Mauricio Pochettino denied guaranteeing in a news conference that he and Kylian Mbappe will still be at Paris Saint-Germain next season. 

In a meeting with the media on Thursday to preview the game against Strasbourg, Pochettino replied "100 per cent in both cases" when asked what the probability of himself and Mbappe remaining at the club next season was. 

Mbappe will be out of contract at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, while Pochettino is under pressure following protests from supporters despite clinching the Ligue 1 title last week. 

The Argentine moved to clarify his comments ahead of Friday's meeting with Strasbourg. He insisted the pair are simply committed to the club as things stand, with the final decision ultimately out of their hands. 

"I didn't say that. This is not the message I gave," he told Amazon Prime. 

"I answered about today, not for the next season. You have to listen to the question and the answer properly and don't get headlines or misunderstand my message. 

"The question was, 'What is the percentage that you believe today you're going to be here next season?' I said, 'Today, it's 100 per cent for Kylian and myself.' 

"People talk too much about my answers. The media need to take a few minutes to listen to the question and the answer, it's really important. Don't miss things, because you can misunderstand the message. 

"Today, 100 per cent. Today, myself and Kylian have 100 per cent commitment to the club and then in the future we will see, because the decision is always in a different part. But of course, I spoke about today." 

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte said supporters should ignore "fake news" after he was touted as a possible successor to Paris Saint-German coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Although PSG secured their 10th Ligue 1 title last week, rumours have circulated that former Spurs boss Pochettino could be relieved of his duties in the French capital after an underwhelming Champions League campaign, with Conte suggested as a potential successor. 

With Conte winning five league titles throughout his career (four in Serie A, one in the Premier League) and overseeing a dramatic revival of Spurs' fortunes since his November appointment, reports have suggested he could be tempted to swap North London for Paris at the end of the season. 

However, ahead of Tottenham's Premier League clash with Leicester on Sunday, Conte hit out at people who "invent" such rumours, calling on his team to ignore any possible distractions as they bid for a top-four finish.

"Obviously I think it's good that other clubs appreciate my work, but this is one thing. The truth is I don't like when people try to invent news, only to speak, only to create problems," Conte said in a news conference.

"This is not right, this is not fair for the clubs involved or for my players, also because I feel we're really focused on these five games and getting results.

"This type of situation makes me smile, but I think that the people that want to say something about this have to show respect for all the people involved in the situation, and not invent fake news and tell a lot of lies.

"In this moment, we need to be focused, we need to be concentrated on an important target. We have a big opportunity to try and get a place in the Champions League.

"Now, don't listen to fake news. People for sure want to create problems for the environment. We have five games and then at the end of the season, in a private way, I will speak with my club and I will see the best solution."

Sunday's match will represent Conte's 100th as a Premier League manager – he will become the fourth boss to reach the milestone this season, with each of the previous three losing on their landmark outing (Ralph Hasenhuttl, Graham Potter, and Dean Smith).

However, each of the previous three Italian managers to reach the milestone – Claudio Ranieri, Roberto Mancini, and Carlo Ancelotti – have won when bringing up their century in the competition.

Spurs are rivalling Arsenal for Champions League qualification as the end of the campaign approaches, and Conte has called on his players to relish the top-four battle, saying they "deserve" to be in with a chance of facing Europe's elite.

"We are working very hard, my players know very well that we are really focused, we are speaking a lot about this opportunity," he added. "We have to live this situation with passion, enthusiasm and joy.

"We deserve to fight for a place in the Champions League. To stay there, we need to enjoy this situation. Our fans have to stay close to us in every moment, in every negative moment."

Tottenham have gone without a win in two Premier League matches, drawing 0-0 with Brentford last time out after falling to a 1-0 home defeat against Brighton and Hove Albion. Prior to those two outings, Spurs had plundered 25 goals in their previous seven Premier League games.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti jokingly questioned whether his Paris Saint-Germain counterpart Mauricio Pochettino was telling the truth when the Argentine claimed Kylian Mbappe will "100 per cent" be in Paris next season.

Mbappe is out of contract at the Parc des Princes at the end of the campaign and has been strongly linked with a move to Madrid.

Ancelotti was asked at a media conference on Friday ahead of Los Blancos' LaLiga clash with Espanyol what he made of Pochettino's comments a day prior.

"Pochettino said Mbappe will 100 per cent stay? Sometimes coaches at a press conference cannot tell the whole truth," he said, laughing.

"I think all the Madridistas are thinking about LaLiga and the Champions League right now. Only about that."

Madrid could clinch the title when they host Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, needing just a point to win what will be the 35th LaLiga triumph in the club's illustrious history.

