Paris Saint-Germain overcame an injury to Kylian Mbappe as goals from Fabian Ruiz, Lionel Messi and 16-year-old Warren Zaire Emery saw them beat Montpellier 3-1 in Ligue 1 at the Parc-des Princes on Wednesday.

Mbappe had already missed a penalty, and its subsequent retake for a Montpellier encroachment, before coming off in the 21st minute with a worrying-looking injury, clutching his hamstring as he went straight down the tunnel.

But after Messi and Achraf Hakimi both saw goals chalked off for offside, Fabian poked home in the 55th minute before Messi added a second to put Christophe Galtier's men in control.

Arnaud Nordin pulled one back only for Zaire Emery to come off the bench to score his first senior goal, sealing a victory that is PSG's first in three league games and puts their hopes of lifting a ninth title in 11 seasons back on track.

PSG were awarded a penalty after just seven minutes when Christopher Jullien hauled down Sergio Ramos from a free-kick into Montpellier's box.

Mbappe's initial spot-kick was saved by Benjamin Lecomte, but a Montpellier encroachment prompted a retake, only for the France international to see his second attempt tipped onto the post by Lecomte before sending the rebound over the bar.

After Mbappe and Sergio Ramos (head) were both forced off with injury, Messi thought he had put PSG in front with a clever chipped finish, though a VAR review ruled him offside to send the game into the break goalless.

Messi blasted into the side-netting following half-time before Hakimi saw a wonderful strike from distance ruled out, again for offside in the build-up.

But PSG's wait to break the deadlock ended shortly after, Hugo Ekitike nodding across for Fabian to stab home from close-range.

Messi added a second with 18 minutes to play as he coolly dinked into the bottom corner from Fabian's perfectly weighted throughball, though Nordin caused some anxiety for the visitors by finding the bottom corner in the 89th minute.

Substitute Zaire Emery ended any hopes of a Montpellier comeback though by blasting home a third in the dying seconds.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar has been ruled out of Wednesday's Ligue 1 match against Montpellier.

The 30-year-old has been in fine form for the reigning French champions this season, scoring 17 goals and assisting 14 more in 25 appearances.

Those 31 direct goal involvements put Neymar level with team-mate Kylian Mbappe and behind only Manchester City's Erling Haaland (34) among players across Europe's top five leagues.

However, the Brazil international will not play any part against Montpellier in midweek as he is suffering from muscular fatigue.

PSG announced the news on their official website on Tuesday, with no timeframe given for Neymar's return to action.

Mbappe and Lionel Messi have been included in Christophe Galtier's 21-man squad for the trip to 14th-place Montpellier, as PSG look for their first win in three league games.

After losing to Rennes and drawing with Reims in their past two matches, the Parisians' lead at the top of Ligue 1 has been cut to three points by Lens.

Christophe Galtier rubbished suggestions he must lose Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi or Neymar to balance his Paris Saint-Germain side.

The forward trio, arguably the most talented frontline in European football, have been at the forefront of the Ligue 1 giants' latest title charge this term.

But since the World Cup, where Argentina captain Messi defeated France forward Mbappe in the final, the team have won only two of five top-flight games.

Critics claim the team is too top-heavy, but ahead of Wednesday's match with Montpellier, Galtier scoffed at such ideas.

"We have three incredibly strong attacking players," he said. "Are you saying that we have to lose one of these three players to be balanced? That would be a mistake.

"[Our level] is insufficient though, in terms of points per game. We must quickly find a higher level of play, and above all score points.

"It happens in any season, that there is a bad period. We have a busy month ahead of us. January was not good, but now we are all working to remedy it."

Galtier further acknowledged star men Mbappe and Messi underperformed in the 1-1 draw with Reims, but he stressed the blame lies with the collective rather than the duo.

"Kylian and Leo didn't achieve what they usually achieve on an attacking level, but it is not a question of their state of mind," he added.

"With our organisation and our balance, we must find something else. We are working on it. Whatever the system, everyone has to give more on the pitch."

