Barcelona will face Manchester United in their return to the Europa League after the Blaugrana were drawn against the Premier League club in the knockout round play-offs.

Xavi's side dropped into Europe's second-tier competition for the second season running after failing to progress from the Champions League group stages, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Inter.

It sets up the outstanding tie with Erik ten Hag's United, who are looking to end a trophy drought stretching back to when they last won the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

United came second to Real Sociedad in the Europa League group stage, ultimately missing out to La Real by one goal.

They have paid the price for their failure in that regard, with Barca arguably the toughest draw they could possibly get and La Real already through to the competition's last 16.

Joining Barca in dropping down from the Champions League are Juventus, though they will likely be much more content with their draw after being paired with Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Europa League knockout round play-offs:

Barcelona v Manchester United
Juventus v Nantes
Sporting CP v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV
Salzburg v Roma

Hugo Lloris and Theo Hernandez have withdrawn from the France squad for this week's Nations League matches with Austria and Denmark.

France are already without a number of key players for the double-header, with Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman all sidelined.

Adrien Rabiot withdrew from the squad last week and Didier Deschamps is now without two more players for the visit of Austria on Thursday and trip to Denmark three days later.

France confirmed on Monday that Tottenham goalkeeper Lloris and Milan defender Theo Hernandez are nursing thigh and groin injuries respectively.

Nantes keeper Alban Lafont has earned a first call-up to provide cover for captain Lloris, while Aston Villa's Lucas Digne has been summoned as Theo Hernandez's replacement.

France have posted two draws and two defeats in their opening four Group A1 matches and are battling relegation from the top tier.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier says people should not read too much into Neymar not starting the 3-0 Ligue 1 win over Nantes.

The Brazil international has been in sensational form at the start of the 2022-23 campaign, scoring seven goals in five appearances prior to Saturday's game at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

However, he watched on from the substitutes' bench as Kylian Mbappe put the Ligue 1 champions 2-0 up either side of a red card for Nantes wing-back Fabio, with Neymar introduced in place of Mbappe in the second half.

Nuno Mendes added a third after Neymar's shot had cannoned back off the post as PSG racked up 24 goals after their first six games.

That equalled the record for goals scored by a team in Europe's big five leagues at this stage of a season in the 21st century (Manchester City in 2019-20 and Bayern Munich in 2020-21).

Galtier rejected suggestions Neymar had been dropped, instead stating it was merely a consequence of normal squad rotation.

"You say that all this is new, but it is an obligation in relation to the busy schedule for everyone," he told Canal +.

"We play a lot, every three days then every four days. Everyone understands that they will not be able to play all the 95-minute matches.

"I spoke about it twice. The first time with each player, the second with the whole group, to tell them that it was okay to be like that and that you had to have the right attitude. And also value the participation of your team-mates."

Fabio's red card was his fourth since his Ligue 1 debut in September 2018 – only his team-mate Andrei Girotto (five) has a worse record in Ligue 1 over this period.

It came following an ugly lunge on PSG midfielder Vitinha, which saw the former Porto man immediately require treatment before being replaced by Renato Sanches. 

PSG start their Champions League campaign at home to Juventus on Tuesday and Galtier is unsure whether the 22-year-old will be fit enough to play. 

"He took a big hit on the kneecap, there is no twisting, no ligament risk, we will see if he can play on Tuesday," the PSG boss said. 

"It's coming fast, it's close. We will make sure to restore him well and see how he feels. Otherwise, we'll do it with someone else."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain made it five wins from six Ligue 1 games this season with a 3-0 win over 10-man Nantes on Saturday.

Mbappe put the champions ahead shortly before the midway point of the first half with his sixth league goal of the campaign, before Nantes wing-back Fabio received his marching orders for a high challenge.

The France international grabbed his second early in the second half, before Nuno Mendes added a third as Christophe Galtier's men wrapped up maximum points with the minimum of fuss. 

The result meant PSG returned to the top of Ligue 1 after Marseille had briefly usurped them earlier in the day with victory over Auxerre, while Nantes remained in 10th.

Samuel Moutoussamy fired over for Nantes early on, while Danilo Pereira and Marquinhos went close at the other end as the visitors started to flex their muscles.

Mbappe then deservedly put PSG ahead in the 18th minute with a whipped effort past Alban Lafont after being played in by Lionel Messi at the end of an incisive counter-attacking move.