Ancelotti would not confirm if Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr will play any part, but did say he would not risk any player who needs a rest ahead of next week's Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City.

"I think that Benzema and Vinicius can rest, but I am in favour of the fact that if they are well, they have to play," he said. 

"If someone needs rest, I will give it to them, but not because the game is easy. If there is a risk of injury, they rest."

The former PSG and Chelsea boss did admit he will have a selection headache in defence for the game, with none of David Alaba, Eder Militao or Nacho available.

"We have problems in defense. I have to put [Jesus] Vallejo, who has played very little. We have to choose another central defender, which could be Casemiro.

"In midfield I have options, with fresh players like [Eduardo] Camavinga and [Dani] Ceballos. [Marco] Asensio is up there fresh and then let's see if Karim is fresh tomorrow. I have to prevent any tired player from getting injured."

Although Alaba will not be available, Ancelotti did not rule him out of returning for the match against Man City, which the English side lead 4-3 from the first leg.

"Alaba is not going to be here tomorrow. We'll see on Wednesday," he added.

Mauricio Pochettino claims he and Kylian Mbappe will "100 per cent" be at Paris Saint-Germain next season.

The head coach added a caveat, however, by adding: "This is football, and we never know what might happen."

The PSG boss and star striker Mbappe have both been rumoured to be on their way out of the French capital at the end of the campaign, with Mbappe consistently linked to a move to Real Madrid with his contract about to expire.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of PSG's first game against Strasbourg, their first since winning the Ligue 1 title, Pochettino appeared to indicate both his and the France international's futures remain at the club.

Mbappe has been PSG's leading man this season, with 33 goals and 18 assists in 42 games in all competitions.

When asked what percentage he would give that himself and Mbappe would still be at PSG next year, Pochettino said: "One hundred per cent, in both cases."

In answer to a follow-up question about whether he had held talks with the club's hierarchy, the Argentine coach clarified: "There haven't been any concrete talks, beyond what is normal in terms of our plans with what we have been doing so far.

"We have a natural relationship, we communicate regarding different topics. Of course, they change depending on the circumstances at the time, but the relationship and communication are good.

"We keep working hard, not just bearing in mind the present, but also with the responsibility to think about the future, so that is what we are doing."

 

When asked to further explain his surety about Mbappe, Pochettino said: "That is how I feel today. That is what I can say to you today. I can't say anything else. That is how I feel right now.

"This is football, and we never know what might happen."

Despite clinching the title last week, recent games have seen other star players, notably Neymar and Lionel Messi, booed by the PSG fans, with neither really capturing their best form this season.

Brazilian Neymar has played just 25 games in all competitions having suffered with injury, scoring 11 goals and assisting seven more, while Messi has managed nine goals and 13 assists in 30 appearances in his first season since his sensational move from Barcelona.

Pochettino explained why it has been a tough season for Neymar, and detailed a conversation he had with Messi about fine margins dictating opinion.

"Neymar's talent is indisputable," Pochettino said. "He arrived here in a big transfer, because he is one of the best players in the world. This season he had a big injury, and it was a season preceded by the Copa America. It was therefore difficult to have the necessary regularity. He had ups and downs, like the whole team.

"I spoke about this with Lionel Messi. There was a period of progression, then there was the [Champions League] elimination against Real Madrid. The season would have been very different if we had gone through. The line between failure and success is sometimes very small.

"It can also give strength to write a different story in the future."

Paris Saint-Germain secured a record-equalling 10th Ligue 1 title with a 1-1 draw at home to Lens on Saturday, but that may not be enough to keep Mauricio Pochettino in a job.

The Argentine may not be heading for Old Trafford after Manchester United confirmed the appointment of Erik ten Hag last week, but he could still be going out the exit door after a demoralising campaign.

With PSG crashing out of the Champions League in calamitous fashion to Real Madrid in March, reports have suggested Pochettino could be replaced by the boss of his former club Tottenham, Antonio Conte.

With Conte overseeing an improvement in Spurs' fortunes since taking the job and possessing experience of managing big egos at former clubs Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter, could the Italian be the man to get the best out of the star-studded Parisians?

Here, Stats Perform uses Opta-powered data to compare the managerial duo.

Pochettino in Paris: Domestic dominance remains, but so does European fragility 

Many saw the decision to appoint Pochettino as prudent after he made 70 appearances in a two-year playing spell in Paris, before his relationship with compatriot Lionel Messi aided the legendary forward's arrival.

It has not, however, been plain sailing for the former Tottenham boss. PSG beat Monaco to lift the Coupe de France last May but missed out on the league title to surprise package Lille last season.

