Is Aymeric Laporte's future away from Manchester City?

Laporte hit the ground running in Manchester, but Pep Guardiola has since preferred John Stones and Ruben Dias.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are reportedly willing to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – LAPORTE HEADED FOR SPAIN RETURN?

LaLiga pair Real Madrid and Barcelona are tracking Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte , according to Caught Offside.

Laporte left Spanish outfit Athletic Bilbao for City in 2018 but the newly capped Spain international slipped down the pecking order during the 2020-21 campaign.

As City reportedly prepare a new long-term contract for John Stones , who has been preferred alongside Ruben Dias, Madrid and Barca are waiting in the wings.

 

ROUND-UP

-  Tottenham have abandoned their plans to appoint former Inter boss Antonio Conte , reports Sky Italy. Spurs and Conte were in negotiations and while ex-Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici is poised to join the Premier League side, Conte will not reunite with his Italian compatriot. Tottenham were initially linked with former manager Mauricio Pochettino , who is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain. Amid ongoing speculation, Le10 Sport claims a sensational deal to bring Pochettino back to London could go ahead.

- PSG  are trying to hijack Barcelona 's move for Georginio Wijnaldum , says ESPN. Wijnaldum is available on a free transfer following the expiration of his Liverpool contract and he has been tipped to make the switch to Camp Nou.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia captain Jose Luis Gaya is the on the radar for Barca , who are eyeing a new left-back.

- Gazzetto dello Sport reports  Juventus  are interested in Fiorentina defender  Nikola Milenkovic . Fiorentina could be willing to sell the Serbia international, who is out of contract in 2022. Milenkovic has previously been linked with  Tottenham Manchester United  and  West Ham Milan  could also make a move if they fail to tie up a permanent deal for Chelsea's  Fikayo Tomori .

Dusan Vlahovic  of Fiorentina, Marseille's  Arkadiusz Milik and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca  are among the possible new forward signings for  Milan , says Gazzetta dello Sport. Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud has been strongly linked with Milan.

- Marca claims  Gareth Bale  is leaning towards retirement after Euro 2020. Bale is set to return to Real Madrid following his loan spell at Tottenham.

- New Inter boss  Simone Inzaghi  wants to keep  Alexis Sanchez , per Calciomercato. As Inter look to cut costs, Sanchez has been linked with  Roma Romelu Lukaku Lautaro Martinez  and  Alessandro Bastoni  and their futures have also been questioned due to the club's financial issues.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo insists he is "very happy" with Mauricio Pochettino despite reports the coach wants to leave the club.

It has been claimed Pochettino, who only took over from Thomas Tuchel at Parc des Princes in January, has told the Ligue 1 giants that he wishes to terminate his contract.

The Argentine, whose contract runs until next year with the option of a further 12 months, has been linked with a return to Tottenham or a move to Real Madrid to succeed Zinedine Zidane.

However, it has also been reported that Pochettino would be prepared to stay at PSG for another season if required as he does not wish to sour his relationship with a club where he spent two and a half years as a player.

Speaking to Europe1, Leonardo said: "Mauricio Pochettino has two years on his contract with PSG and we're very happy with him."

Speculation around Pochettino emerged after he was unable to guide PSG to the Ligue 1 title, with Lille finishing one point above them to be crowned champions for the first time in 10 years.

They were also beaten by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, having lost to Bayern Munich in the final last season.

Pochettino left Spurs in November 2019 despite leading them to the Champions League final that year as poor domestic results left his position untenable.

However, Spurs are said to be interested in bringing him back to north London, where he achieved four top-four finishes in five seasons, twice as many as the club managed in their previous 22 Premier League campaigns.

Pochettino was previously linked with Madrid and Los Blancos are again looking for a new coach after Zidane stepped down at the end of a trophyless season.

Former Inter boss Antonio Conte and academy coach Raul have also been tipped for the job at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

Mauricio Pochettino is focused on achieving "great things" at Paris Saint-Germain amid rumours that Tottenham are looking to reappoint their former manager.

The 49-year-old took over as PSG boss in January – 14 months on from being sacked by Spurs – on a contract that has another year to run with the option of an extra 12 months.

