Manchester City will reportedly opt against making a move for Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave Barca during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

Still, talk about his future continues, with City the most strongly linked.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY WON'T TRY TO SIGN MESSI

Manchester City will not try to sign Barcelona star Messi, Spanish football expert Semra Hunter told Sky Sports News.

The report says Messi's age and wage demands are a major reason the Premier League giants will not pursue him.

Messi, a six-time Ballon d'Or winner, is out of contract at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Are Real Madrid looking for a replacement for 35-year-old midfielder Luka Modric? Fichajes.net reports Madrid see Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as the ideal replacement for Croatia star Modric.

- Barcelona will try to sign Manchester City defender Eric Garcia in January amid an injury crisis in defence, according to Sport. Gerard Pique (knee) and Sergi Roberto (thigh) are both set for spells on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Marca says Barcelona are set for a meeting to decide whether they should sign a replacement for Pique.

- Fabian Ruiz has impressed for Napoli, leading to interest from elsewhere. CalcioMercato reports Paris Saint-Germain are still targeting the midfielder.

- Amid uncertainty over his future at Inter, Christian Eriksen is linked with a return to the Premier League. Corriere dello Sport reports Manchester United and Arsenal are considering the former Tottenham star.

- With Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele linked with moves, Lyon may be eyeing replacements. Le 10 Sport says Reims and Senegal forward Boulaye Dia and Leicester City forward Islam Slimani are both targets.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel criticised his players for easing off the pace in the second half of their 2-0 victory against Reims on Sunday.

Mauro Icardi scored his first two goals since February for PSG at the Stade Auguste-Delaune as the Ligue 1 champions made it three victories in succession without conceding.

PSG started with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar together for the first time this season, while Angel Di Maria and Icardi were also named in an attacking line-up.

Despite the comfortable nature of the victory, Tuchel was not overly pleased with his side's performance against a Reims side without a win this term.

"I liked it in the first half, but I don't understand why we missed a lot of chances," he told Telefoot. "After 20 or 30 minutes we should be three or four up. 

"But I am not happy with the second half that we did. It wasn't serious. There was not the same aggressiveness and the same intensity

"The plan was to put Neymar close to Mbappe. We chose an offensive structure. We tried something and I have a lot of confidence in my team. 

"We had a lot of chances and had 70 per cent of the ball. If we put three or four chances away after 30 minutes, we have a different analysis. 

"So we can see that we missed a lot. The efficiency was not there. You can't play a game like that. In the second half, we weren't serious."

Match-winner Icardi struggled towards the end of last season and did not feature in PSG's Champions League semi-final win over RB Leipzig nor the defeat to Bayern Munich in the final.

And he is relieved to have got off the mark in 2020-21 against Reims, the ex-Inter forward scoring from two of his three attempts on target and creating a joint-high four chances.

"It was important for me to score these goals," he said. I'm happy to score. "I was relaxed during my non-scoring period as I was helping the team defensively. Now we must continue. 

"I'm happy to create chances for my team-mates. We could have put in more to kill the game faster, but satisfaction prevails anyway."

Asked if PSG need another forward before the transfer window closes, Icardi said: "This is a question for the directors. The players are here to play."

Mauro Icardi scored a goal in each half to earn Paris Saint-Germain a straightforward 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Reims at the Stade Auguste-Delaune on Sunday.

PSG started their latest title defence with back-to-back defeats but have now won three games in a row without conceding.

Icardi put the champions in front against out-of-form Reims with a clinical finish past Predrag Rajkovic inside nine minutes and added a second with a little over an hour played. 

Thomas Tuchel's side had further opportunities to extend their lead but in the end two goals were enough against a Reims side still without a win this term.

Kylian Mbappe was denied by Rajkovic after six minutes but he played a big part in PSG's opener by slipping the ball through for Icardi to control and fire into the far corner.

The visitors, beaten in their last two meetings with Reims, nearly added a second through Angel Di Maria's drive and Icardi's saved header in the space of two minutes.