Lille led PSG by a point when Pochettino arrived and pipped the Parisians to the title by that margin as Pochettino became just the second PSG boss (after Unai Emery) to fail to win the Ligue 1 title since 2012.

While PSG rebounded to win the league in dominant fashion this term, moving level with Saint-Etienne as the most successful club in Ligue 1 history, their 34 matches required to secure the title is the most they have needed since 2014-15, when they wrapped up top spot on matchday 37.

The team's reliance on Kylian Mbappe, who has contributed to 36 of the team's 76 league goals this term (22 goals, 14 assists), could also prove a huge issue next term with the 22-year-old heavily linked with a move to Madrid at the end of his contract in June.

Although the star trio of Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe have recorded 37 goals and 32 assists in the league between them this term, they could not inspire Champions League success.

If Pochettino is to depart, March's humiliating 3-2 aggregate loss to a Karim Benzema-inspired Madrid will be remembered as the decisive moment of his time in Paris.

Having beaten the Spanish giants 1-0 at home, PSG have now been eliminated in four of their nine Champions League knockout ties when winning the first leg.

Fixing their fragility on the big occasions will be their foremost aim ahead of next season, which is why the appointment of a manager with one of Europe's most impressive track records has been speculated.

The case for Conte: Title wins and handling big names

Having won five league titles (four in Serie A, one in the Premier League), Conte is always mentioned when a vacancy at an elite European club comes around.

With current club Tottenham battling to ensure Champions League qualification for next season, however, could Conte be tempted to follow in Pochettino's footsteps if he departs PSG?

Conte has overseen a dramatic improvement since taking the Spurs job; before falling to a 1-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion and drawing 0-0 with Brentford, Spurs had plundered 25 goals in their previous seven league games, having scored just nine in 10 league matches under predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo earlier this season.

Star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have also been rejuvenated by Conte's arrival, breaking Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba's record of 36 direct Premier League goal combinations in February.

Conte's previous role at Italian giants Inter, however, might prove more relevant to what he could expect at PSG: the Italian excelled under huge expectations to deliver their first Scudetto in over a decade last season, ending a nine-year period of Juventus dominance he began by leading the Bianconeri to an unbeaten season in 2011-12.

Like Kane and Son, Romelu Lukaku – who recorded 24 goals and 11 assists in Serie A last season – profited from a direct style that saw Inter net a remarkable 89 league goals in their title-winning campaign, and has struggled to replicate that form since following Conte out of San Siro.

As well as his title wins, Conte's work with Lukaku, Kane, Son, and other big names certainly suggests he could have what it takes to manage the sizeable egos of PSG's attacking stars if he makes the move.

However, with Conte failing to progress beyond the Champions League last-eight in his career, the Italian would need to improve his European record in order to satisfy the ambitions of continental glory.

A 10th Ligue 1 title for Paris Saint-Germain has evidently left a bitter-sweet taste.

Their devastating elimination at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League made for a fourth last-16 exit in the past six seasons, following final and semi-final defeats to Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively.

Amid protests that culminated in fans walking out of the Parc des Princes as PSG claimed the domestic title at the weekend, the remedy reportedly appears to be a new coach.


TOP STORY – CONTE TO REPLACE POCHETTINO AT PSG

Paris Saint-Germain appear set to dismiss Mauricio Pochettino as their head coach and have lined up Antonio Conte as his replacement, Le Parisien is reporting.

Pochettino's exit is reportedly imminent and all that is left for the club is to come to a financial settlement, with another season left on the contracts of Pochettino and his staff.

PSG's preferred choice as Pochettino's replacement is apparently Zinedine Zidane, but he appears more intent to replace Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach if he leaves after the World Cup.

Tottenham boss Conte would be brought in on a two-year deal. 


ROUND-UP

Lucas Paqueta has told Lyon head coach Peter Bosz he will let the club know of his desire to stay or leave at season's end, according to the Chronicle.

- Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus is also yet to commit to his future beyond the end of this season, the Guardian reports.

Real Betis are keen to sign Real Madrid's Isco, who will be leaving at the end of the season, per Marca.

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting Barcelona are considering a bid for Ajax centre-back Lisandro Martinez.

Rather fittingly given the underwhelming nature of Paris Saint-Germain's season, their record-equalling 10th Ligue 1 triumph was sealed with a draw at home to Lens.

So much was expected of PSG, fairly so, given their astonishing off-season recruitment, that ending 2021-22 with just one major trophy, and failing to reach the latter stages of either the Coupe de France or the Champions League, cannot be portrayed as anything but a disappointment.

One of those superstar recruits – Lionel Messi – got the goal for PSG on Saturday, though it was cancelled out by Corentin Jean late on as 10-man Lens fought back to draw 1-1.

