Reims became the fourth Ligue 1 club since Sunday to ditch their head coach when Oscar Garcia was ousted – to be replaced by former video gamer William Still.

Just one win in 10 games in the French top flight cost Garcia, with assistant Still stepping up to become interim boss.

It represents the latest remarkable step in the career of Still, who turns 30 on Friday.

Still was obsessed with the Football Manager and Championship Manager series as a teenager and has said such games gave him the "impetus" to go into coaching as a profession, without having played any football at a full-time level.

He told Sport Bible in May: "I wanted to be able to talk to players. I wanted to have that relationship. I mean, I was alright at football but FM allowed me to have that glimpse of what it actually was like to manage a team.

"I actually think people that play Football Manager understand the game a bit more. You've got to go into a lot of detail to actually win things and be successful in the game, especially nowadays with it becoming more and more complicated."

Still took a degree at Myerscough College in Preston, England, going on to work with Preston's under-14 team before moving to Belgium, where his parents lived, and finding work with Sint-Truiden, Lierse and Beerschot.

Still is in a second stint with Reims, having briefly left to be assistant boss of Standard Liege. He has spoken of ambitions to manage in the Premier League and Champions League.

Reims announced he would take over for now in a statement that read: "In view of results below the expected objectives and in order to protect the best interests of the institution, Stade de Reims announces the temporary suspension of Oscar Garcia. The interim will be provided by William Still, current assistant coach."

Garcia is not expected to return to the role he held for 16 months, with Reims reportedly beginning their search for a permanent successor.

Reims have drawn five games this season, so Still is not stepping into the spotlight amid a full-blown crisis, with the team sitting 15th in Ligue 1, albeit just two points above bottom side Brest. They play Lorient in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Lyon set the ball rolling for sackings when Peter Bosz was dismissed on Sunday and Laurent Blanc named as his successor. Brest and Auxerre announced the departure of their coaches, Michel Der Zakarian and Jean-Marc Furlan, on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi's decision-making at Paris Saint-Germain is "not a problem" for his team-mates, says Achraf Hakimi, after the Argentine helped seal victory over Brest.

Messi was on hand to assist Neymar's finish for the lone goal of the game, as Christophe Galtier's side edged to a 1-0 win to return to the summit of Ligue 1.

Having made the move from Barcelona last year, Messi frequently struggled to live up his billing during his first campaign at the Parc des Princes, but has looked back to his best this term, tallying three league goals and seven assists.

In a game decided by closer margins than anticipated, it was his vision to set up the in-form Neymar that trumped a PSG blank elsewhere, with Hakimi happy to defer to the forward's expertise.

"When I make the call and Leo does not give it, it is because he has seen that there is another player to whom he can pass," he stated.

"This is not a problem. That's how today he made the pass to Neymar and we took the three points."

Messi's rich club form will be even more of a boon to the Argentina international squad, particularly given his outstanding performances for them did not dip during his first year at PSG.

With the Qatar 2022 World Cup looming, the attacker will want to maintain his level for what is likely to be his final shot at claiming the biggest team prize available in the sport, and the glaring omission in his trophy cabinet.

Presnel Kimpembe is set for a spell on the sidelines after injuring his hamstring in a rash challenge that left Brest coach Michel Der Zakarian furious.

Kimpembe was already on a booking in the closing stages of Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 win on Saturday when he lunged in on Irvin Cardona.

The France defender somehow escaped punishment, but he went away clutching his hamstring and left PSG down to 10 men regardless as he departed down the tunnel for treatment with all five substitutions already used.

It now appears likely Kimpembe will not play against either Maccabi Haifa or Lyon ahead of an international break for which he will also be a doubt.

"He suffers from a muscle injury," coach Christophe Galtier said. "He will have tests and we will wait within 48 hours to see the severity."

Yet that news was of little consolation to Der Zakarian, who had earlier seen Islam Slimani's penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It was for that foul that Kimpembe was initially booked, and the Brest coach suggested there would have been a very different response from the officials had one of his cautioned players acted so rashly in stoppage time.

"The linesman is in front of it – he's like me," Der Zakarian said. "We're all five metres from the action with the fourth official and the linesman.

"When he tackles... the noise, everyone heard it. And the linesman didn't even call a foul!

"Yes, he must receive a card, minimum yellow. If he gets a yellow, he is sent off, since he has already taken one. If it's us, we're out. But it's Paris."