Neymar also went close to doubling his side's tally with a mazy run that ended with the superstar forward firing a shot past the far post from inside the six-yard box.

Those wasted chances did not come back to haunt Tuchel's men, though, as Icardi converted Mbappe's squared pass to round off a fine team move with 62 minutes gone.

Mbappe should have added some gloss to the scoreline late on but was guilty of a horror miss, somehow firing wide with plenty of the unguarded goal to aim for, while substitute Pablo Sarabia also blazed over an effort from inside the box.


What does it mean? Three and easy for PSG

It is now three wins in a row for PSG without conceding, moving them up to seventh in the table and within four points of early pacesetters Rennes.

The champions may only have managed two goals from 16 attempts, but the victory is all that counts and Tuchel will be hoping to maintain this momentum.


Icardi leads from the front

Former Inter frontman Icardi spearheaded an attacking PSG line-up that also included Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria and Julian Draxler.

He scored both goals to get off the mark for the season and also created four chances for his team-mates in an impressive all-round display.


Mbappe misses a sitter

The victory was never in doubt for dominant PSG, but they should have won by an even more convincing margin.Mbappe was teed up by Sarabia but contrived to miss from close range, although the France international did lay on both assists for Icardi and - that miss aside - can be pleased with his performance.


What's next?

Reims head to league leaders Rennes for their next outing in a week's time, while PSG host Angers on Friday.

Neymar will be back in action for Paris Saint-Germain at Reims on Sunday, much to the delight of coach Thomas Tuchel.

The Brazil forward returns after a two-game suspension following his dismissal in a controversial clash with Marseille earlier this month, when five players saw red.

PSG have won both Ligue 1 games in his absence, with fellow forward Kylian Mbappe having made a goalscoring comeback in the 3-0 win over Nice last Sunday after completing his period of isolation following a positive test for coronavirus.

Tuchel said having the duo available would transform the way his side can play.

"Yes, when Kylian and Neymar play it changes everything for us," he said.

"If both play for us, it's harder [for the opposition] to defend and easier for us to attack.

"We found solutions without both. We started the last Champions League, the group stage, with matches without them.

"It [missing Mbappe and Neymar] is not the best thing. They are there to make the difference. They will start together, that's for sure."

Leandro Paredes, sent off in the same game as Neymar, is also back in the frame along with Abdou Diallo, who got his marching orders in the win over Metz.

But one player still missing is Angel Di Maria, who is serving a four-match ban for spitting at Alvaro Gonzalez in that contentious Classique contest.

While Tuchel accepts Di Maria's sanction was deserved, he vented his frustration at the fact PSG have seemingly suffered significantly greater suspensions than Marseille in the aftermath of that game.

"I can understand the sanction of Di Maria," Tuchel said. "He had a reaction that we don't like.

"[But] we have suspensions that equate to 14 matches, the other team [Marseille] has four matches. There is a big difference in the number of suspensions.

"I do not accept it but I have to and I do not understand. We have the impression that we are the only ones responsible for this situation."

Monaco have signed defender Axel Disasi from Reims on a five-year deal.

The 22-year-old had been linked with a number of clubs across Europe but opted to remain in Ligue 1.

Monaco finished below Reims in the truncated league campaign but Disasi has no doubt he is taking a step up in joining Niko Kovac's side.

"I'm delighted to be involved with AS Monaco," he told the club's official website.

"This is a great opportunity for me to demonstrate my qualities at the highest level and to continue my progress at a club with high ambitions.

"I'm looking forward to starting training with my new team-mates and I'm going to put all my energy into helping the team achieve its goals at the end of the season."

Paris Saint-Germain will begin their Ligue 1 title defence at home to Metz after the French Professional Football League (LFP) announced its 2020-21 top-flight schedule.

The first round of matches will take place on the weekend of August 22-23, with the season set to conclude on May 23 next year.

PSG were awarded their seventh top-flight title in eight seasons after the 2019-20 campaign was abandoned and decided on a point-per-game basis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The abandonment move has since been questioned amid other elite divisions in Europe successfully resuming their seasons behind closed doors.