It was just a fourth Ligue 1 goal for Messi, whose move from Barcelona has, really, not lived up to expectations, albeit the 34-year-old has provided 13 assists. The same can be said for Sergio Ramos – the former Real Madrid defender has made just five league starts in a season derailed by injury – while Gianluigi Donnarumma has had some shaky moments. Indeed, he did not play as PSG sealed the title and his 75 per cent save percentage, while impressive, does not better that of Keylor Navas (78.4).

Neymar took most of the season to get up to speed and if not for Kylian Mbappe, the title race may have been much closer. PSG might not have the France star to rely on for much longer, and doubt remains over Mauricio Pochettino's future.

Nevertheless, PSG do have a title to celebrate, one that makes them the joint-most successful team in Ligue 1 history, alongside Saint-Etienne, and an eighth of the QSI era.

Stats Perform, using Opta data, looks at the key numbers behind the success, and some records that might still be in PSG's sights.

 

Leaving it late (or later than usual)

It has always seemed like a procession to the title for PSG this season but, actually, this is the latest they have left it to get the crown secured since the 2014-15 season.

Back then, PSG were not champions until matchday 37. They got the job done on matchday 34 this time around, though that is still later than in 2018-19 (33), 2017-18 (33) and 2015-16 (30). That is not counting 2019-20, when PSG were handed the title by default due to the coronavirus pandemic.

PSG have averaged 2.29 points per game so far in 2021-22, which is their lowest total when winning the title since 2014-15 (2.18).

They are, however, the first team to be crowned French champions eight times in the space of 10 seasons (Saint-Etienne and Lyon did so on seven occasions).

PSG have collected 78 points to date. Should they win their remaining four matches, they will set the fifth-highest points total in Ligue 1 history (90).

Verratti sets Ligue 1 record

Marco Verratti starred in Italy's Euro 2020 success and the mercurial midfielder has continued that form into this season.

He has played a part in all eight of PSG's title triumphs during the QSI era, making him the first player to win Ligue 1 eight times.

Team-mate Marquinhos is joint-second on the list with seven titles to his name.

Pochettino gets his first title

This marks Pochettino's first league success as a coach, after PSG lost out to Lille last season.

The former Tottenham boss has won 39 of his 55 Ligue 1 matches in charge, with the other 16 games split equally between draws and defeats.

His win rate of 71 per cent ranks him some way behind his two predecessors, however – Thomas Tuchel (76) and Unai Emery (74).

Pochettino's PSG have scored 2.2 goals per game and collected 2.3 points per match on average, conceding 0.9 goals per game.

He is the sixth Argentine coach to win a title across Europe's big five leagues, joining Diego Simeone, Luis Carniglia, Alfredo di Stefano, Jorge Valdano and Helenio Herrera (though the latter became a French national). Carniglia, with Nice, is the only other Argentine boss to win Ligue 1.

Topping the stats

As would be expected, PSG dominate the statistics so far in Ligue 1. They have had more possession (62.9), played more passes per game (663), scored more goals per match (2.2) and had more sequences of 10+ passes (21.5 per match).

PSG have only dropped two points from winning positions all season – one of those coming on Saturday – while they have gained 21 from losing positions, more than any other team. Their 18 different goalscorers is also a league high.

The excitement around Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2021-22 season was palpable.

In scenes reminiscent of the 'Galactico' era at Real Madrid, PSG appeared to be attempting to build their very own version of the Harlem Globetrotters.

The signing of right-back Achraf Hakimi from Inter early in the transfer window not only filled a problem position, but also brought in one the world's leading young defenders.

Nuno Mendes, albeit on loan, followed to fill the left-back slot later in the window, but between those signings, PSG made three sensational free transfers.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and, to top it all off, Lionel Messi joined. Their joint presentation at the Parc des Princes was the main event ahead of a match against Strasbourg in August.

Funnily enough, Kylian Mbappe's name was booed as it was read out ahead of that match, amid speculation he could be joining Real Madrid.

That might well have been the case, but PSG turned down multiple Madrid advances. For all the glitter and glamour of their new signings, Mbappe was still seen as the key to their dream: the Champions League.

But that dream of conquering all in Europe was dashed in March. Ironically enough, by Madrid. It was Mbappe who put PSG 2-0 up in the tie before a Karim Benzema-inspired comeback sent Los Blancos into the quarter-finals.

Since then, PSG's monotonous stroll to another Ligue 1 title – albeit their first since 2020 – has continued and, inevitably, they claimed it on Saturday when they drew 1-1 with Lens.