Borussia Monchengladbach have moved fast to bring in a replacement for Yann Sommer after confirming the signing of Jonas Omlin from Montpellier.

Sommer's eight-and-a-half-year stint with Gladbach came to an end on Thursday when joining Bayern Munich for a fee reported to be in the region of €8million.

Gladbach have turned to fellow Switzerland international Omlin, who made 74 appearances for Montpellier after joining from Basel in August 2020.

The 29-year-old, who earned the most recent of his four Swiss caps last June, has signed a deal at Borussia-Park that runs through until July 2025.

"We believe we have found a very good solution by signing Jonas Omlin," Gladbach sporting director Roland Virkus told the club's official website upon confirmation of the transfer. 

"He is a very reliable goalkeeper who exudes confidence, is strong on his line and is good with the ball at his feet."

Omlin appeared in 14 of Montpellier's 19 games this season, keeping three clean sheets.

Manchester City are reportedly prepared to offer Jack Grealish as well as a hefty transfer fee to Milan for in-demand forward Rafael Leao.

Leao, 23, has scored six goals with five assists in his 14 Serie A fixtures this campaign, following a 2021-22 season where he contributed 11 goals and 10 assists in 34 league appearances.

Meanwhile, 27-year-old Grealish has been trending in the opposite direction, with the most expensive Englishman in football history only playing a complete 90 minutes in two of his 10 Premier League outings this season.

Chelsea have reportedly already seen a £62million (€70m) bid for Leao brushed off by Milan, who have apparently said they will wait for someone to meet his £133m (€150m) release clause, though a new report suggests City could be ready to make their move for the Portugal international.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PREPARED TO OFFER GREALISH IN BID FOR LEAO

While it remains to be seen exactly what price Milan would be happy to part ways with for their young star, City reportedly feel they have an ace up their sleeve in negotiations due to their willingness to send over a replacement player as part of their offer.

According to Calciomercato, City are willing to offer a package of Grealish plus cash to Milan for Leao, and the same outlet reported on December 6 that Milan had interest in Grealish in the event of Leao's departure.

Further reporting from Football Insider has stated City are looking to recoup £60m of their £100m initially spent on Grealish for a potential pursuit of Jude Bellingham.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to L'Equipe, Napoli are the leading candidates to land 22-year-old Angers midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, while the Express adds Leicester City will also mount a charge for the Morocco standout if Youri Tielemans leaves in January.

– Media Foot is reporting Everton are in discussions with Montpellier about a potential £22m (€25m) move for 20-year-old striker Elye Wahi, who has represented France at the under-19 level.

Manchester United are one of the clubs keeping a close eye on 25-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram after reports the French international will be available for just £10.6m (€12m) in January as he enters the final six months of his contract, per the Daily Mail. 

– Sport Arena is reporting Arsenal have agreed to a five-year contract with 21-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk

– According to Fichajes, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has had a change of heart and would now like to join Man Utd at the end of the season.

Luke Cowan-Dickie will end his England career after the Rugby World Cup next year by joining Top 14 heavyweights Montpellier.

The hooker, who has won 42 England caps and three for the British and Irish Lions, will end his 12-year spell with Exeter Chiefs to move to France at the end of the season.

Cowan-Dickie follows his Exeter team-mate Sam Simmonds in making the switch from Sandy Park to Montpellier.

"It's gutting to be leaving," said the 29-year-old, who has made 163 appearances for the Chiefs.

"I've been at the Chiefs for 12 years and it's all I've known. That said, this opportunity came up and it was one that I had to think long and hard about. I spoke a lot with my family about it and it wasn't an easy decision to make in the end.

"Obviously, it's a different competition, a different language – which I'll have to learn – but I think it's time for a change.

"Hopefully, I've still got plenty of years left in my career, but this is an opportunity for me to go over there and show what I am all about."

