Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he did not have any concerns about Lionel Messi's Ligue 1 goal drought prior to the forward opening his account in the competition against Nantes.

Messi had made five league appearances for the capital club without scoring before netting the third goal in the 3-1 victory at the Parc des Princes on Saturday with his 20th shot in Ligue 1.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored in the Champions League for PSG, however, netting three times in three games so far.

Pochettino explained that neither he nor Messi had any doubt that the goals would start to flow domestically, too, and also made a point of praising the team as a whole.

"I don't think Messi was worried about not having scored in the championship, he's a great champion, the best player in the world," Pochettino said after the game.

"He knows how to go through the most difficult times, he has patience, and it's good that he scored.

"We showed our character, but also showed the quality of the team - we played a very good first half.

"The progress of the MNM [Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe]? I always said it was about making connections, spending time together, and also playing competitive matches.

"But it was the whole team that played a good game, as a whole, to allow these talented players to often find themselves in a position to create chances. Too bad we didn't score more goals in the first half."

Messi expressed his delight at opening his Ligue 1 account, finding the back of the net with a sweet strike from outside the box after receiving the ball from Mbappe.

"I am happy with this first goal, I really wanted it," Messi said to Amazon Prime. "I had several chances before in this match and in previous matches.

"I am very happy with this first goal in the championship, I had already scored in the Champions League. There had been chances, but I had not converted, so I am very happy."

Lionel Messi's first Ligue 1 goal helped Paris Saint-Germain beat Nantes 3-1 at the Parc des Princes despite Keylor Navas getting sent off in the second half. 

The hosts scored in just the second minute as Leandro Paredes' well-hit effort from range took a wicked deflection off Kylian Mbappe in the box and wrong-footed Alban Lafont.

Navas was shown a straight red card in the 65th minute for jumping into Ludovic Blas outside the box as the Nantes midfielder bore down on goal, with Sergio Rico coming on between the sticks and failing to deal with Randal Kolo Muani's header, allowing the forward to backheel an effort at goal that he could not keep from crossing the line.

However, Dennis Appiah deflected Messi's throughball over the goalkeeper and in before the Argentine grabbed his first league goal for PSG with a terrific long-range strike.

PSG took the lead inside the first two minutes, with Paredes taking an effort on from long range that struck Mbappe in the box and deflected past a stranded Lafont in the Nantes goal.

Nantes' hopes of snatching an unlikely result were boosted when Navas raced off his line to deal with a ball in behind in the second half, but misjudged the bounce and was sent off after catching Blas with a trailing leg.

Substitute goalkeeper Rico made a mess of saving Kolo Muani's powerful headed effort and could only get to the follow-up after it had crossed the line in the 76th minute, but Nantes full-back Appiah's comedy own goal five minutes later put PSG back in front.

Messi then stole the headlines in the 87th minute, cutting onto his left foot outside the box and unleashing a superb strike into the bottom-left corner to seal the points for PSG.

Neymar has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash against Nantes on Saturday and is a doubt for next week's Champions League visit to Manchester City, according to reports.

The 29-year-old missed Brazil's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Argentina on Tuesday due to an adductor injury, which he suffered four days earlier in the 1-0 win over Colombia.

L'Equipe reported on Thursday that Neymar had undergone tests upon returning to France and was deemed not fit enough to take part in the league match against Nantes at the Parc des Princes this weekend.

The injury also puts his participation in Wednesday's mouth-watering Champions League Group A match at City in doubt.

Pep Guardiola's City lead the group with nine points, with second-placed PSG on eight – four ahead of Club Brugge in third.

It was also reported that Marco Verratti (hip) and Presnel Kimpembe (thigh) took part in full training for a second consecutive day on Thursday, and they are likely to feature at the weekend.

Former Real Madrid star Sergio Ramos has also trained successfully all week and could make his long-awaited debut against Nantes.

David Henderson, the organiser of the flight responsible for the deaths of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson, has been sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.

Henderson, 67, was last month found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Sala was on his way to Cardiff City on January 21, 2019, after signing from Ligue 1 club Nantes for £15million (€20m) when his plane came down over the English Channel, killing the striker, 28, and the pilot, Ibbotson, 59.

The court was previously told Henderson arranged the flight with football agent William McKay and asked Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was in Paris on holiday.

Mr Ibbotson – who did not hold a commercial pilot's licence – was not qualified to fly at night and his rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired.

A jury of seven men and five women were told that moments after finding out about the incident, Henderson contacted numerous people to ask them to stay silent, saying it would "open a can of worms".

The jury took seven and a half hours to come to a verdict before Henderson was convicted at Cardiff Crown Court, where he returned on Friday to be sentenced.

Henderson was given 18 months for endangering the safety of an aircraft, along with a three-month sentence to be served concurrently for attempting to discharge a passenger.

Watford have appointed Premier League winner Claudio Ranieri as their new head coach.

Ranieri has signed a two-year deal at Vicarage Road following the departure of Xisco Munoz, who became the first Premier League managerial sacking of the season on Sunday.

Under Munoz, the Hornets won their first game on their top-flight return against Aston Villa but only managed to pick up four points from the next six games to leave them in 15th.