He won the Trophee des Champion in just his third ​game in charge and followed that up with success in the Coupe de France with a 2-0 win over Monaco in the final this month.

However, last season's beaten finalists PSG exited the Champions League at the semi-final stage to Manchester City and finished second to shock title winners Lille in Ligue 1.

Widespread reports on Thursday claimed Pochettino's relationship with sporting director Leonardo is already strained, and he is tempted to resign just four months into his reign.

That has prompted Spurs to make contact with the Argentinian, it is claimed, while Real Madrid – who confirmed Zinedine Zidane's exit on Thursday – have also been linked.

Tottenham are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Pochettino's successor, Jose Mourinho, last month.

But Pochettino, who spent five years at Tottenham before his departure in November 2019, appears to be planning for a long-term future at the Parc des Princes.

In an interview released on the French club's official website on Thursday, Pochettino said: "I'm happy with the way the players adapted to the changes. 

"I think that with this way of working, and with the desire to be able to develop other kinds of ideas on the pitch, it will be possible to do great things in the future.

"I think that in football you are never satisfied. Because perfection doesn't exist. But we are always looking for that satisfaction that we can't find.

"I always believe that football challenges you every day and that from season to season you have to be better and better. 

"But in a club like Paris Saint-Germain, you are forced to think that perfection or satisfaction can come and that winning is the only option. 

"And for a club like ours, it's about winning, winning and winning. And then winning again. It's a feeling I always thought I'd like to have. 

"It requires a amount of energy and always be sure that your priority is to be professional and that the difficulties and obstacles can always be overcome. I think that's the challenge, to impose that here."

PSG missed out on the Ligue 1 title for just the second time in nine seasons – the other instance being in 2016-17 when Monaco came out on top.

The Parisians finished the campaign with 82 points, which is their lowest tally over a complete season since 2011-12 when accumulating 79 points and finishing second.

It is just a second time a team has reached that total or better without being crowned champions after PSG themselves in 2016-17 (87 points).

And while PSG fell short of reaching a second successive Champions League final, they did knock out holders Bayern Munich and Barcelona en route to the semi-finals.

Pochettino, who succeeded Thomas Tuchel in the French capital, said: "Of course I'm proud of the team's effort, because only we know what state the team was in and what we were capable of.

"I'm proud of all the people involved, not just the players, but all the staff at the club, everybody, because I think the effort was incredible. 

"Winning the Trophee des Champions, winning the Coupe de France, reaching the semi-final of the Champions League, without being in your best form.

"We also fought until the last game with the possibility of winning the championship, and given the conditions in which we arrived in January, we should be proud of everything."

Zinedine Zidane has stepped down as head coach of Real Madrid, ending weeks of mounting speculation over his future.

Zidane returned to Madrid for a second spell at the helm in March 2019, having led his former team to three consecutive Champions League successes from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Last season, he added a LaLiga title to the one he collected in 2016-17, but Los Blancos finished 2020-21 without a trophy to their name – bowing out in the semi-finals of the Champions League and finishing second to city rivals Atletico Madrid domestically.

A significant rebuild appears to be needed at Madrid, with Zidane deciding he is not the man for that task as the club face up to a testing financial situation and the potential of a Champions League ban for their part in the doomed Super League project.

Nevertheless, the allure of Real Madrid remains considerable and plenty of big names will be in the frame.

Raul

Zidane cut his coaching teeth with Madrid's Castilla team and fellow club great Raul is now the man in that position.

Elevating Madrid's former record goalscorer to the top job would no doubt prove popular with fans but the decision to follow the Castilla-to-first-team template backfired horribly during Santiago Solari's four-and-a-half months in charge that preceded Zidane's return.

 

Antonio Conte

Former Juventus and Italy boss Conte has been on Real Madrid's radar previously and is now on the market once more having left Inter by mutual consent.

Conte led Inter to Scudetto glory this term, adding that success to league titles won at Juve and Chelsea. However, his habit of clashing with his employers would arguably not bode well for any union with Florentino Perez.