Fellow England international Joe Marchant has also joined the exodus of Premiership players to France, the centre opting to join Stade Francais next season from Harlequins.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier was thankful for no more penalty drama after Neymar equalised from the spot in the 1-1 draw with Monaco.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe clashed in the 5-2 win over Montpellier on August 13 after the France international tried to take the ball off Neymar for a penalty, having already missed a spot-kick earlier in the game.

The two reportedly resolved the issue after the match, but there was potential for the situation to flare up again as PSG won another spot-kick when 1-0 down at home to Monaco on Sunday.

Neymar won it after being fouled by Guillermo Maripan, and picked himself up off the floor to fire home from 12 yards to level things up, before celebrating with Mbappe.

And Galtier was glad there was no more disagreement over penalty duties, telling Prime Video: "On this match, Kylian Mbappe was the number 1 penalty taker and Neymar was number 2.

"After talking with Kylian, I saw that he had been happy to congratulate Ney[mar]. This is how it should be.

"They are great players, it's up to them to feel it. The important thing is that he scored and that Kylian came to congratulate."

Ligue 1 referees have given out 11 red cards this weekend, the most in a single matchday in 30 years.

There were four dismissals in the game between Montpellier and Auxerre, while Nice also had two players given early baths as they fell to defeat at Clermont.

In total, six matches this weekend have had at least one red card awarded, with one game left to play between Lille and PSG on Sunday.

In comparison, there has only been one red card in both the Premier League and Bundesliga so far this weekend.

Neymar scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain made it consecutive wins to start the Ligue 1 season with an emphatic 5-2 victory over Montpellier at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

The champions started their title defence with a 5-0 win against Clermont last weekend in Christophe Galtier's first league game in charge, and they followed that up with a ninth success in their past 10 league games against Montpellier, despite a penalty miss from Kylian Mbappe midway through the first half.

The France international made amends soon after when his cross was turned into his own net by Falaye Sacko, before Neymar doubled the hosts' advantage from a second penalty of the game.

Neymar and Mbappe scored either side of Wahbi Khazri's goal for the visitors, while there were late efforts from debutant Renato Sanches and Montpellier's Enzo Tchato Mbiayi. 

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.

Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi put poor Montpellier to the sword in a 4-0 Paris Saint-Germain win, their first since being confirmed as Ligue 1 champions.

Champions League failure this season had dampened PSG's title celebrations even before three consecutive draws – the first of which secured top spot against Lens.

Mauricio Pochettino's men lost the lead in all three matches, but there was never any danger of a repeat on Saturday.

Mbappe, whose future is perhaps of more interest than PSG's results right now, was typically influential, scoring the fourth after having a hand in two goals for Messi and one for Angel Di Maria.

That front three quickly had Montpellier on the back foot, with just six minutes played when Mbappe's square pass was dummied by Di Maria for Messi to aim a left-footed finish into the bottom-right corner.

Dimitry Bertaud had saved well from Messi moments before that goal and soon would again from Mbappe, but he was helpless in the face of an onslaught.

Mbappe's sublime outside-of-the-boot pass set Messi away to round the goalkeeper and score the second, before the pair attempted to link up a third time and Di Maria netted instead – his volley deflected beyond Bertaud after Mbappe's cross was headed only half-clear.

Mbappe hit the post from a Messi pass before the half-time whistle, which scarcely disrupted PSG's rhythm.

A rare loose Mbappe touch only invited a clumsy challenge from Arnaud Souquet, allowing the forward to coolly convert from the penalty spot.

Mbappe was just offside before he laid on another goal for Di Maria, which was ruled out, and PSG finally slowed to Montpellier's relief, settling for four.
 

What does it mean? Rare late-season success for champions

PSG's form had fallen off a cliff since the Ligue 1 title was sealed, but that is nothing new for this team.

In fact, the capital club headed into this match having won just two of their past 11 games played when they had been confirmed as champions. Their most recent such victory had come against Dijon at the end of a successful 2018-19 season.

There are worse times to lose form, of course, but this long-awaited win should now at least briefly lift the mood at PSG – and perhaps show Mbappe how fun it could be to stick around alongside Messi.

