Messi debut will not be rushed by Pochettino, Ramos ruled out until September

By Sports Desk August 13, 2021

Lionel Messi will be given time by Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino to regain his fitness before making his debut following this week's shock switch from Barcelona.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner ended his 21-year association with Barca on Tuesday by penning an initial two-year deal at the Parc des Princes with the option of a third.

Messi has not played since helping Argentina to a 1-0 win over Brazil in the Copa America final on July 10 and has had just two training sessions with his new club.

PSG host Strasbourg at the Parc des Princes in their second Ligue 1 game of the campaign on Saturday, but Pochettino is not prepared to risk using Messi too soon.

"Today was his second training session since the Copa America final," Pochettino said at a pre-match news conference on Friday. "The priority for him is to feel better and better.

"Only then will we see if he is ready to play matches."

Messi departed Barcelona having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more in 778 appearances for the cash-strapped Catalan giants across a 17-season stay in the first team.

The 34-year-old's arrival in the French capital has understandably dominated the headlines and Pochettino is just as excited as the PSG supporters with the high-profile signing.

"We share the same feelings that the fans are experiencing, a great positive energy," he said. "Every coach in the world wants to have the best players.

"It's nice to have a roster of excellent players here to increase competition and help us achieve our targets."

 

Questions have been raised as to whether PSG can keep the likes of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on their books without breaching financial fair play regulations.

Mbappe is into the final year of his deal and has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, but Pochettino reiterated the club's stance that the World Cup winner is not going anywhere.

"He is one of our players and will continue to be our player," Pochettino said. "Our president has already said so and this is what counts."

Messi is not the only big name to join PSG in this window, with Sergio Ramos also signing on a free alongside Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi.

However, ex-Real Madrid captain Ramos has yet to play for his new club due to a calf problem that will keep him out of action until after September's international break.

PSG provided the latest update on Ramos' fitness on their official website on Friday, while also confirming full-back Juan Bernat is back in full training.

Asked if integrating the former captains of rivals of Barcelona and Madrid into the same side will be a challenge, Pochettino replied: "They will be like brothers in a PSG shirt.

"It has been like the Big Brother house here this week with all the attention. But Leo has a great relationship with everyone and has had a good welcome."

 

The influx of more superstar players has only increased the pressure on Pochettino to reclaim the Ligue 1 title and win a first Champions League, a challenge that he is up for.

"It's no more or less responsibility than in other projects I've had at Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham," Pochettino said.

"The responsibility here is to win games. If you don't, you're in trouble. The challenge is to make sure the stars that shine on their own can work well as a team."

PSG kicked off their Ligue 1 campaign with a 2-1 comeback win at Troyes last week.

The Parisiens are unbeaten in their 30 Ligue 1 home games against next opponents Strasbourg (W23 D7), a French top-flight record for one team at home to a specific opponent.

With question marks over the fitness of numerous players, Pochettino is unsure how he will line up on Saturday.

"Let's take it slowly. There are still things to be resolved in terms of who will play. That's something we will establish later," he said.

"The priority tomorrow is to win the game. We need to find the right balance between concentration and the general excitement that has surrounded the club for a few days."

Related items

  • Premier League data dive: Mount hits treble for Chelsea, Foden at the double for Man City Premier League data dive: Mount hits treble for Chelsea, Foden at the double for Man City

    Chelsea maintained their position at the Premier League summit as they thumped sorry Norwich City 7-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

    Manchester City remain two points behind after cruising past Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 at the Amex Stadium.

    Watford produced a stunning comeback to thump Everton at Goodison Park, while Leeds United left it late to snatch a point against Wolves.

    Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the fixtures from the day.

    Brighton and Hove Albion 1-4 Manchester City: Foden inspires City's latest win over Seagulls

    Phil Foden was at the heart of City's big win at the Amex Stadium as Pep Guardiola's side sealed an eighth win in nine Premier League games against the Seagulls.

    Ilkay Gundogan put the visitors ahead before Foden scored just his second brace in the Premier League, previously doing so against Burnley in June 2020.

    Alexis Mac Allister pulled one back for Graham Potter's side to became the first player to score a Premier League penalty as a substitute for Brighton.

    Riyad Mahrez added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, though, after being teed up by Foden. The Algerian has scored more goals in all competitions (16) than any other City player so far in 2021.

    The result meant Brighton conceded four goals for the first time in 43 Premier League games, since a 4-2 loss against Everton in October 2020. Indeed, the Seagulls conceded as many goals as they had in their previous seven league games combined.

    Chelsea 7-0 Norwich City: Mount puts Blues in seventh heaven

    Chelsea made light work of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner's absences, winning a Premier League game by seven or more goals for the fourth time and the first time since an 8-0 win over Aston Villa in December 2012.

    Mason Mount was the star man, the England international becoming the 20th different player to score a Premier League hat-trick for Chelsea. Only Arsenal (21) have had more hat-trick scorers in the competition.

    Ben Chilwell was on the scoresheet as well, the former Leicester City left-back becoming the first Englishman to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in February 2013.

    The defeat was Norwich's joint-heaviest in Premier League history, the Canaries also losing 7-0 to Manchester City in November 2013.

    Their haul of just two goals after nine league games this season is the joint-lowest tally ever at this stage of an English league campaign, and just the third time a team has registered such a low return at this stage in the Premier League (Crystal Palace in 2017-18 and Everton in 2005-06).


    Everton 2-5 Watford: King comes back to haunt Toffees

    Watford scored four times in the final 12 minutes to complete a remarkable fightback at Goodison Park.