In the Champions League, Conte's record is far less impressive. But, if a ban is on the way, the 51-year-old has shown himself to be at his very best when coaching teams rigorously for one game per week. Circumstances might conspire to make the timing absolutely right if Madrid turn to the Italian.

Mauricio Pochettino

Another coach previously linked to the Madrid post in between Zidane's spells at the helm, Pochettino appeared to be the one that got away after joining Paris Saint-Germain midway through this season.

Yet, reports emerged this week that the Argentine is unsettled in the French capital and has held talks over a dramatic return to Tottenham.

If he is open to that, he would surely listen to anything Real Madrid have to say?

 

Joachim Low

Low will bring down the curtain on 15 years in charge of Germany after the forthcoming European Championship and is certainly the kind of big name to excite Los Blancos' fanbase and boardroom alike.

It is tempting to wonder how much of the shine has come off Low in the years since Germany won the 2014 World Cup, although a strong farewell showing at Euro 2020 would assuage most doubts.

Even so, returning to club management for the first time in almost two decades at the Santiago Bernabeu might be something of a culture shock.

Massimiliamo Allegri

Yes, yes, okay. He's going to Juventus, right? Has he gone there already?

The rapidly turning European managerial merry-go-round has Allegri set for a return to Turin, the with failed Andrea Pirlo experiment apparently only having hours left to run.

On the other hand, this time yesterday, Conte was still in a job and Pochettino was settled in Paris, so far as anyone knew. And Allegri is admired in Madrid. Don't rule this one out entirely, for at least the next five minutes.

Tottenham have been linked with a host of big names as their search for a new head coach continues, but could they be set to turn to a familiar face?

Spurs dismissed Jose Mourinho last month amid an underwhelming campaign where they fell off the top-four pace in the Premier League, as well as crashing out of Europe to Dinamo Zagreb despite having led 2-0 from the first leg.

With speculation mounting around superstar forward Harry Kane's desire to leave, Spurs are getting busy.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS PLOT POCHETTINO RETURN

The Sun reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will consider if he can convince former boss Mauricio Pochettino to complete an astonishing return to the club.

Pochettino, who took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final, is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who finished Ligue 1 runners-up on the weekend.

The Sun claims that Pochettino is unhappy in Paris and would consider heading back to north London, where he was sacked in November 2019 after a poor run of results.

Sky Sports also reports that Spurs are in talks with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh from winning the Serie A title, Antonio Conte and Inter could split by mutual consent according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Inter are trying to cut their salary bill, offloading key members and restricting their off-season business, with those details not yet agreed with Conte.

- Sport claims that Barcelona have stepped up their pursuit of off-contract Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and they are close to a three-year agreement after his representative met with president Joan Laporta.

- Wolves are ready to sell midfielder Ruben Neves as they look to fund a rebuild after Nuno Espirito Santo's exit, according to The Athletic. They want £35million for the Portugal international.

- Sky Sports reports that Willian wants to return to Chelsea, barely a year after leaving the Blues for London rivals Arsenal.

- Bild claims that RB Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele is being chased by Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen wants to stay with Barcelona and is not considering any other option with Borussia Dortmund not pursuing him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said he is disappointed his side missed out on the Ligue 1 title, while lamenting their hectic fixture schedule.

PSG won 2-0 at Brest on the final day of the Ligue 1 season on Sunday but leaders Lille secured the trophy with their 2-1 victory away to Angers.

The result ended PSG's run of three consecutive league titles, leaving former Tottenham boss Pochettino – who replaced Thomas Tuchel in January –  "sad and disappointed".

Pochettino pointed to the fact PSG won both the Trophee des Champions and Coupe de France, while they also reached the Champions League semi-finals after eliminating Barcelona and holders Bayern Munich.

PSG played 57 matches across a lengthy campaign where they had little time to rest after reaching last season's Champions League final, which they lost to Bayern.

"I think it's important to put everything in context and to look at what happened in January," Pochettino said post-game. "We arrived and had no time to work, but we were welcomed really well by the club and the players.

"We were playing every three days and we made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League, beating Bayern Munich and Barcelona. We won the Trophee des Champions and the Coupe de Franc, which was important for the team.