Their fearsome front three has produced some special moments, yet last week's 2-1 Classique victory over Marseille, their nearest rivals – for lack of a better term – for the title, was played in front of a crowd lacking its most vociferous supporters, who had chosen to boycott the match in order to protest against the way the club has been run.

And though an eighth league title in 11 years of Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) ownership cannot be scoffed at, it is the least PSG should expect given the grandiose nature of their expensively assembled squad of superstars.

So, what next?

Mbappe Madrid-bound?

Mbappe is the first player to score more than 20 goals in the competition in three separate seasons before his 24th birthday since Herve Revelli, who managed it on four occasions between 1967 and 1970.

Before the Lens game, Mbappe's tally of 33 goals in all competitions was bettered by only Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski among players across Europe's top five leagues, with the France star having also outperformed his expected goals (29.5).

If this is to be his PSG swansong, then Mbappe is going out in style, if not on the biggest stage. From being jeered by his own supporters back in August, the tables turned when Mbappe was applauded in the wake of PSG's Champions League exit, with the boos reserved for Messi and Neymar instead.

PSG seem intent on trying to keep their talisman, but it really does appear to be to little avail, and it looks certain Mbappe will be lighting up LaLiga next season.

Messi to move on?

Yes, you did read that right. Messi – arguably the greatest player of all time – was booed by PSG supporters. Such is the fickle nature of football fandom, they were cheering his name by the time the next game came around, but at 34, does the Barcelona great really need to risk any damage to his reputation?

The goals have not come freely for Messi at PSG, managing only nine so far. However, he has contributed creatively with 13 assists, even if his expected assists (xA) of 9.86 suggests he has benefited from some above-standard finishing (which may be expected when you're supplying Mbappe, and Neymar too).

One has to wonder if he'll be sticking around to help the bid for an 11th league title in PSG's history next season.

 

Time up for Poch?

It is not just the future of star players up for debate. Mauricio Pochettino replaced Thomas Tuchel because the latter had failed to win the Champions League, only for Tuchel to go and win the tournament with Chelsea. Pochettino, meanwhile, saw his team lose in the semi-finals to Manchester City last season and then go down to Madrid in the last 16 this time around.

His record in Ligue 1 shows 39 wins from 55 matches, with the Argentine coach having overseen eight defeats and eight draws to register a win percentage of 70.9. Pochettino's team have scored 123 goals and conceded way less than half that amount (49).

Pochettino's 2.27 points per game ranks below his three predecessors, however; Tuchel took 2.37, as did Unai Emery, and Laurent Blanc recorded 2.35. Carlo Ancelotti (2.14) was the last PSG coach to have taken fewer points per game.

The former Tottenham boss might have been expecting a call from Manchester United, yet they have chosen Ajax's Erik ten Hag. Given the Champions League is the be-all and end-all for PSG, will Pochettino get another shot?

More, more, more?

Regardless of what happens with Mbappe, Pochettino or Messi, one thing is certain: PSG will be linked with the biggest stars on the market again.

Should Mbappe decide to pledge more of his career to PSG, will they go out and look to further bolster their chances of Champions League glory? If he leaves, how do they replace his goals?

Backing Messi and Neymar to come up with the difference should not be out of the question, yet it seems unlikely QSI would want a star player to leave and not replace him.

Paul Pogba is set to be available on a free, and it is not difficult to imagine the France star strutting his stuff in the blue of PSG. Georginio Wijnaldum's move has not been a success and the Dutchman's former club Newcastle United – now cash-rich of course – have been linked.

What of Keylor Navas? Donnarumma, despite some rash mistakes, seems to be the number one pick as goalkeeper now. Surely the Costa Rican will want to be a first choice elsewhere? Ramos has hardly been able to keep fit and PSG do lack a world-class partner for Marquinhos.

PSG may have to take a step back to finally move forward and become a dominant force in Europe, not just France. Perhaps sticking with Pochettino is the correct route, and they should forget about star signings for now and let the coach build something as he did in north London, using younger players and adding in the stardust with the talent that he already has at his disposal.

Based on the last decade, however, that does not seem likely.

Mauricio Pochettino quipped that he would like to take Kylian Mbappe "on vacation" and home with him if it ensured he will stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe has just over two months remaining on his PSG contract and his future remains up in the air.

Real Madrid are reportedly confident of signing the France forward as a free agent, with Erling Haaland thought to be on his way to Manchester City rather than the Spanish capital.

Head coach Pochettino wants Mbappe to sign a long-term deal with PSG and hopes an agreement can be reached after his side have regained the Ligue 1 title, a feat they can achieve if they pick up a point against Lens on Saturday.