An LFP vote sealed Amiens and Toulouse's relegation, with Lorient and Lens promoted from Ligue 2 in their place.

Lorient host Strasbourg on the opening weekend, while Lens are on the road at Nice.

The first Classique of the season comes in the third round of fixtures, with PSG welcoming Marseille to the Parc des Princes in mid-September. The return is billed for February 7.

Marseille start at home to Saint-Etienne, with Bordeaux and Lille hosting Nantes and Rennes respectively.

Lyon begin on the road at Montpellier, with the first of their always feisty clashes against Marseille coming at Groupama Stadium on October 4. The rivalry is then scheduled to resume at the Stade Velodrome on February 28.

Ligue 1 2020-21 – Opening weekend fixtures in full:

Lorient v Strasbourg
Nimes v Brest
Dijon v Angers
Bordeaux v Nantes
Monaco v Reims
Montpellier v Lyon
Nice v Lens
Lille v Rennes
Marseille v Saint-Etienne
PSG v Metz

Real Madrid have been champions of Europe 13 times and their first title came in dramatic fashion in Paris on this day 64 years ago.

Back in 1948, meanwhile, the New York Yankees welcomed Babe Ruth for one last time to the stadium where he wrote large chapters of baseball folklore.

Cricket's Twenty20 format initially upset many purists but has become a money-spinning, highly successful element of the sport since it was introduced in June 2003.

More recently, Spain's 2018 World Cup plans were left in tatters, with Real Madrid at the centre of another major sporting story.

 

1948 - Babe Ruth's last goodbye to Yankee Stadium

For the 25th anniversary celebration of Yankee Stadium's opening, there was a guest more special than all the rest.

The legendary Ruth was in the house, but it was clear for all to see that he was seriously unwell.

It was already known as 'The House That Ruth Built', and as Ruth stood with a baseball bat instead of a cane, it would be his last visit to his old stamping ground.

This was the day his number three shirt was retired. Stricken by cancer, and a shadow of his once powerful self, Ruth would die aged 53 on August 16 of the same year.

 

1956 - Real Madrid launch a dynasty

The first of 13 European Cup and Champions League triumphs for Real Madrid came at the Parc des Princes on this day.

Having beaten Milan 5-4 on aggregate in their semi-final, they faced a Reims side who had overcome Scottish outfit Hibernian to earn a rather short trip to Paris.

The French side surged two goals ahead in 10 minutes, before Alfredo di Stefano cut the deficit.

A dramatic match saw Reims 3-2 ahead with 25 minutes to play, but Madrid ran out 4-3 winners, Hector Rial's second goal of the game in the 79th minute proving to be the winner. Madrid won the tournament each year from 1956 to 1960, beating Reims again in the 1959 final.

 

1976 - Barker shows her bite

Sue Barker is better known to television audiences as a tennis presenter, often tasked with conducting on-court interviews with newly-crowned Wimbledon champions, and her grand slam success is regularly overlooked.

The greatest day of her playing career came on this day at Roland Garros, when Barker won the French Open with a 6-2 0-6 6-2 victory over Czech opponent Renata Tomanova.

The field had been weakened that year by the absence of defending champion Chris Evert, who elected to skip the tournament. Barker was the top seed, and capitalised.

 

2003 - Cricket takes the fast track

The England and Wales Cricket Board pioneered Twenty20 cricket, with the vision that it would draw a younger audience to the sport, and the short format made its debut on June 13, 2003.

The Twenty20 Cup launched with five matches in a day, with Warwickshire the highest-scoring side, piling up 188-7 at Taunton in a 19-run win over home side Somerset.

Warwickshire's Trevor Penney got into the spirit of the competition with a rapid 52 from 28 balls, clubbing four fours and three sixes.

2018 - Spain sack Lopetegui on World Cup eve

A day before the World Cup began in Russia, Spain's camp collapsed into chaos with the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) was furious after Real Madrid revealed Lopetegui would become their next boss, an announcement that was said to have been conveyed to them just five minutes before the rest of the world knew.