"But Paris Saint-Germain will always be disappointed when finishing in second. We need to use the experience for the future of the club and of course to change things.

"It's important for the club to improve and we believe that we can get better. We are going to work hard for that to happen."

It is only the second time in the last nine seasons that PSG failed to win the title after 2016-17, when the French capital club were edged out by Monaco.

PSG finished the season with 82 points, their lowest tally over a complete season since 2011-12 (79, second place). It is only the second time a team have reached this total or better without being crowned champions after PSG, who totalled 87 points in 2016-17 when Monaco won the title.

Pochettino said PSG dropped too many points when they should not have in 2020-21.

"It is clear that during the whole season, not just from January, we lost points that we should have never lost in normal circumstances," he said.

"Today we won but we depended on a bad result from Lille in Angers. First of all I want to congratulate Lille because always when you win a championship it is well deserved, so the first thing I have to do is to congratulate them."

Kylian Mbappe became Ligue 1’s top goalscorer for a third consecutive season – the first player to achieve the feat since Jean-Pierre Papin (five between 1987-88 and 1991-92).

It is the 12th time a PSG player has finished as top scorer at the end of a campaign (Mbappe and Zlatan Ibrahimovic three times each, Carlos Bianchi, Pauleta and Edinson Cavani twice each), equalling the record currently held by Marseille.

Pochettino added: "Of course we are disappointed, we really believed that anything could happen in Angers, but it didn't happen. I think we were professional and we won. But in the end, it wasn't enough to win the title. We are disappointed and really sad."

Mauricio Pochettino believes Paris Saint-Germain will be worthy Ligue 1 champions if they leapfrog Lille on the season's final day – and said it would not be a "failure" to fall short.

The head coach, who took over from Thomas Tuchel in January, has seen his team show inconsistent league form, suffering defeats to Lorient, Nantes, Monaco and Lille.

A late-season surge has seen PSG close to just one point behind Lille going into Sunday's final round of games.

The Coupe de France final triumph over Monaco on Wednesday means Pochettino's team already have one major trophy, but the former Tottenham boss wants a double.

"In football you always have to believe. That is the principle we have always had," said Pochettino.

His team travel to relegation-threatened Brest on Sunday evening, while Lille head to Angers, who are safe from the threat of the drop.

"We always think anything can happen and we have to be ready to win in case Lille slip up at Angers which means we will win the league," Pochettino said.

"We believe that good things will happen. Everyone will do their job as well as they can. So we hope to win tomorrow and to also win the title.

"We would be worthy champions, as would any other team that might win it. Whoever wins it will be worthy champions."

Asked whether it might be considered a failure if the Parisians fail to win the title, Pochettino dismissed the emotive term.

PSG have been champions in seven of the last eight seasons, and their budget far exceeds that of any domestic rival.

"At a club like PSG, not winning any of those competitions is always a big disappointment," Pochettino said.

"I don't know if the word failure applies because that has a very strong connotation, but it would be a disappointment rather than a failure.

"It would be disappointing not to win the league, but we are thinking positively and that it may be possible."

PSG also won the Trophee des Champions under Pochettino's watch – beating Marseille in January – having earned their place in that match following a league and cup double last season.

"We hope to win another trophy; it would be our third in five months," Pochettino told reporters in a news conference on Saturday.

"We had a good campaign in the Champions League, reaching the semi-finals, but we were disappointed not to reach the final. I think the squad and players have put in a huge effort to compete in the best way."

The last time there was such a small gap between the top two entering the final round of a Ligue 1 season was way back in 2001-02, when Lens led Lyon by a point but were overtaken on the final day after losing to their title rivals.

That is one positive omen for PSG, with another being that Brest boss Olivier Dall’Oglio has lost on all six previous occasions when he has faced the capital side as a head coach in the league.

Brest's last league win against PSG was a 3-1 success in January 1985. Indeed, Brest have been beaten in their last three Ligue 1 home games against PSG, but they have never lost four in a row at home against a single opponent in the top-flight.

That may need to change for PSG to stand a chance of a final-day turnaround at the top, although a draw would suffice should Lille lose to Angers.