Neymar scored the only goal of the game as Paris Saint-Germain returned to the top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win over Brest, though the French champions were indebted to Gianluigi Donnarumma following his penalty save.

The Brazilian volleyed home his eighth strike of the campaign after half an hour to settle a scrappy affair, maintaining the hosts' unbeaten start.

However, Christophe Galtier's side survived a scare in the final 20 minutes as Donnarumma kept out Islam Slimani's spot-kick to preserve their led.

PSG have now won each of their last 10 league matches against Brest, and appear strong favourites for yet another title after extending their unbeaten home league run in to 25 games.

Brest came under intense pressure inside the opening 20 minutes with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi all going close for the Parisians. 

The visitors' struggles appeared set to worsen when Christophe Herelle received a red card for fouling Neymar, but they were reprieved after a VAR check revealed the PSG forward had strayed offside before the challenge occurred.

The Brazil international broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark, however, controlling Messi's wonderful lofted ball before firing past Marco Bizot.

The Brest goalkeeper did well to thwart Messi and Mbappe before the break, while the latter was also denied by the offside flag.

The woodwork then came to the visitors' rescue within five minutes of the restart; Messi heading against the post from Mbappe's cross.

Despite registering 12 shots on goal, PSG were almost made to pay for their lacking of cutting edge in the 70th minute when Presnel Kimpembe fouled Noah Fadiga in the box.

However, Donnarumma guessed correctly to keep out Slimani from 12 yards and ensure his side's return to the Ligue 1 summit.

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma remains the clear first-choice goalkeeper at Paris Saint-Germain, coach Christophe Galtier indicated on Friday as he defended the error-prone Italian.

On the eve of a Ligue 1 clash with Brest, Galtier was asked whether he might consider rotating his keepers and give veteran Keylor Navas a fresh chance to stake a claim.

Donnarumma was exposed in PSG's Champions League game against Juventus on Tuesday, when Galtier said it was forgetfulness that led to the visitors pulling back to 2-1 early in the second half.

From a short corner routine on the left, Filip Kostic crossed into the heart of the penalty area and Donnarumma came for the ball but failed to get close, allowing Weston McKennie the chance to head into a near-unguarded net.

The goal came just moments after Kylian Mbappe threatened to put PSG 3-0 up but shot into the side-netting, with strike partner Neymar crying out for a pass.

PSG did not concede again, so it was an error that did not prove too costly on the night, and Galtier is determined to back the 23-year-old Donnarumma.

"There will not be rotation in the goalkeeping position," said the former Lille, Nice and Saint-Etienne boss.

"We often forget that Gianluigi Donnarumma is still a young goalkeeper, even if he has been playing for quite a while. He often forgets that things can happen from a corner, and he misjudged it the other day, but he also made two brilliant saves. Of course, I've spoken to him about it.

"I always hope to have a goalkeeper who comes out for set-pieces and is very present in the box. He has the physique, technical quality, the jumping ability, so I don't want that mistake from a corner to stop him doing what I want to see from him."

Donnarumma was a European Championship winner with Italy last year, but he has a howler in him. Since joining PSG as a free agent in July 2021, the former Milan keeper has played 32 games and committed four errors leading to shots, two of which have cost his team a goal.

That is certainly not the worst record among goalkeepers from Europe's top five leagues, with 13 making more errors resulting in shots and 21 conceding more goals through mistakes since August 1, 2021.

However, it is far from the very elite level, with Manchester City's Ederson one of six goalkeepers with 30 or more appearances across all competitions to make no errors leading to a shot or goal.

Navas, the 35-year-old now serving as deputy, has made just one error, which led to a goal, across 26 appearances during Donnarumma's time in Paris.

The goalkeepers were rotated last season by Mauricio Pochettino, but that policy has been shelved by new boss Galtier.

It is seemingly only the goalkeeping role that Galtier is not inclined to switch around from game to game, as he said on Friday that others will be coming in and out of the team in the coming weeks, as PSG contend with Ligue 1 and Champions League commitments.

"I don't like the work rotation, but we need freshness," Galtier said. "That will happen automatically because I have a squad that is ready and available with quality. We will need freshness, so the team can continue to perform well."

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were spoken to privately by Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier following their latest on-pitch contretemps.

The PSG forwards have begun the season in fine scoring form, but their relationship has faced intense scrutiny after appearing fractious at times.

