Folarin Balogun stunned Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes with a last-gasp equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw for Reims.

Neymar opened the scoring early in the second half to give Christophe Galtier's home side the lead, but substitute Marco Verratti was sent off soon afterwards.

PSG continued to have the better chances but could not extend their lead, though the 10 men still looked set to grind out a valuable win to return to winning ways on Ligue 1 duty.

Balogun had other ideas though, latching onto Kamory Doumbia's throughball to slot past Gianluigi Donnarumma in the sixth minute of stoppage time and stun the home crowd.

Christophe Galtier has held talks with Presnel Kimpembe to clarify that the centre-back remains one of Paris Saint-Germain's vice-captains.

Kylian Mbappe wore the captain's armband in Monday's 7-0 Coupe de France win over sixth-tier Pays de Cassel in the absence of regular skipper Marquinhos.

Speaking to reporters after the cup rout, Galtier said Mbappe – who scored five times – "deserves" to be second captain when Marquinhos is not available.

Kimpembe, who has not played since November due to a heel injury, took to social media on Tuesday to state he had not been previously informed about Galtier's decision.

However, PSG head coach Galtier has since discussed the matter with Kimpembe to dissipate any misunderstanding.

"I expressed myself badly on Monday," Galtier said at a pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's Ligue 1 match with Reims. 

"The choices are very clear: Kylian is one of the vice-captains. Every time Kimpembe has been on the field and Marquinhos hasn't been, Kimpembe has had the armband.

"When Marquinhos isn't available, there is another captain. In the Lens match there was neither Kimpembe, Marco [Verratti] nor Marquinhos, so Kylian was captain.

"I decided to have Kylian as captain in the last game because he is one of the vice-captains, not 'the' vice-captain. I've had a discussion with Kimpembe to explain all this."

 

PSG's victory against Pays de Cassel came on the back of a 1-0 loss to Rennes in their most recent Ligue 1 match as their lead on Lens at the summit was cut to three points.

However, not since September 2020 have they lost successive league matches, while their return of 47 points after 19 matches is their fifth-best ever at this stage.

The reigning champions face a tough test this weekend, though, as they host a Reims side unbeaten in 11 Ligue 1 games – the longest run of any side in the division.

"It will be a difficult match for us to begin this run of games," Galtier said. "They have changed system and coach, and we know it will be a challenge for us.

"We now have Kimpembe back in training and Marco Verratti is back with the group. We have to cope with the calendar and focus more on recovery."

PSG are unbeaten in their past 31 Ligue 1 games at the Parc des Princes, winning 27 of those, and have scored in each of the past 20 on home soil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier confirmed a common Spanish insult was the cause of Sergio Ramos' bizarre red card against Reims, as he claimed referee Pierre Gaillouste failed to control the contest.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG dropped points for just the second time this season on Saturday after a 0-0 draw at Reims, failing to make the breakthrough against their struggling hosts after Ramos' red card.

Ramos received two yellow cards in less than a minute shortly before the break, having remonstrated strongly with the referee after tripping Marshall Munetsi.

The Spaniard's dismissal was the 21st of his league career (in LaLiga and Ligue 1) – at least seven more than any other defender in Europe's top five leagues has received this century.

Speaking after the draw, which leaves PSG three points clear of Marseille at the summit, Galtier stressed his belief that Ramos did not mean to offend Gaillouste.

"I know Sergio Ramos very well, I'm not sure that the insult that came out was directed at the referee," Galtier said. 

"It's an insult that you hear all the time on a training ground, that you hear a lot in Spain. The referee took it from him and kicked him out, I'm not going back [to speak] on that."

PSG faced 24 shots against Reims, the most they have had to contend with in a Ligue 1 match since December 2011 (against Saint Etienne), and Galtier was unhappy with their performance.

"There was a lot of nervousness that I can't explain, on both sides," Galtier added. "There were a lot of duels, clashes, neither of the two teams mastered the events. 

"None of the three parties, the teams and the referee, did control this game and there was a lot of nervousness."

Gaillouste has handed out six red cards in the six Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches he has refereed this season (four in Metz v Guingamp, one in Nantes v PSG, and one in this match).

Although Galtier disagreed with the decision to send Ramos off, he was equally irritated by the "stupid" nature of his red card, particularly given Ramos will now miss a meeting with Marseille next week.

"I will talk about it with them because there are sequences of matches. We need the maximum number of players," Galtier added. "Missing matches because we took stupid cards… obviously we have to fix that. I will talk about it with them."

PSG have only lost one of their last nine Ligue 1 games in which they received a red card and finished against 11 men (W4 D4), a 5-1 loss at Lille in April 2019. 