Pochettino expects to be kept informed about Lille's progress but is urging his players not to be distracted.

"I think it will be difficult not to keep tabs on it," Pochettino said. "The most important thing is that the players are fully focused on what they have to do, which is winning the game, so that if something happens in Angers we will not have a problem ourselves.

"What matters is winning and hoping that something goes our way in the game with Lille."

Mauricio Pochettino hopes to have Neymar available for Wednesday's Coupe de France final after Paris Saint-Germain appealed against the forward's suspension.

Neymar was booked four minutes after being brought off the bench in last week's eventful 2-2 semi-final draw with Montpellier, which PSG won 6-5 on penalties to progress.

That triggered a one-match ban linked to a pre-existing suspended sentence, having also sat out two matches after being sent off against Lille last month.

The Brazil international hit out at the decision on social media, but PSG may yet have Neymar – plus defender Presnel Kimpembe – in their squad to face Monaco.

PSG are awaiting a decision from the relevant authorities and Pochettino insists his side's plans will not be disrupted either way.

"We don't know if they will be available, but we hope so. We will see in the next few hours if we can count on them," Pochettino said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"We are awaiting a decision and will prepare as normal. I will pick my team tomorrow. The rest does not change."

PSG lost both league meetings with Monaco this season – 3-2 in November and 2-0 at home in February – and the two sides are involved in a thrilling Ligue 1 title battle.

Reigning champions PSG are second in the standings heading into the final set of fixtures, with leaders Lille one point better off and Monaco two points further back in a three-way race.

Pochettino faces a huge week in his first half-season at the Parc des Princes, with Wednesday's clash against in-form Monaco at the Stade de France followed by a league trip to Brest.

"We are coming to the end of the season and have two games that we must win – they are both finals," Pochettino said. 

"We don't need any extra motivation, and the physical aspect will not be a problem for us. There is a good atmosphere in the camp as we are close to two titles.

"Monaco deserve credit for their wins against us and they are a physically strong team with a lot of qualities.

"I think we deserved better in the last game between us, but they have played well. It is a final and I hope now the result will be different."

Pochettino took over from Thomas Tuchel in the Parc des Princes dugout in January and he lifted the Trophee des Champions in his third game in charge.

That was the first trophy the former Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham boss has won and he is relaxed ahead of his side's latest final.

"I am a calm coach. I don't have much excitement beforehand," said Pochettino, who was a beaten finalist with Tottenham in the 2018-19 Champions League.

"We know our responsibilities and want to be as efficient as possible. I have confidence in the team and we will prepare in the right way for this final."

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said his team must believe in their chances after taking the Ligue 1 title race to the final day of the season.

PSG kept their hopes of retaining the league title alive thanks to Sunday's 4-0 rout of Reims, which moved the defending champions within a point of leaders Lille heading into the final round of the 2020-21 campaign.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were on target against Reims and PSG will – who face Brest on the last day – only get their hands on the title if they better the result Lille get against Angers, needing Christophe Galtier's team to slip up.

The one point separating Lille (80) and PSG (79) before the final matchday is the smallest gap between a leader and second-placed side at this stage of Ligue 1 since the 2001-02 season (Lens one point ahead of Lyon but the latter ultimately triumphed).

"The most important thing is to believe [in our chances]," Pochettino said post-game.

"But now we have to focus on Wednesday's [Coupe de France] final against Monaco. That's our first objective. Then after the French Cup final we will focus on our game against Brest.

"The important thing is that we still have a chance to win the league. We have to do our job and see what Lille do against Angers.

"Sometimes you need a little luck and think it was a penalty and unfortunately a red card for Reims. That's football, sometimes the luck goes your way, and tonight it went our way.

"I think we deserved the victory and the three points that put us in a position to fight with Lille until the very last game."

Neymar opened the scoring with a 13th-minute penalty before Mbappe doubled PSG's lead 11 minutes later, while Marquinhos and Moise Kean made sure of the points in the second half.

PSG's Neymar has scored 18 goals from penalties in Ligue 1 since his debut in 2017-18 (19 penalties taken) – at least five more than any other player over the period. He has been involved in five of PSG's last seven goals in the top flight (three goals and two assists).