Nantes' task became significantly harder six minutes later when Fabio received a straight red card for an ugly lunge on Vitinha.

The game was effectively put out of their reach in the 54th minute when Mbappe prodded home from six yards after being picked out by Messi, the goal eventually given after a long VAR review for a possible offside.

Substitute Neymar inexplicably hit the post with the goal at his mercy, but his blushes were spared when Mendes fired in the rebound for his first PSG goal. 

What does it mean? Nantes blown away by relentless champions

Nantes kept PSG at bay for 18 minutes, yet as soon as Mbappe superbly finished off a flowing move there was only going to be one winner.

The result means PSG have now won seven of their past eight Ligue 1 away games, scoring a whopping 34 goals and conceding just five in that time.

Magnificent Messi

Mbappe will get the headlines after his brace, but Messi was at his unplayable best here.

The Argentina maestro laid on both of Mbappe's goals from two of his three key passes – a total not bettered by anyone on the pitch.

Foolish Fabio

Nantes were already 1-0 down when Fabio raked his studs down Vitinha's leg and any hopes they had of getting back into the game were vanquished with his dismissal.

Boss Antoine Kombouare will not be pleased with the former Manchester United man's recklessness.

What's next?

Both sides are in European action in midweek, with PSG starting their Champions League campaign at home to Juventus on Tuesday and Nantes hosting Olympiacos in the Europa League two days later.

Cardiff City have lost their appeal against a FIFA ruling to pay the first instalment of Emiliano Sala's £15million transfer from Nantes.

The Argentine striker died in a plane crash in January 2019 while travelling across the English channel to the Welsh side and a legal battle has ensued over the outstanding transfer fees owed.

Cardiff have argued that they were not liable for the fee because the 28-year-old was not officially their player and refused to make any interim payments as they stated the deal was not legally binding.

FIFA disagreed, however, and the appeal was heard by a three-man Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel earlier this year, who rejected the appeal.

In a statement, Cardiff expressed disappointment in the ruling and confirmed their intention to lodge an appeal – adding that they will take their own legal action should they fail.

"Cardiff City is disappointed by the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport," Friday's statement read.

"The award fails to decide the crucial question of FC Nantes' (and its agents') liability for the crash, which will therefore have to be decided in another forum.

"Once the club's lawyers have digested the reasons for the decision we expect to appeal and will not be making any payments to FC Nantes in the meanwhile.

"If those appeals are unsuccessful and the club is liable to pay the transfer fee, the club will take legal action against those responsible for the crash for damages to recover its losses. This will include FC Nantes, and its agents.

"All our thoughts must continue to be with Emiliano's family, who are now supported financially by the trust the club put in place for them."

On the ruling, CAS said: "After taking into due consideration all the evidence produced and all the arguments put forward by both clubs, the Cas panel found the player's transfer from FC Nantes to Cardiff City FC to have been completed.

"And because the conditions set out in the transfer agreement were fulfilled prior to the player's death, FC Nantes' claim for the first instalment of the transfer fee in the amount of 6m euros was upheld."

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.

Christophe Galtier praised Paris Saint-Germain's "desire" after they won the Trophee des Champions with a resounding 4-0 victory over Nantes on Sunday.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, before Neymar doubled their advantage with a fine free-kick.

Sergio Ramos added a third, with Neymar grabbing his second from the penalty spot late on after an incident that saw Jean-Charles Castelletto dismissed.

PSG reclaimed the Trophee des Champions after their streak of eight consecutive wins was ended by Lille last season, and Galtier was delighted with his side's application in his first competitive game at the helm.

"We played a very serious match and I like the fact that we approached with great desire and determination," he told Amazon Prime Video. 

"We created some good chances at the start of the match and they had one or two of their own. 

"We were consistent and I saw players making a lot of effort; that's important to me. It's a great victory. It's good to bring the trophy back to Paris."

PSG cruised to the Ligue 1 title last season, yet they came under heavy criticism after throwing away a two-goal aggregate lead to crash out of the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid at the last 16 stage.

That ultimately led to Mauricio Pochettino losing his job at the end of the campaign, and Galtier says he has seen enough during his brief tenure at the club to suggest the players are ready to right last season's wrongs.

"I think PSG were criticised last season when they were champions," he added. 

"These are players that I have observed a lot, with whom I discuss things. There must be a group dynamic, a team. What we have done over the past four or five weeks has gone very well.