He told reporters: "As a coach, the situation does not bother me. You have to understand it. This does not only happen in Paris, but also in other clubs. 

"This is not the first, nor the last time that such situations arise. We have to adapt. Selfishly, I would like to keep Kylian with me, of course. 

"I would like to take him on vacation, take him home, keep him all the time. The club would like him to be able to stay here for a long time. It's a negotiation. 

"This decision is always related to different parties. It may be taken once the objective of the title is reached, once the season is over."

The Parisian giants are set to match the record of 10 Ligue 1 titles held by Saint-Etienne and Marseille.

PSG were dethroned by Lille last season and although there has been discontent from supporters after they missed out on Champions League glory once again, Pochettino says they must celebrate another domestic triumph.

The former Tottenham boss said: "You always have to value the possibility of winning a league title because when you don't win it, it becomes a big problem. 

"From my personal level, it is very important. It is also for the supporters and we hope that they will celebrate it with us, that they will agree to put the current situation on hold, knowing that the criticisms remain constructive and that the club remains attentive to them. 

"Afterwards, the club will make the decisions that will have to be taken. I just hope that tomorrow the fans will be with us and that we can celebrate the title together."

Mauricio Pochettino declared himself 'satisfied' with PSG's win over Angers despite victory for Marseille delaying their coronation as Ligue 1 champions.

The Paris club needed to better their title rivals' result on Wednesday to clinch a 10th championship, and held up their end of the bargain as goals from Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos and Marquinhos secured a 3-0 win.

However, Marseille twice overturned Nantes leads in their game to secure three points and take the title race into the weekend.

Not that Pochettino was too disappointed, the Argentine saying: "Winning the championship as soon as possible is the best possible [outcome].

"It's not possible at the moment, but we had a good game and took the three points. That is most important. 

"It's never easy, but I think it's a good performance from us. I am very satisfied with my players and these three points.

"I hope we can do it all together on Saturday at the Parc des Princes."

PSG's win was somewhat soured by the controversial late dismissal of young substitute Edouard Michut following a VAR review.

Replays appeared to show that the 19-year-old had only caught Romain Thomas with a high challenge as a direct result of a foul on him from Enzo Ebosse.

Of the decision, Pochettino added: "Edouard didn't do it on purpose. I do not understand the red card even if the action was of course dangerous. 

"It really wasn't [his fault]. I am very disappointed with this and hope they can review the images and remove the card." 

Lionel Messi will be absent when Paris Saint-Germain attempt to wrap up the Ligue 1 title during Wednesday's trip to Angers, Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed.

Messi, who has recorded eight goals and 13 assists in 29 games since moving to the French capital last summer, is receiving treatment for inflammation in his left achilles tendon, and will sit out PSG's potentially decisive match.

Pochettino's men will seal the 10th Ligue 1 title in the club's history by bettering Marseille's result against Nantes, equalling St Etienne as the competition's most successful club.

However, having already lost Neymar to suspension, Pochettino confirmed Messi is among several players who will miss the match, potentially handing an opportunity to some of PSG's younger players.

"Some players like Leo Messi, Marco Verratti and Presnel Kimpembe will be missing tomorrow because they are still undergoing treatment," Pochettino said. "Neymar will be suspended. 

"It will be an opportunity for the players who don't play much to get some game time and it will allow the youngsters to gain experience.

"Players such as Xavi Simons and Edouard Michut, they have been gaining experience. They are the ones who could really play a key role in the club's future."

PSG beat Marseille 2-1 last time out to inch closer to regaining the French crown, and are seeking to confirm top spot by recording a 12th consecutive league win over Angers.

 

Despite boasting a 15-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit with just six games remaining, Pochettino refuted suggestions that PSG's dominance of the competition would mean they struggled to motivate themselves on Wednesday, saying their aim was to seal the title "as soon as possible".

"This match will be important because it could allow us to win a 10th title if we win," he added. "The goal is to continue the momentum from our last few games. We've had a string of successes and we want to continue that momentum.

"For the moment, the title is not secured yet, we are focused on the trip to Angers and on winning. The sooner the better. Personally, it would be an immense joy to win this 10th French championship title for Paris Saint-Germain. 

"Motivation is always there because it is necessary to win. We have to respect football and our opponents until the last day because that is the best way to perform well. We hope to win the title as soon as possible!"

Despite the attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Messi scoring each of PSG's last 13 league goals, the latter two have been jeered by their own supporters in recent weeks after the team fell to a humiliating Champions League last-16 collapse against Real Madrid.

While Pochettino respected the right of PSG's fans to have an opinion on the state of the team, he emphasised his hope that supporters would come together to celebrate their title when it is confirmed.