Mbappe scored his 40th goal for PSG in all competitions this season (26 in Ligue 1), his best tally in a single campaign.

PSG have earned 79 points after 37 games in Ligue 1 this season, only Monaco (79 in 2013-14) and the Paris side (86 in 2016-17) have claimed at least that many points without standing at the top the table at this stage of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino hopes his Paris Saint-Germain side are able to make Lille feel the heat on the final day of the Ligue 1 season.

PSG's title defence will be over on Sunday if surprise leaders Lille get a better result at home to Saint-Etienne than Pochettino's men are able to manage when Reims visit the Parc des Princes.

If Lille win, the best PSG can hope for heading into the final weekend is having a three-point deficit to overturn.

Following the midweek penalty shootout triumph over Montpellier in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France, Pochettino believes his players have got last weekend's disappointing 1-1 draw at Rennes, that handed Christophe Galtier's side an advantage they appear unlikely to relinquish, out of their system.

"We don't want to repeat the problems that we made last week with Rennes. I think that is key," he told a pre-match news conference.

"We need to stay in control of the game to go after a victory and get three points that would keep us in the title race until the last day of the season

"We are motivated, nobody needs motivation. We are motivated to win tomorrow and put the pressure on Lille. We are not thinking about following their game

"We are focused on our match and getting three points because that would give us a chance. Our fate is not in our hands, but we need to make sure that we get our job done."

As is now customary at Pochettino briefings, Kylian Mbappe's future was raised.

The former Tottenham boss offered no updates on any potential new contract, choosing instead to make light of the France superstar's boisterous midweek goal celebrations.

"Thanks to that celebration I have some back pain, which I am having physio treatment for," he chuckled.

"Paris Saint-Germain have an ambitious project in place and keeping a player like Kylian is a key priority for all of us."

PSG will be without Neymar in the cup final after he collected a booking during an at times fraught encounter with Montpellier, subject to an appeal

"This is something the club is handling over the next few days," Pochettino confirmed. "We will see what the decision is and what we can do. But it is something we are thinking about."

Even without Neymar or Mbappe in the short or long term, PSG do not lack for attacking options, although Argentine striker Mauro Icardi has been off colour of late.

The former Inter captain is without a goal in his past four appearances, with a particularly lacklustre showing during the Champions League exit to Manchester City seeing him restricted to 16 touches at the Etihad Stadium.

Nevertheless, Pochettino believes his countryman can still contribute within his preferred high-octane style of play.

"At Tottenham we had different options in terms of style of play, transitions and playing high at different stages," he explained.

"They depend on how well the team was doing, this depends on how you build a team over time, getting to know your players very well and their attributes.

"Mauro Icardi can adapt to any style. He is a top player and that doesn't just apply to transitions, he is dangerous in the box and a clinical finisher.

"These are things we can all work on together and we need to build it over time with the team, bearing in mind the players' attributes so you can create the right dynamics in the team to give you the flexibility that the game requires."

Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on winning Ligue 1, but conceded Paris Saint-Germain got no less than they deserved against Rennes as their title hopes took a hit following a 1-1 draw.

Neymar celebrated his new four-year deal with PSG by scoring a contentious penalty to put Pochettino's team ahead on Sunday, only for Serhou Guirassy's fine header to seal a point for Rennes.

PSG were in fact lucky not to lose, with Presnel Kimpembe seeing red late on and Keylor Navas pulling out some impressive saves to keep it at 1-1.

The draw leaves PSG three points behind Lille with two games remaining – no team has ever been crowned Ligue 1 champions with such a gap at this stage – and the title may well be wrapped up next week should the capital club drop points against Reims and the leaders beat Saint-Etienne.

Indeed, it is not just the title PSG have to worry about, with their place in the Champions League no certainty.

PSG edged possession (57.8 per cent) against Rennes, but their tally of 12 attempts was seven fewer than the hosts managed, while only four of them were on target – Bruno Genesio's European hopefuls, who were without key midfielders Steven Nzonzi and Eduardo Camavinga, managing 10 in total.