"You have to be focused; the slightest word that derails goes around the world. 

"We have frank, direct exchanges with the players. We talk a lot about world stars but they are above all players, who like to play, who want to win trophies. We must help them without compromise."

PSG start their Ligue 1 defence away at Clermont on Saturday. 

Lionel Messi and Neymar were on target as Paris Saint-Germain thumped Nantes 4-0 to win the Trophee des Champions on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe did not travel to Israel for the clash at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, but his absence was not felt as Christophe Galtier started his reign as PSG boss in style. 

Messi set the Ligue 1 champions on their way in the 22nd minute with a cool finish, before Neymar doubled their advantage with a superb whipped free-kick from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time.

Sergio Ramos made it 3-0 shortly before the hour mark with an improvised finish, then Neymar claimed a second late on from the penalty spot after an incident that saw Jean-Charles Castelletto dismissed.

Achraf Hakimi and Pablo Sarabia went close for PSG inside the opening 10 minutes, while at the other end Ludovic Blas was superbly denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

PSG went ahead in the 22nd minute when Messi rounded Alban Lafont and slotted home after latching onto Neymar's deflected throughball.

Lafont got down well to deny Messi a second shortly before the interval, yet Galtier's men did go in at the break with a two-goal lead courtesy of Neymar's sumptuous free-kick.

Ramos added a third in the 57th minute, the former Real Madrid defender superbly backheeling into the net after Lafont had kept out Sarabia's initial effort. 

Neymar scored his second in the 82nd minute with a calm penalty after he had been brought down in the area by Castelletto, who was shown a red card by referee Orel Grinfeeld.

Christophe Galtier and Nice have strongly condemned chants from their supporters about the late Emiliano Sala.

Former Nantes striker Sala died in a plane crash in January 2019 as he travelled from France to the United Kingdom having signed for Cardiff City.

Sala was a hugely popular figure at Nantes, and supporters of the Ligue 1 club sang his name as they won the Coupe de France on Saturday. Nantes beat Nice 1-0 in the final.

But in Nice's first match since their defeat, sections of their home crowd in a 4-2 win over Saint-Etienne could be heard directing derogatory chants towards Sala.

Head coach Galtier was shocked by the abuse, revealing it was the focus of he and the Nice team after the match.

"I don't have words to describe what I heard," Galtier said. "One of the first reactions in the dressing room was not our songs, shouts of joy or relief. It was to talk about what the players heard.

"On behalf of my dressing room, my technical staff, my medical staff, the players, we would like to apologise to the family of Emiliano Sala and FC Nantes."

A Nice statement read: "OGC Nice condemns in the strongest terms the chant about Emiliano Sala heard on Wednesday evening at the Allianz Riviera.

"The club does not recognise its values or those of the entire red and black family in this unthinkable and abject provocation of a minority of its supporters.

"OGC Nice extends its support to the family and loved ones of Emiliano Sala."

Nantes, who beat Rennes 2-1 on Wednesday, also responded to news of the incident.

"I'm outraged," said coach Antoine Kombouare. "These people have no place in stadiums. They should be banned.

"It's shameful, I feel sorry for the family. I knew the fans could be stupid, but these are donkeys."

A Nantes statement added: "FC Nantes has discovered with horror the content of the chants of some OGC Nice supporters and can only strongly condemn such acts degrading the memory of Emiliano Sala.

"At the same time, FC Nantes would like to thank OGC Nice and its coach Christophe Galtier for their support and their firm condemnation of such remarks.

"FC Nantes as a whole supports Emiliano's family and loved ones."

Nantes captain Ludovic Blas said he "was taken for a madman" after insisting the club had a good team last year, but had the last laugh after lifting the Coupe de France on Saturday.

La Maison Jaune beat Nice 1-0 in the final at the Stade de France thanks to Blas' penalty early in the second half.

The 24-year-old midfielder emphatically drilled home his spot-kick after Hicham Boudaoui handled and that was enough for Nantes to win their first major trophy for 21 years, marking the fourth time the club has lifted the Coupe de France.

It has been quite the comeback story for Nantes, who only avoided slipping down to Ligue 2 last season after beating Toulouse on away goals in the relegation playoff.

“Last year, I persisted in saying that we had a good team. I persisted," Blas said after lifting the cup. "I was just saying that, and we had talented players. I was taken for a madman. 