Partnership finally prospers

Although Neymar was missing through suspension, the other two members of PSG's star-studded front three finally showed off the sort of attacking combination play that was expected all along.

Mbappe has certainly not disappointed this season, having now posted a career-high 57 goal involvements, but this was a rare example of Messi matching his team-mate's exploits.

Three of the four chances Messi created were for Mbappe, who in turn teed up four attempts and two goals for the former Barcelona man.

Now the nervous wait...

It was put to Pochettino on Friday that Mbappe might provide an update on his future on Sunday, at the UNFP Trophies ceremony where in 2019 he announced a desire to "have more responsibility", prompting discussion he was unhappy at PSG.

There is no doubt Mbappe is the main man in Paris now, stealing the show even in a game in which Messi scored twice, but will that be enough to keep him at the club?

What's next?

Beyond that awards ceremony, where Pochettino insists he is not expecting any news, PSG have one game remaining at home to Metz next Saturday. Montpellier visit Angers.

Mauricio Pochettino is not concerned Paris Saint-Germain might get left behind in the upcoming transfer window.

Manchester City have made the first huge move in securing an agreement for Erling Haaland, while Borussia Dortmund have replaced their outgoing superstar with Karim Adeyemi – one of three impressive new signings.

Meanwhile, PSG still do not appear to know if Kylian Mbappe will leave the club this year, and uncertainty surrounds Pochettino's position, too.

But the PSG coach is confident the Ligue 1 champions are sticking to their usual process, which last year delivered a widely lauded window in which Lionel Messi arrived, among others.

"Every club works in its own way," Pochettino said in a news conference ahead of Saturday's game against Montpellier that was dominated by transfer talk.

"Paris Saint-Germain has its strategy and must follow it.

"I don't think anyone is ahead or behind; you just have to know where you're going. We must not compare PSG with other clubs.

"The end of the season is coming and the club is already working for next season."

Indeed, Pochettino insists PSG are in a good place, adding: "The work is done during the season. We discover players, we see the profiles, we see the possibilities of incomings that can improve the team.

"There is then a period when departures and arrivals happen, but it's a job that is done in parallel with the league. Most of the work is done during the season."

That could potentially be altered by an unexpected announcement from long-time Real Madrid target Mbappe, who has previously discussed his career options at the UNFP Trophies ceremony.

This year's gala is on Sunday, but Pochettino does not foresee news on the forward's future.

"It's a question for Kylian, but I hope not, because we will be in Qatar," he said with a smile. "And in any case, if there is a communication, we hope that it will be positive for the club.

"But I don't think so – and that's a question for him."

Barcelona are reportedly open to "big-money" offers for Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong, who has 40 caps for the Netherlands, arrived at Barcelona from Ajax for a €75million fee in 2019, accumulating 137 appearances for the club in all competitions.

The midfielder has been a key pillar in Barcelona's line-up this season, appearing 44 times, but the Catalan giants may be ready to move on as the interest from United intensifies.

TOP STORY – BARCA ARE CONSIDERING OFFERS FOR DE JONG

The Blaugrana are open-minded about potentially parting ways with De Jong, who is being closely linked with his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag for his new venture at United.

He is one of the main players on the Red Devils' wish-list, which Fichajes reports also includes Southampton's James Ward-Prowse, Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

The Telegraph adds that Ten Hag has identified eight players "he can trust" at the club, while being on the fence about Marcus Rashford's future.

ROUND-UP

– L'Equipe is reporting RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku would like to leave the club after this season, with a desire to head to Manchester City, United, Paris Saint-Germain or Milan

Newcastle United have met with the agent of Watford's Ismaila Sarr but will have to match the club's £40million asking price, per FootballTransfers.

Bayer Leverkusen are planning a move for PSG youngster Eric-Junior Dina Ebimbe after failing to secure the deal during the January transfer window, according to RMC Sport.

