy it, but we’ll only enjoy that playing the way that we play.

“We’ve just got to keep the momentum going.”

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