Paris Saint-Germain were hamstrung by Sergio Ramos' bizarre red card as they toiled to a 0-0 draw with Reims in Ligue 1, dropping points for just the second time this season.

With Lionel Messi absent through injury and Neymar starting on the bench, PSG were less than fluid with 11 men, struggling to make inroads against their stubborn hosts.

Christophe Galtier's men were forced to play the majority of the match with 10 after Ramos' moment of madness, the Spaniard picking up two bookings in quick succession shortly before the break, the second for dissent.

Neymar then came off the bench to squander PSG's best chance of the second half, as the perennial Ligue 1 champions failed to move five points clear of Marseille at the summit. 

Visiting goalkeeper Yehvann Diouf made a strong early save from Fabian Ruiz's curling effort, before Dion Lopy sent a volley over the crossbar at the other end.

PSG struggled for attacking inspiration in the early exchanges, but went close twice in quick succession after 33 minutes; Nordi Mukiele blazing over after Diouf had denied Kylian Mbappe at close range.

The Ligue 1 leaders were dealt an extraordinary blow 10 minutes later, with Ramos being sent off for confronting the referee less than a minute after seeing yellow for tripping Marshall Munetsi.

Gianluigi Donnarumma got down to stop Munetsi's goal-bound effort as Reims continued to press after the break, before Neymar side-footed wide of the near post from Mbappe's well-timed pass following his introduction.

Vitinha then curled over as Neymar's presence energised PSG, but Oscar Garcia's strugglers were ultimately good value for a result that lifts them back out of the relegation zone.

Lionel Messi will sit out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 trip to Reims after suffering from discomfort in his calf, Christophe Galtier has confirmed. 

Messi opened the scoring in spectacular fashion as PSG drew 1-1 at Benfica on Wednesday, becoming the first player to score against 40 different teams in Champions League history.

He has also been involved in seven goals in his last five Ligue 1 matches (two goals, five assists), but a medical update issued by the club revealed Messi would miss Saturday's match despite undergoing "reassuring examinations" on a calf injury.

"There will be changes," Galtier subsequently told Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Leo Messi will not be fit for Reims but will resume training on Sunday morning. Kylian Mbappe has angina but will be travelling to Reims."

Meanwhile, Galtier praised Gianluigi Donnarumma for his response to criticism of his early season performances, after the Italy goalkeeper made six saves at Benfica.

"He works well, nobody is airtight against remarks - sometimes it becomes criticism and nobody is insensitive," Galtier said.

"What I could notice in this period is that he remained focused on his work, by trying to eliminate his little flaws and keep his strengths. 

"I saw nothing different in his preparation for the Benfica match. Obviously, he and the whole team, we were all satisfied with his performance in Lisbon. 

"I always pointed out his few little mistakes, whether it was a lack of concentration or other issues. He was told after Benfica that he must continue to always be efficient."

Should PSG win at Reims, they will have taken 28 points from their first 10 matches of the Ligue 1 campaign.

In the 21st century, only two teams have reached at least 28 points at that stage of a Ligue 1 season, with both going on to finish as champions (Lyon – 28 in 2006-07, and PSG – 30 in 2018-19).

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.

Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun has joined Ligue 1 side Stade Reims on loan for the 2022-23 season.

The 21-year-old made his first-team debut for the Gunners during the 2020-21 season, and also penned a long-term contract.

Balogun featured in the Premier League just twice last season, before spending the second half of the campaign on loan at Middlesbrough - his first loan spell away from Arsenal.

While on Teesside, Balogun contributed three goals and three assists in 18 Championship appearances (nine starts) as Chris Wilder's team fell short of reaching the play-offs.

Reims finished 12th in Ligue 1 last season, 12 points above the relegation zone, and begin their new campaign on Sunday against Marseille.

Balogun becomes the French side's sixth signing of the transfer window, following the additions of Junya Ito, Andreaw Gravillon, Emmanuel Agbadou, Patrick Pentz and Maxime Busi.

Hugo Ekitike says he would have joined Newcastle United if he had departed Ligue 1, but that he was unable to refuse the chance of a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

The Reims striker signed a loan deal with the French champions, which includes an obligation to buy, earlier this month.

It brought to an end an unsuccessful pursuit from the Magpies, who heavily courted the forward in an attempt to persuade him to come to St James' Park as far back as the January transfer window.

Now, Ekitike has revealed he remains grateful for the efforts Newcastle made to sign him, but he could not turn down the chance to go to the premier club in his home country when it arose.

"I had an appointment with Luis [Campos, PSG sporting director] which meant a lot to me," Ekitike told Le Parisien.