    They were indebted to a superb hat-trick from former Toffees striker Josh King, who became just the third player to score a Premier League hat-trick against a side he has previously played for in the competition, after Andy Cole (for Manchester United vs Newcastle) and Marcus Bent (for Wigan vs Blackburn). 

    It was just the second time Watford had scored five goals in an away Premier League game (also vs Cardiff in February 2019), becoming just the seventh newly promoted side in Premier League history to score five or more goals in an away game.

    The result also marked the first time the Hornets had come from behind to win an away Premier League game since January 2019 vs Crystal Palace, having lost each of their previous 21 such matches in the competition.

    Leeds United 1-1 Wolves: Rodrigo leaves it late for Bielsa's men

    Despite earning a late point thanks to Rodrigo's stoppage-time penalty, seven points from nine games marks Leeds' worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1981-82 (six points), a season in which they were relegated to the second tier.

    Wolves had looked destined for all three points thanks to another goal from Hwang Hee-chan. The South Korean has scored four goals from just four shots on target in the Premier League this season, the best such 100 per cent conversion rate in the competition so far this term.

    Rodrigo stepped up late on to salvage a point, though. His equaliser from the spot was just Leeds' third penalty goal scored in the final minute of a Premier League match, after Gary McAllister against Coventry City (October 1995) and Ian Harte against Derby County (December 1999).

  • Bologna 2-4 Milan: Bennacer and Ibrahimovic strike late to send Rossoneri top of Serie A Bologna 2-4 Milan: Bennacer and Ibrahimovic strike late to send Rossoneri top of Serie A

    Milan moved to the Serie A summit as Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck late to hand them a pulsating 4-2 win over nine-man Bologna.

    Rafael Leao and Davide Calabria scored either side of Adama Soumaoro's dismissal to give the Rossoneri a healthy advantage at the interval.

    That was wiped out in the space of seven minutes at the start of the second period, however, with an Ibrahimovic own goal and a Musa Barrow strike restoring parity at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

    Bologna had a second man sent off before the hour mark, Roberto Soriano given a straight red card for a late challenge, and Stefano Pioli's Milan landed a memorable three points thanks to fine late strikes from Bennacer and Ibrahimovic.

    Leao put Milan ahead in the 16th minute with a deflected strike, before Soumaoro was shown a red card for bringing down a clean-through Rade Krunic just outside the area four minutes later.

    Milan took advantage of their numerical superiority in the 35th minute, Calabria lashing home a second from 15 yards.

    The hosts stormed back at the start of the second period, though, with Ibrahimovic – making his first start since May 9 – heading into his own net four minutes after the interval to give Sinisa Mihajlovic's side hope.

    Barrow then remarkably drew Bologna level in the 52nd minute, slotting past Ciprian Tatarusanu after being played in by Soriano.

    Rossoblu captain Soriano was then given his marching orders after a VAR review six minutes later for an ugly challenge on Fode Ballo-Toure.

    The hosts held firm until the 84th minute when Bennacer powered into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards, while Ibrahimovic added gloss to the scoreline with a whipped finish from the same distance six minutes later.

  • Foden enjoying role as focal point as Guardiola praises youngster's versatility Foden enjoying role as focal point as Guardiola praises youngster's versatility

    Phil Foden is enjoying playing as the focal point in Manchester City's star-studded attack and earned special praise from boss Pep Guardiola after inspiring his side to victory at Brighton and Hove Albion.

    The City academy product started through the middle once again in Saturday's meeting at the Amex Stadium and scored just his second ever double in the Premier League in a 4-1 win.

    Foden had eight shots, four of those on target, but he could not find a way past Robert Sanchez in the second half for a hat-trick.

    The England international did set up substitute Riyad Mahrez late on for City's fourth, however, and he is thriving off the freedom of being used right across City's frontline this season.

    "I'm enjoying it. I can drop deep and get the ball and pick the passes off. It's a new role for me and I can say I'm really enjoying it," he told Sky Sports. 

    "It changes game to game. Sometimes I stay higher than normal, but this game they went man-to-man so I dropped a bit deeper and I thought we used the extra man well.

    "On another day I could have scored three, but the main thing is the result and I'm just happy we got it today."

    Foden has featured nine times for City this season, starting six of those games and playing a direct part in eight goals – only Mahrez (nine) has scored and assisted more for the club this term.

    Guardiola agrees with Foden that he should have further added to his goals tally against Brighton, but the Catalan coach is pleased with the strides being taken by the 21-year-old.

    "There are players that play in one position and there are players who play football. When you play football it means you can play any position, you understand the game," Guardiola said at his post-match news conference.

    "In the final third he can play up front, has the quality to move and be aggressive one on one and arrive in the box. He can play as a false nine, a winger, wide right or wide left.

    "He is a guy who is a midfield player with a big sense of the goal. He scored two and could have had more, but he is still young and still has a margin to improve."

    Foden's double came after Ilkay Gundogan had opened the scoring as City raced three goals ahead inside 31 minutes.

    Alexis Mac Allister pulled one back from the penalty spot nine minutes from time after Ederson took out Enock Mwepu, but Mahrez thumped home a fourth for the visitors late on.

    The reigning champions are back to within two points of leaders Chelsea, who thumped Norwich City 7-0 earlier on Saturday.

    Fourth-place Brighton had lost just one of their opening eight league games and Guardiola was full of praise for Graham Potter and his side.

    "It was a really good result for us because I knew which team we face today," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

    "It was a good lesson as for 30 minutes they were better than us. This game must be played with the ball. We suffered and we'll be better for that in the future.

    "This is a huge victory for us. To win here is a big compliment for the team.

    "They are aggressive and when they have the ball they know what they have to do. They have all the mechanisms of a big team.

    "They have courage. I admire them for that. They play like a top four or five team."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.