"A lot can still happen, we are disappointed, but we have to give credit to Rennes, who had a very good game," PSG head coach Pochettino in his post-match news conference.

"We have to win the next matches to hope for something. We were not better than Rennes over 90 minutes, we did not deserve to take three points.

"It's a season with a lot of ups and downs, we arrived four months ago to help the club. A club like PSG must always think in the future. Every club thinks of improving, decisions will be made at the end of the season, we always think of improving."

While Neymar toiled, he was not helped by the absence of Kylian Mbappe, who was suspended – albeit he has been struggling with an injury which kept him from featuring against Manchester City in the Champions League midweek as PSG lost in the semi-finals.

Asked if Mbappe's absence was a major factor in the poor performance, Pochettino replied: "We must not think that we did not win because of an absence."

PSG have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight Ligue 1 fixtures, conceding 11 goals in total, making it their longest such run since a streak of 11 top-flight matches back in 2012.

The frustration boiled over heading towards the dying embers, with France centre-back Kimpembe lunging in on Jeremy Doku and receiving a straight red.

"We see frustration with the result, he arrives late. We are professionals, we know our responsibilities, our obligations," Pochettino said.

PSG captain Marquinhos, however, did not hold back.

"We will play what we have left to play. We have a Coupe de France to go for and the championship to continue to put pressure on Lille," he told Canal+.

"We have to go 100 per cent. It is unacceptable to leave points like that when we are Paris Saint-Germain. It can happen once, twice, but it's starting to happen a lot. We have to be sincere, it's not our best season, we weren't very strong. We have to do a lot better at the end of the season."

Paris Saint-Germain have reinforced their ambitions with the new four-year deal signed by superstar forward Neymar, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

After months of speculation, Neymar finally committed his future to PSG on Saturday.

The world's most expensive footballer joined the club in 2017 and has helped them to three successive Ligue 1 titles, two Coupe de France triumphs and the Coupe de la Ligue twice.

However, Neymar has been unable to propel PSG to Champions League glory, while his attempts to win the Ballon d'Or – often cited as one of the major factors behind his big-money move from Barcelona – have also proved fruitless so far.

Nevertheless, tying the 29-year-old down to a new contract has been a priority for PSG, who are also hoping to secure the long-term future of Kylian Mbappe. Links to Lionel Messi are sure to continue too, unless the Argentine superstar commits himself to Barca.

"It shows the ambitions this football club have," Pochettino declared ahead of Sunday's crucial clash with Rennes in Ligue 1, which comes five days after a Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City.

"Not just for the present but also for the future. That shows everyone how this club thinks about the future, trying to improve and win, which is the main goal, even when we are in a complicated situation as we are now."

Pochettino also conceded his main task is to blend together the supreme individual talents he has at his disposal, adding: "The PSG family is happy for extending the contract of a player like Neymar.

"Our challenge is, with all the talent our players have, to play as a team. To put their talent in service for the whole team, to use their individual talent to improve the team as a collective.

"That is our challenge for the future. It is always easier to build up the future of your team with a player like Neymar, who is committed to stay here much longer."

NEYMAR AT PSG – BY THE NUMBERS

Neymar has made 112 appearances for PSG, scoring 85 goals.

His tally of 45 assists means he has registered 130 goal involvements, though that is some way short of the 182 Mbappe has managed since arriving from Monaco.

Mbappe does, however, take more minutes per goal involvement, scoring or assisting every 71 minutes in Ligue 1, while Neymar either scores or assists every 68 minutes, which is the best rate in the competition since Opta began recording such data in the 2006-07 season.

Neymar has also been crucial in the Champions League for PSG, albeit several untimely injuries have, in previous seasons, coincided with the French champions falling out of the tournament in the knockout stages.

Of the 65 matches Neymar has scored in across all competitions, PSG have only lost three times – against Guingamp in the Coupe de la Ligue in January 2019, Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in February 2020 and Lorient in Ligue 1 in January 2021.

For much of his pre-match news conference, Pep Guardiola stuck to a familiar mantra of recent weeks.

Manchester City were 2-1 to the good against Paris Saint-Germain, with two away goals in the bank and a first Champions League final within touching distance.