It has again come under the microscope after Neymar's upset reaction to Mbappe ignoring the chance to feed him a pass for a likely tap-in in the 2-1 Champions League win over Juventus.

That moment early in the second half of Tuesday's game saw Mbappe charge in from the right flank after receiving a pass from Lionel Messi and blaze a shot wide, rather than square the ball for the advancing Neymar. With two goals already in the game, the France international was chasing a hat-trick.

Mbappe faced criticism earlier in the season for his actions during the 5-2 win over Montpellier, which included a public argument with Neymar.

Frenchman Mbappe missed a penalty in that game but felt he should have another chance from 12 yards when PSG were awarded a second spot-kick, only for Neymar to disagree, taking responsibility and scoring.

A seemingly sulky Mbappe then did not celebrate a goal of his own, and after the Juventus game Galtier had a familiar topic on his hands once more.

The PSG head coach said on Friday: "The relationship is very good. That is the truth. They are often together in training.

"Yes, there is a situation in a match, but having spoken to Kylian Mbappe yesterday – and I have also spoken to Ney – but from the discussion with Kylian Mbappe there were two moments: there was the first acceleration when there was possibly a chance to pass the ball but it was more difficult, and the second time was when Kylian Mbappe got into the box and did not see Ney.

"When you see the clip it looks simple, but at the time he had to make a decision. Kylian Mbappe was focused on the ball for shooting. I am convinced that Kylian Mbappe will get assists for Neymar, just as Neymar is capable of performing assists for Kylian Mbappe.

"There is nothing else negative about that since that piece of play in the game."

Neymar has seven goals and six assists from five starts and one substitute appearance in Ligue 1 this season, while Mbappe has seven goals from five starts but has yet to set up a goal for a team-mate.

Mbappe said ahead of the Juventus game that his relationship with Neymar had in the past "been colder or hotter" with moments where they have been "best friends" and others where they have been more distant.

Galtier could rest one or more of his strikeforce when PSG play Brest in Ligue 1 on Saturday, ahead of Wednesday's Champions League trip to Maccabi Haifa.

Asked whether he could considering resting all three of his star forwards – Messi, Neymar and Mbappe – Galtier's response was a punchy "No!".

But he confirmed one could miss out, saying: "That is possible."

PSG have taken 16 points from six games so far, scoring 24 Ligue 1 goals already, with only Manchester City's Erling Haaland (10) scoring more league goals than Neymar and Mbappe in Europe's top five leagues.

Brest are the only team Neymar has played against in Ligue 1 without registering either a goal or an assist; however, he has faced them just once in his career to date.

Anything other than a convincing home win for the leaders against their 17th-placed visitors would be a surprise, with PSG having won each of their last nine Ligue 1 matches against Brest. Among current Ligue 1 sides, they only have a longer winning run against Angers (12 games).

Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

Mauricio Pochettino believes that Paris Saint-Germain's win over Brest can give them confidence for their Champions League tie with Real Madrid.

Runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG sit 11 points clear at the summit after cruising to a 2-0 victory over Brest at Parc des Princes on Saturday.

Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring with his 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season, meaning he has now hit double figures in six straight league seasons – in that period, no other player has managed to do so more than three times – before Thilo Kehrer sealed the three points.

With Madrid to come in the Champions League last-16 in February, Pochettino insisted that his side can use the triumph as a base to build confidence.

"Every game, every competition is different," he told reporters at his post-match news conference. "But this performance, especially in the second half, gives us confidence. 

"It reaffirms certain ideas and concepts that we must work on. It's true that the team was good and did what we expected.

"We started well but then we lost a few balls and we got into trouble. In the second half we made better decisions. 

"We saw good collective play, we controlled the match. I am happy with the involvement of all the players. We had better circulation by being aggressive. Yes, I am satisfied, because it was not an easy game.

"We would have liked to win more broadly so that it corresponds to the number of chances we created. But the most important thing is to get chances. 

"We know that we have players who have the goals in their legs. If they didn't score today it will be next time."

Pochettino also had time to introduce centre-back Sergio Ramos for his home debut after the hour mark.

And the former Tottenham head coach suggested that the Spain international could offer him a different dimension with his team, with the option of playing a three-man defence.

He responded to reporters when asked about deploying three defenders: "It is an option. Everything is possible in football. We can consider it. We have already done this during the match. 