"It was not so long ago. We talked a lot, he is someone I value a lot. I wanted to come to PSG before this exchange, but he convinced me even more

"I’m not setting aside everything Newcastle did for me to come. If I had to go abroad, I would have gone there. But when PSG wants you and you're French, you can't refuse."

While Newcastle have made several signings ahead of the new season, Eddie Howe's side have failed to bring on board a major forward target, potentially leaving them light ahead of the manager's first full season in charge.

Paris Saint-Germain have completed the signing of Reims attacker Hugo Ekitike on loan until the end of the 2022-23 season, with an option to buy.

Reports suggest the eventual fee, should the deal be made permanent, will see the Ligue 1 champions pay around €35million for the 20-year-old.

Newcastle United had been linked with Ekitike, with reports suggesting he had turned down a move to the Premier League side in January.

Reims coach Oscar Garcia then quelled fears the forward would leave, suggesting Ekitike wanted to stay unless Real Madrid or Barcelona made an offer.

However, PSG have now swooped in to sign the striker on an initial loan deal as new head coach Christophe Galtier attempts to build a squad capable of competing domestically and in the Champions League.

 

Ekitike emerged as one of the hottest prospects in Europe's top five leagues after a fine 2021-22 Ligue 1 campaign, in which he scored 10 goals and assisted three more.

He contributed a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average and his conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, comfortably exceeding his expected goals total of 7.0.

While PSG have acquired a young talent to support Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, Galtier's side are also reportedly interested in Sassuolo forward Gianluca Scamacca.

Hugo Ekitike may end up staying at Reims in this transfer window as he waits on a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Newcastle United have long since agreed a deal with Reims for the forward, but the transfer has not progressed further.

Reports have suggested the demands of Ekitike's agent have put off Newcastle, while the 20-year-old has continued to be linked to other clubs.

And Oscar Garcia, the Reims coach, revealed on Friday the player is in no hurry to leave.

Wantaway Reims stars are said to have a July 10 deadline to secure moves, and with purported interest from Madrid subsequently dismissed, Ekitike's short-term future could still be in Ligue 1.

Garcia told a news conference: "He told me that he wanted to stay, but if Real Madrid or Barcelona arrive...

"I feel Hugo is calm. I spoke with him. He will have no problem staying at the club – and neither will I."

 

Ekitike scored 10 goals and assisted three more in the league last season, contributing a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average.

Attempting only 31 shots, his conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, far outperforming his expected goals total of 7.0.

As well as Newcastle and Madrid, Ekitike has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

Hugo Ekitike appears to be nearing a move to Newcastle United after Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot confirmed the club had received a "very concrete" offer from an English club.

Ekitike was one of the breakout stars of the 2021-22 season across Europe's top five leagues.

The 19-year-old scored 10 goals and assisted three more in Ligue 1, contributing a goal involvement every 98 minutes on average.

Attempting only 31 shots, Ekitike's conversion rate of 32.3 per cent was the second-best among players with 20 or more attempts across Europe, far outperforming his expected goals total of 7.0.

This sensational form has attracted attention from a host of clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund both linked.

But big-spending Newcastle have long been seen as Ekitike's most likely destination, with the player even turning down a move to Tyneside in January.

Reports this week have suggested the forward is now more open to a move with a fee almost agreed; a figure in the region of £30million (€35m) has been mooted in France.

And Caillot hinted at an agreement in an interview with France Bleu, explaining a deal could only be held up by Ekitike again rejecting an unnamed club's advances.

"[The offer] is very concrete," the Reims chief said. "And on the table, there is one that suits us very well.

"[It is] an offer that, in my opinion, is interesting sportingly for the player, and it is now up to him to make his choice; it is not up to me to do it.

"From now on, it is his advisers who must make progress on this issue. And if at the time of speaking it is not done, it is because his advisors have not yet wished to move forward with this club."

 

Pressed on the identity of the club, with an apparent reference to Newcastle, Caillot added: "We remain discreet but good. It is an English club, so we understood which club we are talking about."

English reports have been less firm on the price Newcastle would pay, but Caillot said: "Let it be clear: for €20m, Hugo Ekitike will not leave."

Reims are set to receive a significant fee for a player who had not started a single Ligue 1 match just a year ago, with the president confident they will cope with his departure.

"[Reims general director] Mathieu Lacour has been telling me for years that we had a nugget in reserve," Caillot said. "Where I was surprised, like all the fans, was the speed with which he stood out.

"It's true, he was helped by the context, because in fact he was the fourth striker in the hierarchy and then injuries made him able to show all his qualities.

"It also makes me smile today, because we sometimes have the impression that it would be the end of Stade de Reims if he were to leave us, when a year ago there were 90 per cent of people who did not know him."