"Everyone has the right to have their say," Pochettino added. "[But] I hope that we can celebrate a 10th title in the club's history together, it's important. For the future, I hope there will be a good relationship, it is crucial for any club that aspires to win all the trophies."

Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino and centre back Marquinhos have criticised the home fans at Parc des Princes for their lack of support in Sunday's 2-1 Classique victory against Marseille.

All three goals came in an action-packed first half, with Neymar breaking the deadlock in the 12th minute, before Duje Caleta-Car equalised when he forced home a corner from Dimitri Payet nearly 20 minutes later.

On the stroke of half-time, PSG were awarded a questionable penalty after a hopeful Neymar ball was deflected into the elbow of a Marseille defender, with VAR awarding Kylian Mbappe the penalty to head into the sheds leading 2-1.

The second half was largely controlled by Marseille, with over 60 per cent possession, and they thought they had equalised in the 85th minute when William Saliba got on the end of a Payet free kick, but VAR ruled it out for offside.

With the win, PSG are now 15 points clear of second-placed Marseille with six games remaining, but Pochettino said the support from the crowd did not feel like they were a team cruising to a league title.

"We are still waiting for the supporters to be able to expend the energy to support us," he said.

"They show their disappointment – and as I always say, there is freedom of expression, it is their way of expressing themselves, and we have to respect it. But we would like to always have the support of the supporters.

"Winning a 10th title in the history of the club is not trivial, and we would like to [enjoy the] experience with them."

It is reported that the club's main supporter group, Virage Auteuil, are continuing to protest the lack of changes at a boardroom and management level after a disappointing Champions League exit against Real Madrid, but Marquinhos said it still caught him by surprise.

"I wasn’t expecting it. It wasn’t the right time to do that," he said.

"I understand if they haven’t gotten a response, [but] they should have put their pride to one side. As a player, I don’t agree with it."

A Classique by name but certainly not by nature, Paris Saint-Germain took a step closer to the inevitable eighth Ligue 1 title of the QSI era thanks to goals from Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Predictably, Lionel Messi's name did not feature on the scoresheet. Predictably, Neymar's name found its way into the referee's book after a foul followed by a tantrum.

These games are not always predictable of course. Few saw the five stoppage-time red cards coming when these teams last met at the Parc des Princes in Ligue 1, back in September 2020.

All hell broke loose on that occasion when the game's simmering tension reached boiling point. Accusations were flung this way and that, with the red-carded Neymar at the centre of many of them. Marseille won that game 1-0, doling out another painful blow to a PSG side who had lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich just three weeks earlier.

PSG ridiculously failed to win Ligue 1 last season, an embarrassment considering the riches of their talent pool, but the trophy – L'Hexagoal – is heading back to the capital, and Sunday's 2-1 win over Marseille put the Parisian club 15 points clear with six rounds of games to play.

They could wrap up the title in midweek, but what would it really mean? Will it save Mauricio Pochettino's job? Probably not. Will it be the determining factor in whether Mbappe signs a new deal or heads to Madrid? Probably not. Will the PSG fans celebrate it with any great gusto? No, probably not, given many are apparently pig-sick of the club's leadership.

The Ligue 1 title has been reduced to a matter of interest only when PSG do not win it, given it should be a formality each season. And so on they plod, this gaggle of megastars and their various chums.

 

It is not quite the 'Zidanes and Pavons' policy of Real Madrid's Galacticos late period, but PSG are similarly top-heavy. While that Madrid side struggled at times in the league, they could put it together in the Champions League, the competition that remains out of reach for this PSG incarnation.

Was this Pochettino's final Classique? There are no assurances forthcoming over his future. If it is, he has nudged PSG ahead of Marseille on the all-time record between the teams in Ligue 1. This was a 33rd victory in the series, with Marseille having won 32 times and 20 of the league games having been drawn.

So one-sided has this rivalry become, however, that PSG have only lost one of the last 20 such league tussles between the sides (W15 D4).

That's a rivalry, only in the sense that Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova was a rivalry on the tennis court. Williams lost two of their first three matches, then won the next 19 before Sharapova retired, barring one walk-over.

Sunday's encounter was certainly not a walk-over for PSG, as Marseille made a match of this Classique at times, recovering from Neymar's early strike to draw level through Duje Caleta-Car, with Gianluigi Donnarumma adding to his bloopers file as he failed to gather Dimitri Payet's corner. 

Neymar had a free-kick well saved by Pau Lopez, Messi had a couple of goals ruled out for offside calls, Mbappe smashed home a penalty after Neymar's shot was handled. William Saliba was denied a late Marseille equaliser after a VAR review showed he was narrowly offside. PSG actually finished this game having seen just 42 per cent of the ball, their lowest total in a Ligue 1 game since February 2013, also against Marseille.