"It's not just putting in players but yes, it's an option."

Kylian Mbappe and Thilo Kehrer were on target as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Brest at Parc des Princes.

Mauricio Pochettino's side headed into Saturday's meeting on an 11-game unbeaten league run, albeit with four draws in their last five, and were ahead when Mbappe struck in the 32nd minute.

That strike was the 23-year-old's 10th in Ligue 1 this term, meaning he has hit double figures in six straight seasons – in the same period, no other player has done so more than three times.

Kehrer extended PSG's advantage after the interval as the hosts coasted to three points to move 11 clear of second-placed Nice at the summit.

Irvin Cardona twice forced smart stops from Gianluigi Donnarumma in the opening stages, while Mbappe drilled narrowly wide at the other end.

But there was no stopping Mbappe after 32 minutes when he fired through Brendan Chardonnet's legs and into the bottom-left corner, before Mauro Icardi saw his header disallowed for an apparent foul on Marco Bizot.

Marco Verratti almost added a second immediately after the break, only to be denied by the post, though the hosts doubled their lead soon after.

Nuno Mendes danced past Ronael Pierre-Gabriel to find Kehrer, who applied a first-time finish into the top-right corner from near the penalty spot.

Bizot then denied Marquinhos with a fantastic reflex save before making two fine stops from Mbappe to keep the scoreline respectable for Brest.

What does the future hold for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

His position as Manchester United manager is becoming more uncertain after an embarrassing loss to Liverpool.

A former Premier League-winning boss, Antonio Conte, is believed to be waiting in the wings.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE EYEING UNITED ROLE?

The Manchester United job would be a priority for Antonio Conte should the Red Devils part with embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Sportitalia journalist Gianluigi Longari.

Solskjaer is facing fierce criticism following Sunday's humiliating 5-0 defeat to Premier League rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Former Inter and Chelsea boss Conte has been linked with Newcastle United following talk of a pre-season move to Tottenham, while the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino could reportedly be considered for the United role.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is in talks with Manchester City, Tottenham and Juventus, per Gianluca Di Marzio. The Germany international is available on a free transfer at season's end amid reported interest from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Marcelo wants to leave Madrid for Fluminense in 2022, claims El Nacional. Marcelo is out of contract at the end of the season.

- El Nacional says Barcelona have decided to sell United States international Sergino Dest. The 20-year-old has struggled for form at Camp Nou and he has been linked with Bayern.

Inter and Juve both identified Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic and Sampdoria's Mikkel Damsgaard, per Calciomercato. Vlahovic has also been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

- Calciomercato claims Serie A high-flyers Milan are eyeing Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

 

Will Kylian Mbappe join Real Madrid before the transfer window shuts?

It has been confirmed that Mbappe wants to leave Paris Saint-Germain, despite Lionel Messi's arrival.

Madrid must now strike an agreement with PSG or wait to sign the France international on a free transfer.

 

TOP STORY – PSG NAME MBAPPE PRICE

Paris Saint-Germain want €220million for wantaway Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Madrid reportedly offered €160m for Mbappe, who is out of contract at the end of 2021-22, as PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed the Frenchman's desire to leave Paris on Wednesday.

PSG are said to named their price, with RMC claiming Madrid will make an improved offer for Mbappe.

Premier League giants Liverpool and Manchester United have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky Italia's Gianluca Di Marzio says Manchester City are offering Cristiano Ronaldo a two-year deal, though the Premier League holders are unwilling to pay Juventus a transfer fee. There has been talk of Gabriel Jesus or Bernardo Silva being included in a possible deal to sign Ronaldo. It comes after City failed to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham, while Ronaldo has been linked with former club United as well as PSG and Madrid.

Chelsea have readied their final bid for Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, per Fabrizio Romano. The Champions League holders are also trying to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez – a target for rivals United.

Antonio Conte is one of the top choices to replace Mikel Arteta if Arsenal sack their manager, according to the Independent. Conte is without a club after guiding Inter to the Scudetto in 2020-21.

- Di Marzio claims Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are interested in Brest midfielder Romain Faivre, who is in talks with Milan.

Lazio are pushing to sign Eintracht Frankfurt star Filip Kostic as Joaquin Correa nears a switch to Inter, reports Calciomercato.

Paris Saint-Germain "must build a team" from their vast array of talent, so says Mauricio Pochettino.