– Sport is reporting Samuel Umtiti will leave Barcelona in the next transfer window and wants to return to Lyon, who will be competing for his services with Rennes, Montpellier and Nice

– Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is unlikely to sign an extension with the club and could be sold in the next transfer window with his contract set to expire in 2023, according to The Times.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted he is not concerned by the lack of goals from his forwards after the Ligue 1 leaders beat Montpellier 2-0 on Saturday.

PSG preserved their perfect start to the season, Pochettino's men making it eight wins from eight league matches thanks to goals from Idrissa Gueye and Julian Draxler.

In the continued absence of superstar Lionel Messi (knee), Kylian Mbappe and Neymar wasted chances as midfielder Gueye and winger Draxler stepped up at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe has failed to net his last 13 shots in Ligue 1, his longest drought from shots in the top flight since August-September 2019 (16 shots).

"We created a lot of opportunities today, but they didn't score them. We leave that aside," Pochettino told reporters. "The quality we have in our team and especially with our attacking players, it's only a matter of time before they score.

"I have no doubt that they will score a lot of goals this season. Tonight, we didn't score more than two goals, that is true."

Pochettino added: "It's always important that our midfielders bring goals to the team. When our attackers are not as effective, they can deliver which is a huge bonus.

"That doesn't surprise me. But yes, it's important that the midfielders have this ability to get into the opponent's box and score."

Gueye smashed in the opener in the 14th minute in the French capital, where Draxler came off the bench and added a late second to send PSG 10 points clear atop the table.

PSG have won six consecutive Ligue 1 games against Montpellier – their longest streak against this side in the top flight. They have even won each of these games by a margin of at least two goals, only doing more in a row against a same opponent twice before against St Etienne between 1983 and 1990 (seven) and Bastia between 1984 and 2000 (nine).

French powerhouse PSG have won each of their first eight games in Ligue 1 this season. This is only the third time that it happened in the league's entire history after PSG in 2018-19 and Lille in 1936-37.

"I think the evolution is important in all aspects. I am satisfied in general. But it is normal that with more time we will improve in all areas of the game. We are satisfied that on a collective level we are showing more defensive solid," Pochettino said.

"As far as the principles of the game where possession is concerned, we are still building. But we can see improvements in many aspects. I am happy. It takes time for the players to be on the pitch and for the connections and relationships to develop. This will help us in the future."

Idrissa Gueye and Julian Draxler scored the goals to secure a comfortable 2-0 win for Paris Saint-Germain against Montpellier in their Ligue 1 clash on Saturday. 

Gueye smashed in the opener inside the opening 15 minutes at the Parc des Princes as Mauricio Pochettino's side prospered despite the continued absence of Lionel Messi, who was missing for a second consecutive game. 

The final margin perhaps flattered Montpellier, who appeared to lack attacking intent despite netting 15 times in their first seven league games, while the hosts carelessly wasted chances through Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. 

However, substitute Draxler added a late second as PSG moved 10 points clear at the summit, albeit Marseille do have two games in hand as they aim to make up early ground on the leaders. 

Gueye spurned the first chance of the contest as he sliced wide from Abdou Diallo's cut-back pass, before Neymar chipped narrowly over and Mbappe was denied by Jonas Omlin's legs in a frantic opening five minutes. 

However, the hosts managed to break the deadlock through Gueye, who arrowed a left-footed thunderbolt from the edge of the area into the roof of the net from Angel Di Maria's offload. 

Teji Savanier's free-kick almost drew Montpellier level immediately, Keylor Navas parried the attempt away, before Ander Herrera's left-footed volley was denied by the crossbar moments before the break. 

Omlin had to react quickly after the interval to push away following Mbappe's deflected pass off Nicolas Cozza, with Navas then stopping Stephy Mavididi's low curler at the other end.

Mbappe should have added two goals within as many minutes, though his hesitation derailed the first chance before rounding the goalkeeper with his second and yet somehow slicing wide. 

PSG continued to struggle to kill the game off, Neymar uncharacteristically poking wide from close range, but Draxler managed to slide through the legs of Omlin to finally secure victory in the 88th minute. 

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