Anelka fears star-packed PSG could face Champions League group-stage exit

By Sports Desk September 16, 2021

Nicolas Anelka fired a warning that darker days could lie ahead after Paris Saint-Germain fell flat against Club Brugge despite fielding Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in the starting line-up.

The disappointment of a 1-1 draw in Belgium was compounded by an ankle injury sustained by Mbappe that forced the France forward off early in the second half.

PSG were out-shot 16-9 by Club Brugge, with Messi having three attempts but proving unable to mark his 150th Champions League appearance with what would have been a 121st goal in the competition.

Messi had never previously played against a Belgian side in the competition, scoring against teams from all 17 other nations he has faced. The closest he came was when he struck the crossbar in the 29th minute.

Neymar did not take a shot, while Mbappe had only one attempt before being substituted.

"It is the PSG that we do not want to see," Anelka said, speaking to French broadcaster RMC Sport.

"Nothing. There was nothing, except for the first 15 minutes. But apart from that, there was no intensity. We did not see anything offensively, it will be complicated."

The star attacking trio may take time to become a cohesive threat, given playing together is so very new, but head coach Mauricio Pochettino will be expected to return PSG to winning ways.

Manchester City visit Paris on September 28, and Anelka is already worried about the Parisians' prospects of finishing in the top two in Group A.

"If they play like that, it will not be possible," said former PSG and City striker Anelka.

The result on Wednesday evening means Messi has gone four consecutive Champions League games without enjoying a win (D2 L2). Only between March 2006 and February 2007 has he gone longer without a victory in the competition, then experiencing a run of five with Barcelona around the outset of his career.

Pochettino saw the performance of his team rather differently to Anelka's viewpoint.

"The problem today wasn't our three attackers," Pochettino said. "We just had to be more solid in both penalty areas but I'm happy with the defensive performance of our attackers."

The PSG boss defended Messi's performance, saying of the former Barcelona captain: "When you don't win, people try to put the focus on the less positive aspects.

"But I'm happy with his performance in terms of his spirit and attitude but also in terms of his adaptation to the team. It is clear that none of us is happy today as here at PSG we want to win every game and then also play well."

Related items

  • Messi is 'very happy' at PSG, says ex-Barcelona colleague Fabregas Messi is 'very happy' at PSG, says ex-Barcelona colleague Fabregas

    Lionel Messi is "very happy" at Paris Saint-Germain despite making a slow start to life in the French capital since his shock move from Barcelona, according to friend and former team-mate Cesc Fabregas.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner signed for Ligue 1 giants PSG in August after Barcelona, the club he had been associated with for 21 years, were unable to fulfil an agreement on a new contract due to financial reasons.

    Messi scored a staggering 672 goals and assisted 265 more in 778 appearances across 17 seasons in Barca's first team, but he has so far managed just one goal and zero assists in five games for his new club in what has been a stop-start campaign.

    He has had 13 shots during his 370 minutes on the field for PSG, finding the target from four of those.

    Monaco midfielder Fabregas has opened up on Messi's surprise departure from Camp Nou two months ago and has refuted previous suggestions that the Argentina international is unsettled in the French capital.

    "He's very happy. There are a lot of players he knows already and who speak Spanish. He's very happy, of course," Fabregas, who progressed through Barca's La Masia academy and returned to the club for a three-season spell in 2011, told Prime Video Sport.

    "I was on holiday with him a week earlier, and he told me he was close to signing for Barcelona and he was due to start training the following week.

    "Five days later, he told me it wasn't possible and that the club had told him to leave. I was very sad because I'm his friend and I'm a Barcelona fan. But now, I'm happy to be able to play against him this season."

    Messi was not included in PSG's squad for Friday's 2-1 win over Angers, the superstar forward not being considered for selection due to being in World Cup qualifying action for Argentina the previous day.

    Kylian Mbappe's contentious late penalty sealed a ninth win in 10 Ligue 1 games for leaders PSG, who return to action on Tuesday with a home match against RB Leipzig in the Champions League.

  • Aguero and Fati get Koeman call for Barcelona's huge Valencia clash Aguero and Fati get Koeman call for Barcelona's huge Valencia clash

    Sergio Aguero and Ansu Fati have been included in Barcelona's 23-man squad for Sunday's crucial LaLiga clash with Valencia at Camp Nou.

    Manchester City great Aguero has yet to feature in a competitive game for Barca since joining at the end of May, due to a troublesome calf issue.

    Fati is being eased back into the first team after a long-term knee injury absence, with the teenage forward having featured three times as a substitute since making a return from a near year-long lay-off.

    Both players are in contention to play a part against Valencia as Barca attempt to kickstart their LaLiga campaign on the back of a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid two weeks ago.

    Aguero's inclusion and the return of Fati will be considered a major boost for coach Ronald Koeman, whose side are down in ninth place after seven matches.

    Barca's shot conversion rate of 13.6 per cent in LaLiga this term is their lowest in a single campaign since 2007-08 (13.5 per cent).

    Asked on Saturday about Aguero's chances of playing his first competitive minutes at club level since the Champions League final, Koeman said: "He's improved a lot lately.

    "He played 20, 25 minutes in Wednesday's [practice] game and it is going well. But he lacks the rhythm of the games and a certain physique.

    "He will get that with games. His quality is not questioned; he can give a lot to this team. Especially up front."

    Fati has scored 14 goals in 46 appearances for Barca since making his senior debut in August 2019, but he has just 57 minutes of playing time under his belt this term and was not included in Spain's most recent squad.

    Koeman will not take any unnecessary risks over the youngster's fitness, with games against Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid to follow in the coming week, in the Champions League and LaLiga respectively.

    "Every day he is doing better because he has been away for a long time," Koeman said at Saturday's pre-match news conference.

    "You have to think with Ansu that there are three games this week and he cannot play the entire three games. We must decide what is best for him and the team."

    Elsewhere, Barca are without the injured Ronald Araujo, Pedri, Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele.

    The Catalan giants have just lost one of their last 10 LaLiga games against Los Che (W5 D4) – a 2-0 reverse in January 2020 under Quique Setien.

  • Mourinho rules out Newcastle move but reveals 'emotional connection' Mourinho rules out Newcastle move but reveals 'emotional connection'

    Jose Mourinho has scotched suggestions he could become the next Newcastle United manager but acknowledged "an emotional connection" to the city.

    Ahead of his Roma team facing Juventus in Serie A on Sunday, the former Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham boss stressed he was not thinking about a Premier League return.

    After the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund takeover at St James' Park, the expectation is that the club will see dramatic changes in personnel, with big-name players and staff arriving.

    Steve Bruce remains head coach for now, but speculation surrounds his position, amid suggestions the new owners will want a higher-profile boss.

    Mourinho would fit that bill, and has a track record of success in domestic and European football.

    But when asked about the prospect of a switch to Newcastle, Mourinho frowned on the possibility and said he was committed to Roma, who are owned by American billionaire Dan Friedkin.

    Mourinho moved to the Italian capital club in the close season, after his appointment was announced in May.

    He said his passion for Newcastle is one that has been long held, stemming from his time working at Barcelona alongside Bobby Robson, who went on to manage the Magpies.

    "The only thing I can say is that, for many, many years, I worked with one of the most important figures in the history of Newcastle, Sir Bobby Robson," Mourinho said.

    "And so because of that I have always had a bit of an emotional connection with that city and that fanbase.

    "But it's nothing more than that. I am here, I am really happy to be here, I am 100 per cent focused on the Roma project, the Friedkin project."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.