All they had to do was "be who we are" and "be more calm". A two-time winner burnt five times at this stage of the competition with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola exuded an authoritative air.

However, when the rampaging nature of some of City's European exits were put to him – most notably Mauricio Pochettino's previous visit to the Etihad Stadium with Tottenham – he conceded there was only so much he could do.

"Nobody can control the chaos," Guardiola said. Perhaps he'd checked the weather forecast.

Enjoying loosened COVID-19 restrictions, Manchester's beer gardens thronged with punters last weekend. A couple of hours before kick-off, a weather front blew in from somewhere near Old Testament Egypt.

Snow and hail flecked the first-half playing surface, but there was little cool about City's opening to proceedings.

Within 30 seconds, Phil Foden charged into Alessandro Florenzi. A minute later Fernandinho – Guardiola's customary flirtation with a surprise selection on these occasions – offered a similarly agricultural "Good evening!" to Angel Di Maria that apparently lingered.

Kyle Walker blocked from Neymar, Bernardo Silva blocked from Di Maria and then Walker erred to be outfoxed by Marco Verratti.

Of all the masterful playmakers on display, Verratti was the one who best retained his balletic poise despite the conditions. After half an hour, the Italy playmaker had completed 28 of his 29 passes, 18 of those probing menacingly inside the City half.

The hosts were creaking when referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded an absurd seventh-minute penalty. The ball struck Oleksandr Zinchenko's shoulder. Kuipers checked the monitor sheepishly and overturned his call while Zinchenko unloaded barrels of frustration and emotional energy in the direction of his assistant.

"Nobody can control the chaos."

Well, maybe Ederson can, high-risk/low-pulse goalkeeping replicant that he is. City finally enjoyed a period of smooth possession, moving the ball back to their Brazilian gloveman.

It might not be exactly "who we are" in Guardiola terms, but Ederson's booming 90-yard pass down the left was immaculate. Zinchenko, propelled by a mixture of shrewd positional play and righteous indignation, charged onto the pass.

Kevin De Bruyne was unable to convert, his shot blocked, but Riyad Mahrez was alert to the loose ball, becoming the second player from an English club to score in both legs of a Champions League semi-final after Sadio Mane in 2017-18.

Still, City did not completely settle. One ludicrously dicey roll out from Ederson to Silva saw Di Maria steal in and fire just wide from outside the box.

However, with Kylian Mbappe convalescing on the bench, PSG began to look a touch one-dimensional. The threat of the France star's electric pace in behind was replaced by Mauro Icardi's cloak of invisibility. By the time the former Inter striker was substituted in the 62nd minute, none of his 16 touches remained in the memory.

Mbappe's absence meant everything was happening in front of City and, although their defence had plenty of work to do, Walker, the irrepressible Zinchenko and John Stones all enjoyed stellar nights.

One exceptional Zinchenko challenge to deny Neymar early in the second half saw Stones envelope his diminutive colleague in a bear hug. At that stage in the contest, it was as valuable as any goal.

Then there was Ruben Dias. Perhaps nobody can control the chaos, but the hulking Portugal centre-back could probably block it.

No City player made more than Dias' three blocks. One of those appeared to be with his nose when Ander Herrera blasted goalwards. The former Benfica skipper bounced back up, looking convinced that there is no more fun to be had in the world than stopping a shot in a Champions League semi-final with your face.

Mahrez might beg to differ. Life in Manchester has not always been easy for the ex-Leicester City favourite, but he is now one of Guardiola's go-to men and a supplier of cutting edge within a team of whirring creators.

Two of those – De Bruyne and the now habitually brilliant Phil Foden – combined to create a wonderful second for Mahrez.

Chaos then consumed PSG, their race run. Di Maria kicked out at Fernandinho – Brazil getting one over on Argentina in that eternal battle of perpetual antagonism – and there was plenty more erratic nonsense to follow. Zinchenko was still adorably furious, but elsewhere there was a steely calm and abundant class in sky blue.

Mahrez rounded out his night of nights by doing a Dias, haring back into his own area to make a block. It nearly summarised a tale of mission almost accomplished, of chaos controlled.

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