However, new appointment Ranieri is no stranger to English football having enjoyed spells with Chelsea and Fulham, while overseeing the most unlikely of title-winning terms with Leicester City.

The Foxes secured the title in 2015-16, led by the likes of Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy as they lost just three times all season under the Italian's stewardship.

Despite the triumph, Leicester and Ranieri parted ways the following season with the defending champions just a point above the relegation zone with 13 games left to play.

He then returned to take charge of Fulham in 2018, via a stop at Nantes, but was sacked after just 106 days in charge, with the Cottagers heading for an imminent relegation from the Premier League.

The former Chelsea manager's most recent job was with Sampdoria, but he departed in the close-season after a two-year spell with the club, having initially taken charge in 2019.

Watford, who have now hired six and fired five different permanent head coaches since Marco Silva's departure in January 2018, become Ranieri's 21st club in his 35-year career.

He will be joined by assistant coaches Paolo Benetti and Carlo Cornacchia, as well as fitness coach Carlo Spignoli, as he prepares for the difficult task of the unbeaten Liverpool in his first game on October 16.

Nantes survived a tense relegation play-off on Sunday to edge out Toulouse on away goals and secure Ligue 1 football for a ninth consecutive season.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg after a successful trip to the south of France on Thursday, Nantes were beaten 1-0 at their Stade de la Beaujoire home by the side that finished third in Ligue 2.

Vakoun Bayo headed in a cross from Amine Adli to give Toulouse a 62nd-minute lead, but Nantes resisted further pressure from their visitors.

Toulouse were reduced to 10 players in the 87th minute when Nathan N'Goumou was sent off for a foul on Jean-Charles Castelletto, hitting their hopes of a late second goal.

Nantes won four consecutive games before losing to Montpellier on the final day of the regular season, jumping above Nimes in the top-flight table in the process to finish in 18th place.

Having at one stage looked destined for automatic relegation to the second tier, they have survived under the stewardship of Antoine Kombouare, the experienced head coach who was appointed in February as successor to Raymond Domenech and charged with leading the rescue mission.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Mauricio Pochettino said he is searching for answers to Paris Saint-Germain's post-Champions League struggles after the Ligue 1 holders were stunned by lowly Nantes on Sunday.

PSG missed the chance to go top of the Ligue 1 table following a shock 2-1 home defeat against relegation-threatened Nantes.

Pochettino's side looked on track to claim maximum points thanks to Julian Draxler's 42nd-minute opener, but two unanswered goals in the second half lifted Nantes to their first win away to PSG in Ligue 1 since 2002.

PSG have now lost their last three Ligue 1 fixtures immediately after Champions League clashes – the French giants fell to Lyon 1-0 following their 5-1 rout of Istanbul Basaksehir on December 9 and suffered a 2-0 defeat against Monaco after crushing Barcelona 4-1 at Camp Nou on February 16.

Now, after being shocked in Paris on the back of their 1-1 draw with Barca in the second leg of the last-16 tie on Wednesday, head coach Pochettino told reporters: "Surely there must be some connection, which we have to find.

"After the match in Barcelona, we played with practically the same players and you could think that we lacked energy. But today we brought in new players.

"It's clear that the energetic and stressful demands of the Champions League are hard for the team, especially when the matches are as physical as tonight's.

"In the first half we absolutely dominated the match. In the second half, when we conceded the goal, it cost us a lot and that's when it affects us to have played a match as important as the one we played here on Wednesday."

It was a forgettable outing for Pochettino and last season's Champions League finalists PSG, who are second and three points behind leaders Lille through 29 Ligue 1 rounds.

PSG have lost two consecutive home games in Ligue 1 for the first time since November 2012.

Pochettino is the first PSG coach to lose three of his first 12 Ligue 1 games since Antoine Kombouare in 2009 (four).

Meanwhile, Angel Di Maria and an as of yet unnamed PSG team-mate had their houses broken into during the Nantes showdown.

Di Maria was taken off midway through the second half at Parc des Princes, after a curious discussion between officials – including sporting director Leonardo, who appeared visibly angry – in the stands, and the coaching staff on the touchline over the phone.

The substitution caused confusion - not only off the pitch, but also on it. PSG conceded just before Di Maria went off, and then again nine minutes later to throw away their lead and ultimately lose.

On the Di Maria case, Pochettino added: "There are situations outside football that we should be aware of.

"The footballers are the first to know the disappointment of losing the three points but there are other situations, beyond football, that the footballers and we should be concerned about, I think you already know that."

Angel Di Maria and an as of yet unnamed Paris Saint-Germain team-mate had their houses broken into during Sunday's game with Nantes.

Di Maria was taken off midway through the second half at Parc des Princes, after a curious discussion between officials – including sporting director Leonardo, who appeared visibly angry – in the stands, and the coaching staff on the touchline over the phone.

The substitution caused confusion - not only off the pitch, but also on it. PSG conceded just before Di Maria went off, and then again nine minutes later to throw away their lead and ultimately lose 2-1.

After Di Maria, who signed a new deal with the capital club earlier this week, went off, Mauricio Pochettino spoke to his compatriot in the dressing room before returning to the touchline.