It was the first the RFEF knew of any negotiations, and they swiftly ditched the man who was preparing to lead the country's bid for glory. Fernando Hierro took over, and Spain were eliminated on penalties by Russia in the first knockout round.

Lopetegui failed at Madrid but is back in business with Sevilla.

Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot said the coronavirus pandemic has affected the club "in the heart" following the death of club doctor Bernard Gonzalez, who French newspaper Le Parisien reported committed suicide after contracting COVID-19.

The Ligue 1 club posted a poetic tribute to the 60-year-old on Sunday, describing Gonzalez – who was said to be isolating with his wife after testing positive for the virus – as "a man of science and literature, with inexhaustible curiosity".

Reims' mayor, Arnaud Robinet, called Gonzalez a "collateral victim of COVID-19" and suggested the medical professional – who worked with the club for 23 years – had left a note.

The club's statement did not confirm the circumstances surrounding Gonzalez's death, instead paying tribute to the man and his passions, before Caillot expressed his shock.

In quotes published on Reims' official website, Caillot said: "Words fail me, I am stunned, prostrate before this news.

"This pandemic affects Stade de Reims in the heart. This is a personality of Reims and a great professional of the sport who left us.

"His mission to the club of more than 20 years has been carried out with the utmost professionalism, in a passionate and even selfless manner."

Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos will be out for close to a month after injuring his hamstring in the Coupe de la Ligue win over Reims.

The Brazilian scored the opener in PSG's routine 3-0 semi-final victory on Wednesday but was forced from the pitch with around 20 minutes remaining.

He looks set to miss Ligue 1 games against Lille, Montpellier, Nantes and Lyon, plus next week's Coupe de France date with third-tier Pau.

In a statement, PSG announced: "Marquinhos suffered a hamstring injury on Wednesday at the Stade Auguste Delaune, and examinations confirmed a lesion of the biceps femoris.

"He is expected to be unavailable for three weeks."

PSG will hope to have the 25-year-old fully fit for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund on February 18.

Thomas Tuchel did not expect a free-flowing Paris Saint-Germain display against Reims but was satisfied with his team's display as the Ligue 1 leaders booked their place in the Coupe de la Ligue final.

PSG were 3-0 winners at Stade Auguste-Delaune on Wednesday, with Marquinhos opening the scoring prior to a Ghislain Konan own goal – substitute Nianzou Kouassi rounding off the win with what was the capital club's 4,000th competitive goal.

Lyon await in April's final, as PSG look to claim their ninth Coupe de la Ligue title. Though it was far from a vintage display, head coach Tuchel had no problems with his side scrapping it out at times against Reims, who have had the best defence in Ligue 1 so far this term.

"We made the efforts defensively, it was necessary. Who has a lot of chances against Reims? Nobody," Tuchel told Canal+.

"We took advantage of the set-pieces, it is part of the game, and we found a little more space in the second half. We played with seriousness, patience and efficiency, that's good."

Marquinhos was a star performer for PSG, though he was forced off midway through the second half with a problem that Tuchel confirmed is a recurrence of the groin injury which kept him out of the previous two matches against Lorient and Monaco.

"Marquinhos? He felt something, I hope it's not too serious, it's the same area that is affected," Tuchel added.

Presnel Kimpembe partnered Marquinhos at the back and the France international believes a meeting with Lyon will prove to be a fitting finale for the Coupe de la Ligue, which has been scrapped ahead of next season.

"It was not an easy match but we were able to play with quality, desire, and hold the score until the end," Kimpembe told Canal+.

"It was complicated, but the most important thing was qualifying. A final against Lyon – I don't know if it's the dream final, but it's a great poster!"

Paris Saint-Germain have the chance to regain the Coupe de la Ligue title after defeating 10-man Reims 3-0 to set up a final against Lyon, scoring their 4,000th goal in the process.

PSG were five-time defending champions when they were beaten by eventual runners up Guingamp in the quarters last season, but Thomas Tuchel's side had little trouble in progressing to their first final of the season on Wednesday.