And of course Neymar flapped indignantly after being booked for fouling Matteo Guendouzi. Just for a moment the combustible Brazilian looked to be risking a second yellow with his protests.

PSG can be fun to watch when they lose the plot, or when they attempt defending, but the joy that should be gleaned from seeing Neymar, Messi and Mbappe together is tempered by the sense of formality about all of this.

 

Almost 30 years have passed since it was Marseille's ownership that had critics up in arms, during the scandal-hit Bernard Tapie era, when it was OM who had the biggest stars.

In 1993, the year Marseille won the Champions League, Alen Boksic, Rudi Voller and Abedi Pele complemented a rich French contingent that included Basile Boli, Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps.

The PSG of that era had stars too – David Ginola, George Weah and Valdo among them – and the great rivalry was ostensibly born, but the modern-day Marseille are no competition on a man-for-man basis with the current Parisian legion of luminaries.

Tycoon Tapie's substantial wealth and Marseille's financial clout had nothing on the Qatar Sports Investments money muscle behind PSG, though.

French football has been dealt the derogatory tag of a "farmer's league", a title bestowed due to a perceived lack of competition. And when the joie de vivre has been sucked out of even Le Classique, where does the game go from here?

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has told his stars to treat Sunday's Ligue 1 Classique against Marseille as a cup final.

The league leaders host their second-placed rivals at Parc des Princes, looking to extend their 12-point gap at the summit on Jorge Sampaoli's side.

Victory would effectively confirm the league title for PSG, with just six games left to play after this weekend.

Speaking on Saturday, Pochettino stressed there are no bigger games in France, adding that he expects his side to be prepared to fight for their win.

"It's clear that it's an important and different game for both sides," the Argentinian told a pre-match news conference.

"It's the most important game in France. For us, it's a final, we have to get on the pitch and be ready."

Pochettino also addressed the combative relationship PSG have experienced with their fanbase throughout a campaign that, despite their league position, has been seen as underwhelming.

Neymar and Lionel Messi were roundly booed following the club's Champions League exit last month, in the most high profile of several incidents.

"We are stronger with the fans, they give us extra strength," Pochettino said. "We know we are stronger when they are on our side.

"I would like them to support the team during the matches and leave differences for before or after the game."

The Argentine head coach further touched on his relationship with Kylian Mbappe, amid reports suggesting the France international could snub an anticipated move to Real Madrid

"I have a good relationship with him, as with all the players," Pochettino said. "With him, the relationship was built over time.

"He is someone we have seen grow up. We are happy to see how he is developing. He let himself be trained, that's where he shows his great humility and his desire to be better every day."

Mauricio Pochettino believes staying at Paris Saint-Germain would be the best thing for Kylian Mbappe.

The superstar striker is out of contract at the end of the season and has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid, but recent reports have suggested he may yet sign a new deal with his hometown club.

Mbappe has scored 28 goals in 38 games for PSG in all competitions this season, with his 45 direct goal involvements dwarfing the tallies of Messi (18) and Neymar (12).

On Sunday, Mbappe was involved in all five of PSG's goals in a 5-1 hammering of Lorient, scoring twice and providing three assists. It was the first time in his club career that he had been involved in as many goals in a single match.

Once again pressed on Mbappe's future ahead of Saturday's trip to Clermont, Pochettino told a media conference: "When Kylian is here, you can ask him and he can give you a better answer. PSG, just like me as the coach, want the best for Kylian and the club.

"We think that the best thing for this club is for Mbappe to stay, and we think it is also good for Kylian to stay here with us. Then, there are negotiations that have to serve to reach an agreement."

Pochettino also believes that Mbappe has made significant strides in his development since he took over from Thomas Tuchel in January of last year.

"Kylian is a clear example of how, when we arrived, his form wasn't as everyone expected it to be," Pochettino said.

"But thanks to his hard work and the commitment and confidence that we have generated here, particularly over the last year, he has shown what a fantastic player he is. 

"The most important thing here is his commitment and his ability to turn around difficult situations because when we arrived here it was a difficult time for him.

Pochettino will be without several players through injury for Saturday's match, and also confirmed he will rest Marquinhos after his captain's partner recently gave birth.

"[Marquinhos] has had a few niggles and so we have decided to give him a rest, especially given the week he has had with the birth of his daughter," Pochettino added.

When asked if Mbappe could take the armband in the Brazilian's absence, Pochettino replied: "I think that is possible for Mbappe and other players as well. Kylian is certainly part of the possible group."

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