Lionel Messi has headlined five new star recruits at PSG this transfer window, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Georginio Wijnaldum also linking up with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Co.

Messi has trained this week, but he and Neymar were not involved as PSG beat Brest 4-2 on Friday.

However, it was once more the absence of Marquinhos - who was on the bench after his break following the Copa America - and Ramos, who will not be available until September, which was felt the most as PSG conceded twice for the second match running. In total, they have now let in five goals across their three games.

Though it has not stopped them taking all nine points on offer so far, Pochettino knows he has to strike a balance.

"It was a very close match. We started well, we led 2-0 by dominating the match," he told a news conference.

"We should have scored one more goal, it was an open game that gave the opponents some chances. We suffered in the last 10 minutes. I'm very happy to take three points on difficult ground, against a team that has started the season well. 

"We are at the start of the season, we can see how difficult it is for all the teams to win a game. There are things to improve. In defence, we have to prevent the transition play which can hurt us.

“We have a lot of names of players that shine, but we have to build a team, that's the challenge. It won't be easy, we have to find a balance between the talents that we have. It will take time."

It was a sentiment echoed by Presnel Kimpembe, who put in a disjointed display at the back while wearing the captain's armband.

"We know that we were playing an away game against a team not easy to play," the France international told Amazon Prime Video.

"The team is not yet complete, we still have links to create. There are new players, we have to adapt."

One major bonus from Friday's win was Mbappe getting his first goal of the campaign, nodding in what was just his fourth headed goal in Ligue 1, and his first in the competition since March 2017.

Angel Di Maria also made a goalscoring return, with the Argentina playmaker lobbing in PSG's fourth to settle the contest just nine minutes after his introduction.

Mauro Icardi trudged off injured late on, which may well open the door for the formidable front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe to start against Reims next week.

"The week [of training] has been very good for Leo, so we hope that next week he will already be part of the team," said Pochettino, who also confirmed Icardi would undergo scans over the weekend.

Kylian Mbappe opened his account for the 2021-22 season as Paris Saint-Germain, still without Neymar or Lionel Messi, defeated resilient Brest 4-2.

With Messi and Neymar not judged ready for Friday's game by Mauricio Pochettino, Mbappe scored his first of the season with what was just his fourth headed goal in Ligue 1.

Mbappe put PSG 2-0 up, with Ander Herrera having opened the scoring, but Keylor Navas' error handed Brest a reprieve.

Idrissa Gueye's long-range strike seemed to have settled the contest, though it was ultimately substitute Angel Di Maria who had to wrap up the points after Steve Mounie had pulled another one back.

Mbappe's six attempts across the opening two Ligue 1 games failed to yield reward and the France star might have done better in the fourth minute, with his close-range shot saved well by Marco Bizot, though an expected goals (xG) figure of 0.065 suggested it was a difficult chance.

With Marco Verratti also going close, PSG's dominance told when Herrera tried his luck with a volley which crept in under Bizot, who did better to stop Achraf Hakimi doubling PSG's tally.

Little blame could be attached to Bizot soon after, however, with Mbappe charging in to get his head on a loose ball and divert a looping effort into the right-hand corner.

Navas had to hold his hands up at the other end before half-time, with PSG's shot-stopper failing to prevent Franck Honorat, the benefactor of Romain Faivre's exquisite flick, scoring despite getting a hand on the shot.

PSG's frustrations grew as they looked to add to their lead, yet Bizot's vulnerability from long shots came to the fore again as Gueye's dipping effort from 35-yards out evaded his grasp.

Navas atoned for his earlier mistake by denying Ronael Pierre-Gabriel, though Mounie did set up a grandstand finish with a cool 85th-minute finish.

There would be no fairytale comeback, however, with Di Maria – just nine minutes into his return – lobbing Bizot on the break to seal the points.

What does it mean? Defence a major concern for Pochettino

It is hard to imagine PSG not storming to the title this season, given the supreme quality at Pochettino’s disposal, yet first the former Tottenham boss simply has to get things sorted at the back.

PSG were, once more, all at sea defensively. Without Marquinhos, who has only just returned to the squad, Presnel Kimpembe delivered a performance hardly representative of his experience, while Thilo Kehrer looked out of his depth in the middle.

Five goals conceded in three games is a huge warning sign, and while Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos will no doubt help matters, Pochettino has to get the balance right.