Having had to wait until late on in their scrappy Coupe de France win over Lorient on Sunday, PSG had things far easier from the off thanks to Marquinhos' early header. 

Ghislain Konan's own goal doubled PSG's tally, with Marshall Munetsi's red card reducing Reims to 10 men before substitute Nianzou Kouassi bundled in the capital club's landmark competitive goal to wrap up the win in style.

Having made a vital last-ditch block as PSG withstood some early pressure, Marquinhos made his mark at the other end in the ninth minute, rising highest to head home Neymar's cross.

Kylian Mbappe wanted a penalty moments later, though referee Mikael Lesage rightly judged Reims goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic to have made no contact.

PSG had their second just after the half hour – the unfortunate Konan only able to divert Neymar's brilliant free-kick into his own side's net.

Chasing a club record, Neymar curled wide from the edge of the box on the hour, though Keylor Navas had to keep out Boulaye Dia's effort soon after, with PSG then losing Marquinhos to injury.

Reims' task was made tougher when Munetsi was sent off for a lunge on Marco Verratti, however, and it was Marquinhos' replacement Kouassi who was on hand to deal the final blow from close range after Rajkovic repelled Leandro Paredes' volley.

With tempers boiling over, Rajkovic was fortunate not to join Munetsi in seeing red when he lashed out at Mbappe as PSG cruised into the final.

What does it mean? Last Coupe de la Ligue final sees heavyweights meet

April's final will be the last of the Coupe de la Ligue, with the competition having been scrapped ahead of next season.

PSG v Lyon should prove to be a fitting finale, though – the capital club have won the tournament a record eight times, while seven-time Ligue 1 champions Lyon are looking for just their second Coupe de la Ligue title, having previously triumphed in 2000-01.

Captain Marquinhos leads by example

Marquinhos has been struggling with an injury in recent weeks, but returned to PSG's line-up as skipper at Stade Auguste-Delaune and put in an imperious display at the back, capping it off with a fine header for the visitors' opener at the other end. However, his night was marred by an injury, which forced him off midway through the second half.

No record for Neymar

Having scored in eight successive appearances, Neymar was on the verge of setting a new club record for a longest scoring streak. Despite playing a key part in both of PSG's first-half goals, the forward was unable to find the net himself as the chance to put his name into the PSG record books went begging.

What's next?

Both sides return to Ligue 1 action at the weekend, with PSG travelling to Lille on Sunday, a day after Reims host Metz.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel is thrilled by Kylian Mbappe's ambition to win a "triple-whammy" of the Champions League, Euro 2020 and the Olympics football tournament this year.

Mbappe, 21, has already won nine trophies in senior football, including the 2018 World Cup, in which the striker scored four times.

PSG again look on track to dominate French football this season, as they lead Ligue 1 and remain in the hunt in the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue.

But the trophy that has continued to elude them since Qatar Sports Investments took over as majority shareholders in 2011 is the Champions League, and Mbappe wants to finally end that wait this season, before then going on to enjoy Euro 2020 and Olympics success with his country.

While this ambition is not new to Tuchel, the German feels such belief will stand him in good stead.

"Well, okay, that is good," Tuchel told reporters when asked about Mbappe's declaration. "It means that we can work, it is a great challenge, three great challenges and goals.

"But with him, it's always like that. He is convinced of that and I think it's a good thing because it means he is very confident and you need confidence to achieve such goals.

"I hope, at least for PSG, that he will be able to achieve the first [the Champions League] and then the second and third for France."

Since initially joining on loan from Monaco in 2017, Mbappe has scored 59 goals in 70 Ligue 1 matches and forged an impressive partnership with Neymar, who boasts a haul of 45 from 49 outings across the same period.

The pair appear to have an impressive understanding of each other on the pitch, though Tuchel insists PSG do not train in an attempt to improve Neymar and Mbappe, but rather learn how best to capitalise on their brilliance.

"We always work with the positions during training, and together they train during possession games, for example," Tuchel said. "They like to play alongside each other. They are very smooth in their movements and there is a great partnership between the two of them.