Lionel Messi's much-publicised move to Paris Saint-Germain has not gone as planned.

Messi's departure from Barcelona to join Kylian Mbappe and Neymar has not translated into European silverware despite lofty expectations in the French capital.

While the 34-year-old's future at PSG might be in doubt, he reportedly appears to be setting himself up for life post-football.

TOP STORY – MESSI TO BUY INTO INTER MIAMI   

Messi will acquire 35 per cent of shares in Inter Miami and the join the MLS franchise when his contract expires at PSG, according to DIRECTV.

The Argentina international made a very public and emotional departure from Barcelona last year, before signing a two-year deal at PSG.

Despite six goals and 13 assists in 25 Ligue 1 appearances this season, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has not propelled PSG to European success.

While Messi has previously confirmed his desire to play in the MLS and live in the United States, it will reportedly eventuate after his deal expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.

However, Sport has disputed the report, saying Messi's camp insist "the player has not defined his future".

ROUND-UP

– The Mirror is reporting 20-year-old Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is a target for Manchester United, with talks already believed to have taken place over his transfer.

– Juventus have offered Paul Pogba, who will be available on a free transfer when his United deal expires, a three-year-deal and a €7.5million annual salary, according to Goal.

– In further anticipated player turnover at Old Trafford, Roma coach Jose Mourinho wants to bring in 33-year-old Nemanja Matic on a free transfer, per Calciomercato.

– Manchester City are preparing a £30m move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Marc Cucurella, the Daily Mail reports.

Another Manchester United rebuild could potentially benefit Newcastle United as they seek to flex their financial muscle.

The recent takeover at Newcastle will make them active players in the transfer market, while Erik ten Hag's imminent arrival in Manchester will also likely create player turnover.

Reports suggest Ten Hag's rebuild at Old Trafford does not only have consequences for outfield players, however.


TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE TO SWOOP FOR HENDERSON  

Newcastle United's interest in Dean Henderson has ramped up, according to the Mirror.

Reports suggest Magpies boss Eddie Howe, who wanted Henderson on loan in January, sees him as the ideal replacement for Martin Dubravka.

Meanwhile, the 25-year-old goalkeeper is understood to be ready to leave unless Ten Hag can guarantee him the number one spot ahead of David de Gea.

Newcastle have now guaranteed their Premier League status but have also conceded 61 goals this season, which is more than relegation-threatened Everton and Burnley.

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror is reporting Juventus will hold fresh talks with the representatives of Manchester United and France midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Bianconeri are also interested in 24-year-old Arsenal centre-back Gabriel, according to Tuttosport.

- Newcastle are interested in Reims striker Hugo Ekitike, but Borussia Dortmund are also keen on him as a replacement for Erling Haaland, per Fabrizio Romano.

- Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is set to met with the club's president Nasser Al-Khelaifi amid speculation over his future, Marca reports.

Manchester City have become a shock suitor for disgruntled Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, with his contract set to expire at the end of this season.

Pogba, 29, has previously spoken about regretting his move to Old Trafford, and had been expected to leave the Premier League in the upcoming transfer window, being strongly linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

While the Frenchman has highlighted his desire to compete for trophies, he may not have to leave the city to get his wish, with a chance to insert himself into Manchester football folklore if he ditches the red for sky blue.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TO OFFER POGBA FOUR-YEAR DEAL WITH FREE TRANSFER

The Daily Mail is reporting City have interest in bringing in Pogba on a free transfer, while the Guardian claims the French midfielder would like to work with Pep Guardiola, and that the club are willing to offer a four-year deal.

If he makes the move, Pogba would be arguably the biggest name to ever make the switch, rivalling Carlos Tevez, but the Guardian report notes he would be taking a pay cut in doing so.

It is not known if offers coming from Spain would be more lucrative financially, but arguably no team can offer a better chance at European and domestic success than City.

In 154 Premier League appearances since his arrival in 2016, Pogba has scored 29 goals and laid on 41 assists.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Telegraph is reporting Brighton and Hove Albion manager Graham Potter is considered the favourite to replace Antonio Conte at Tottenham if he is to leave at the end of the season. Brighton are said to be seeking compensation of £10million from Spurs in the agreement.

Manchester United are interested in 19-year-old French striker Hugo Ekitike from Reims, according to the Daily Mail.

– Football London is reporting Chelsea are considering a move for Torino defender Gleison Bremer.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, Monaco will not accept less than €70m for Liverpool defender Aurelien Tchouameni.

– The Liverpool Echo is reporting Liverpool have agreed to a £7m deal for Fulham's 19-year-old Portuguese forward Marco Silva.

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