"Now, I would like people to remember that, and not take me for a fool. Frankly, it's the most beautiful thing that could happen. Being this close to going down to Ligue 2, and winning the Coupe de France shows that I really wasn't wrong about this team."

Nantes boss Antoine Kombouare was just as impressed by what he had witnessed, also referencing the journey from nearly being relegated to sealing a place in European football next season.

"We had to stay strong, despite the pressure of what was at stake, we had come from nowhere," he told reporters after the game. "A year ago, we could die and end up in Ligue 2, and here we won the Coupe de France and we will play the Europa League.

"I was reminded that we [are] going to play the Trophee des Champions. Can you imagine the difference? It's hard to believe. It is something exceptional, unique, almost miraculous."

Kombouare also revealed a conversation he had when he gave Blas the captaincy, with the player appearing to predict the future.

"I'm going to tell you a secret," he said. "During the first match at Sochaux, I gave him the armband in the locker room just before going to warm up, and he immediately said to me: 'Coach, I'm very proud, I will take us to the Stade de France and I will lift the Coupe de France'. I was a prisoner of these words."

Dante says Nice's 1-0 Coupe de France final defeat to Nantes on Saturday will "hurt for a long time".

Ludovic Blas scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the first minute of the second half at the Stade de France.

Blas emphatically drilled home his spot-kick after Hicham Boudaoui handled and that was enough for Nantes to win their first major trophy for 21 years.

Nice were left to rue their lack of a cutting edge as they failed to end a trophy drought that stretches back to 1997, when they lifted the Coupe de France for a third time.

Captain Dante was left to reflect on a painful missed opportunity and warned Christophe Galtier's side must respond when they face St Etienne in Ligue 1 on Wednesday, with European qualification not secured.

The Brazilian defender said: "A lot of sadness. We are very disappointed because we really wanted to give this to our supporters and the people that have been waiting for this for so long, but we didn't manage to do so.

"It will hurt for a long time but we need to quickly lift our heads. We have a very important match on Wednesday."

Nice boss Galtier felt his side did not do themselves justice in Paris.

He said: "My feeling is disappointment. When you reach the final and you play for this magnificent trophy, you do everything possible to try to win it. 

"The big regret I have is about our technical quality on an offensive level. We had very little success in what we undertook. We showed too much haste in the game."

He added: "It is a great regret, a very great disappointment."

Ludovic Blas was the hero with a second-half penalty as Nantes ended their 21-year trophy drought by beating Nice 1-0 in the Coupe de France final.

Not since 2001 had Nantes added to their list of honours, but they will play in the Europa League next season after edging Saturday's showdown at the Stade de France.

Blas was on target from the spot in the first minute of the second half after Hicham Boudaoui handled and Stephanie Frappart - the first female to referee a men's Coupe de France final - pointed to the spot.

Nantes held on to to secure a return to Europe, leaving Nice without a trophy since back in 1997.

Amine Gouiri set the tone for a poor first half when his sloppy touch in the penalty area gave Nantes an early let-off.

Blas tried his luck at the other end from just outside the box, but failed to generate enough power on a shot that was saved by Marcin Bulka.

Gouiri's deflected strike flashed wide and Andy Delort should have done better with a header from the resulting corner, with Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont flapping.

It was Les Canaris who took the lead right at the start of the second half, Blas emphatically dispatching his spot-kick after Boudaoui handled in the box.

A desperate last-ditch block prevented Moses Simon from doubling Nantes' lead soon after they went in front and Jean-Charles Castelletto headed wide, with Nice looking vulnerable at the back.

Lafont palmed away Delort's drive and showed great reactions to deny Delort following up with 20 minutes to go as Nice failed to conjure up an equaliser.

 

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." 

Nantes returned to the Coupe de France final for the first time since 1999-2000 after Monaco's big names failed from 12 yards in a 4-2 shoot-out reverse on Wednesday.

Les Canaris have not played in French football's showpiece match since winning the cup in consecutive seasons at the turn of the century, but they can now look ahead to a date with Nice.

Poor defending at both ends had seen Nantes and Monaco play out a 2-2 draw at the Beaujoire, with Guillermo Maripan and Myron Boadu scoring headers either side of two home goals – Djibril Sidibe's first-half own goal and then a scrappy Samuel Moutoussamy strike.

The tie was therefore settled on penalties, and Wissam Ben Yedder was denied by Remy Descamps before Aurelien Tchouameni missed the target to give Nantes a two-goal advantage they would not cede.

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