"But it's not on us to improve them because they have the quality to do that. We have to find spaces and create a structure and the formation where both are free to attack.

"Maybe we have to create an understanding of when and where they can take risks or when and where they have to be more careful, but both are brilliant."

PSG travel to Reims in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals on Wednesday, with Mbappe and Neymar expected to feature after being rested during Sunday's 1-0 Coupe de France victory over Ligue 2's Lorient.

Thomas Tuchel concedes Edinson Cavani has lost confidence this season, but is adamant he wants to keep the striker at Paris Saint-Germain.

Cavani, who is struggling with a groin problem, has handed in a transfer request at PSG, whose sporting director Leonardo has confirmed was the subject of a rejected bid from Atletico Madrid.

Premier League clubs Chelsea and Tottenham have also been linked with Cavani, who has been restricted to just nine Ligue 1 appearances this term due to injuries and the form of Mauro Icardi.

Tuchel understands Cavani's frustrations but insists the Uruguay forward is still a key part of his squad.

"For now he is on the bench and lacking game time. He is lacking rhythm and confidence," Tuchel said ahead of Wednesday's Coupe de la Ligue semi-final against Reims.

"[Confidence] is the most important thing, especially for goalscorers, but that's the way it is. In big clubs, there are players with a lot of quality but there is tough competition and it is not easy for him.

"I am aware of it and I understand it completely and I am very happy to see that he is still professional. If someone is injured, we will have a wonderful substitute.

"If he is able to find a rhythm again, we will be able to put him on the pitch and someone else on the bench. But he is lacking it, so it is really difficult to only help during one game.

"We still have this in mind but this is why it would be better for him to be part of the group, but he still has problems with his groin."

Though Tuchel is planning to keep Cavani, he is aware the situation could change before the transfer window shuts.

"I said many times, I love the group, the players, each of them. We don't want to lose a player but sometimes it can happen," Tuchel said.

"This is the reality. I still feel the same way, maybe nothing will happen, so I am quiet. Edinson is one of our players and I am happy with that.

"If things have to change, we will adapt. Now, he is here and part of my dressing room. If things change we will think about it later.

"We need to wait a few days until he is fit again. Then he will have to fight to find a spot on the team and during the season it is not easy. He has been injured too many times but it is not his fault, nor was it our fault.

"He's had to do too many individual sessions and this is why he is lacking confidence, he is not playing enough or scoring enough but we can't think about it too much because he is injured."

Robert Moreno got off to a victorious start as Monaco coach thanks to Benjamin Lecomte's late penalty save and Keita Balde Diao's 95th-minute winner in a Coupe de France clash against Reims.

Former Spain boss Moreno replaced Leonardo Jardim last week and began his tenure with a dramatic 2-1 triumph in the last-64 encounter at the Stade Louis II.

Keita headed home a cross from Wissam Ben Yedder after a goalless first half but Boulaye Dia restored parity in the 69th minute.

Reims were awarded a penalty when Adrien Silva fouled Hassane Kamara with six minutes left on the clock, but Lecomte kept out Moussa Doumbia from the spot.

Keita made the most of the reprieve, controlling Aleksandr Golovin's corner and rifling a crisp finish into the bottom-right corner with practically the last kick of the game.

Monaco return to Ligue 1 action a week on Sunday when they travel to Paris Saint-Germain, who visit the principality three days later.

Paris Saint-Germain will face Saint-Etienne in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue.

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria were on target as a much-changed PSG line-up secured a 4-1 victory over Le Mans in the last 16 on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel's side were eliminated by Guingamp in the quarter-finals last season and will hope to go one step further when they entertain Saint-Etienne.

Reigning champions Strasbourg were handed a trip to Reims after Nuno Da Costa's 78th-minute goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Nantes.

Lyon beat Toulouse 4-1 in the absence of Memphis Depay and will take on Brest at Groupama Stadium, while Lille's reward for overcoming Monaco is a home encounter with Amiens.

The matches are scheduled to be played on January 7 or 8.

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