RMC Sport reported during the game that Di Maria had subsequently left the stadium and that he had been taken off due to a "serious personal matter."

Canal+ and RMC Sport provided a further update at full-time, stating that Di Maria, along with a PSG team-mate, had their homes targeted while the game was ongoing.

According to the media outlets, PSG confirmed the reports, with RMC Sport also claiming that both attacks took place while the respective families of the players were at home.

Mauro Icardi suffered a burglary in February, while Di Maria has previously been the victim of such a crime, during his time at Manchester United in 2014-15.

While PSG did not immediately release an official statement, Mauricio Pochettino told a news conference: "There are situations outside of football that also explain the second half.

"It's not an excuse but there was a drop in energy. We talked about things other than football after the game in the locker room."

"The group is very concerned."

Paris Saint-Germain failed to capitalise on Lille dropping points as they suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat against relegation-threatened Nantes.

Lille were held by Monaco earlier on Sunday and PSG looked set to replace them at the Ligue 1 summit once they found the breakthrough, but remarkably Nantes hit back in the second half to salvage a potentially massive win.

Alban Lafont produced a number of smart saves as to keep PSG at bay before he was eventually beaten by Julian Draxler in the 42nd minute.

Given Nantes' lack of attacking threat in the first half, Draxler's goal looked as though it would be enough until Randal Kolo Muani pounced on Kylian Mbappe's mistake to restore parity and subsequently teed up Moses Simon to complete an unlikely turnaround.

PSG went close twice in quick succession with 11 minutes on the clock, as Lafont tipped Angel Di Maria's long-range effort over before gratefully seeing Marquinhos' header from the resulting corner skim the top of the net.

Nantes were convinced they were owed a penalty soon after but Presnel Kimpembe was not adjudged to have fouled Kolo Muani.

Mauricio Pochettino's men made the most of that let-off just before half-time, Draxler capitalising on a failed clearance and lashing a left-footed effort out of Lafont's reach.

Mbappe went close early in the second half yet shot wide after doing the hard part.

The France star was made to pay at the other end, his wayward pass going straight to Kolo Muani, who impressively jinked past Kimpembe and finished emphatically.

Kolo Muani was decisive again 19 minutes from time, latching onto a flick-on over the top before squaring to Simon for an easy finish – the goal allowed to stand following a lengthy VAR check for offside.

PSG piled the pressure on but their desperation yielded little, consigning them to successive home league defeats for the first time since November 2012.

Mauricio Pochettino revealed Neymar is close to returning for Paris Saint-Germain as he urged critics to respect the team's Champions League win over Barcelona.

The PSG head coach did not specify whether Neymar would come into contention for Sunday's home match against lowly Nantes, who sit 19th in the 20-team Ligue 1 table.

Speaking on Saturday, Pochettino faced questions about the performance of his players in the second leg of their clash with Barcelona, with a string of excellent saves by Keylor Navas, including a penalty stop from Lionel Messi, helping the French side snatch a 1-1 draw.

That clinched a 5-2 aggregate victory, and Pochettino wants to hear more admiration for such a scoreline, given the stature of the opposition.

On the question of when Neymar would return from an injury lay-off that has extended to a month, Pochettino explained: "I think I said there was a chance he'd be back for the Barcelona game.

"We also knew it would be difficult to set a timeframe because players' recoveries can be difficult to predict. He has trained with the squad today, we are pleased with his progress, and we hope he will be back with the team soon."

But Pochettino was probed over how PSG allowed Barcelona to be so dominant for large parts of the second leg of their European tie, particularly the first half, and he was not happy for his team's achievement to be followed by such interrogation.

"I don't understand why we should be so focused on that," Pochettino said.

"That was the story of the first half of the second leg against Barcelona when we didn't play well. That is the reality. But focusing too much on that in my opinion would be a mistake.

"Of course we analyse everything that happens during games but we mustn't forget the team have reached the quarter-finals after beating a strong Barcelona side, and overall it finished 5-2 after 180 minutes. That is the reality.

"There have been games where we played well and lost, such as the game against Monaco [which PSG lost 2-0 last month], and other games where we haven't performed so well.

"The most important thing is to learn and we do have to improve because none of us were happy with the first half, but after achieving such a big target I think our performance in the first half can be downplayed."

With third-placed Lyon only drawing against Reims on Friday, PSG remain in the thick of a title battle, with leaders Lille having a tricky clash with Monaco on Sunday.

PSG sit second as they chase a fourth successive league title, and they cannot afford to slip up against a Nantes side who are equally in need of points.

"Yes, it will be a tough game for us," Pochettino said. "I wouldn't say it would be a trap, but we are aware that after such a happy night for the club and the fans, with us getting through in the Champions League, it is in our minds that the next game is important. That is the theory, but we know it's an important game and we have to put that into practice.

"Preparation is essential in football. We often say we are ready, but Nantes are a physical side who will make things difficult, just as Monaco did after we played Barcelona [in the first leg], but that is why our performance level is essential and we have to be fresh.

"I will try to select a team that can really battle with Nantes and have that freshness that can give us the energy that we need in this sort of game."

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