Mbappe gets his head up

Mbappe thought he had opened his account for the season last week, only for his goal to be retrospectively put down as an own goal from Strasbourg's Ludovic Ajorque.

However, he got on the goal trail on Friday with what was his first headed goal for PSG since October 2019, and his first in Ligue 1 since March 2017, when he nodded in for Monaco.

Navas feeling the pressure?

Given Navas has been such an excellent signing for PSG, it was no surprise to see eyebrows raised when they moved to secure Gianluigi Donnarumma. However, the Italy goalkeeper was on the bench on Friday, and his hopes of immediately usurping the Costa Rican as first choice may have been boosted.

Though Honorat's chance for Brest's goal late in the first half was a good one (an xG of 0.353 means that, at that stage, it was the second-best opportunity in the game), Navas got down to what was a relatively weak shot, only to flap at it. With such an exceptional goalkeeper in reserve in the form of Donnarumma, the former Real Madrid man must do better to keep his place.

Fortunately for Navas, his blushes were somewhat spared by Bizot, who should have done far better for two of PSG's strikes. Indeed Gueye's winner had an xG of just 0.015 – the lowest of any attempt all game.

What's next?

PSG are away again – at Reims – before the international break, meaning Messi's debut may still well come on the road. It seems likely, with Mauro Icardi having gone off injured late on. Brest face Strasbourg in their next outing.

Lionel Messi will not make his Paris Saint-Germain debut against Brest on Friday after being left out of the travelling squad.

Messi has been training this week alongside former Barcelona team-mate Neymar, but neither have made the group for PSG's third Ligue 1 match of the season.

The wait for free signing Messi's PSG bow will now extend at least until next week's trip to Reims, the club's final match before the first international break of the 2021-22 campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino has still been able to call upon a stronger, more experienced squad than in previous weeks, though.

Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma is included for the first time since his own free transfer from Milan, although he has competition from regular goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Club captain Marquinhos, midfielder Marco Verratti and creator Angel Di Maria are also all back involved again.

The wait is over. A week-and-a-half after joining Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi could be set to make his debut against Brest on Friday.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi became the Ligue 1 giants' fifth major signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

Messi, alongside his former Barca star Neymar, has been training this week, and though Pochettino refused to confirm his squad during Thursday's news conference, it is expected the duo will play a part.

With Kylian Mbappe already back, here's how Pochettino could set out at Brest.

 

GK: Keylor Navas

Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. Gianluigi Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option, but after only just returning to training, it is likely Pochettino will stick with the former Real Madrid goalkeeper for Friday's game, though the ex-Spurs boss did suggest Donnarumma may be available. 

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30), who scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance.

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men. Even though he has just returned from an extended break following Brazil's Copa America exploits, it would not be surprising to see the former Roma man thrown straight back into the fray given PSG have conceded three times across their opening two matches.

CB: Presnel Kimpembe

Sergio Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. However, the 36-year-old will not be available until September, meaning France defender Kimpembe is likely to continue in the heart of defence for now. He made a game-high four clearances in last week's 4-2 home win over Strasbourg.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order, while he also assisted Mauro Icardi's opener against Strasbourg.

CM: Ander Herrera

At the end of a season in which Marco Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. However, it seems likely we will have to wait to see the playmaker link up with Messi, as he too is only just easing his way back into training. In his place, Herrera seems set to carry on in midfield and, in truth, is a more than able back-up. He attempted 100 passes on matchday two, completing 94 of them.

CM: Danilo Pereira

Leandro Paredes, Messi's international colleague, was trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. However, he has just returned to training after helping Argentina win the Copa America, while Idrissa Gueye has been out due to COVID-19 protocols. Youngster Eric Ebimbe started against Strasbourg but was replaced by Pereira after an hour, and the towering Portuguese would add some presence in the middle of the park.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria would be very unfortunate to miss out on a full-strength XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play even with Messi in place, but he too is only just back from international duty. Wijnaldum has featured in both of PSG's Ligue 1 games so far and across his Liverpool Premier League career, led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio, which of course Neymar was also part of.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co, and a video of the two stars linking up in training went viral this week. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career-high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term. He already has two Ligue 1 assists to his name this season, and that is without playing alongside two of the world's best players.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions, and surely the chance to have this sensational front three starting together will be too tempting for Pochettino to turn down – even if it is harsh on the in-form Icardi.

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