regular-article-logo Saturday, 23 September 2023

Champions League: Paris St Germain sweat to plug gap

Messi had missed weekend’s Ligue 1 draw against Stade de Reims in which table toppers PSG failed to score in the league for the first time this season

Reuters Paris Published 11.10.22, 03:59 AM
Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi. File picture

Paris St Germain forward Lionel Messi will not be involved against Benfica on Tuesday after failing to recover from a calf injury in time for the Champions League group stage game, the French club said on Monday.

Messi had missed the weekend’s Ligue 1 draw against Stade de Reims in which table toppers PSG failed to score in the league for the first time this season.


The 35-year-old had asked to be withdrawn in the reverse fixture at Benfica last week due to the calf problem, but PSG boss Christophe Galtier said he expected him to return for the weekend clash against third-placed Olympique de Marseille.

“We know the importance of Leo in our game, his form and the connection he can have with other players,” Galtier told reporters on Monday.

“We can’t be happy about his absence. But we will have to find other connections to bring danger to the Benfica defence. We must have other options. We need to be able to play down both sides. When Messi plays, we play a lot down the middle. We’ve been working hard on distribution to bring more variety in our attack.”

Mbappe had taken a dig at Galtier in a deleted Instagram post after Saturday’s 0-0 draw, suggesting he did not like playing up front as a lone striker and Galtier said h e h a d spoken to the frustrated French forward.

“Kylian is already at 11 goals and given his quality, I know he will score many more. He was not supposed to play in Reims, he was ill. But Messi was absent and Neymar was having muscle problems with so many games back-to back,” Galtier said.

“So if Neymar and Messi were available, Kylian wouldn’t have played. He was ill and tired. The game didn’t go very well for us... hence, his reaction.

“These are discussions that we often have with Kylian. I exchange a lot with him to try to reassure him... We are very sensitive to his remarks and his thoughts because he’s a very important player.”

Presnel Kimpembe, Nuno Mendes and Renato Sanches will also miss Tuesday’s game with injuries.

PSG are top of Group H at the halfway stage with seven points, the same as Benfica.

Allegri appeal

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri said on Monday that his side are still a work in progress but his players must not use that as an excuse for their recent struggles as they prepare to face Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League.

Juve snapped a five-match winless streak against Bologna in Serie A earlier this month and followed that up with victory against Maccabi at home last week, before being brought down to earth with a 0-2 defeat by AC Milan on Saturday.

Allegri’s team have picked up one win from their opening three games in Group H and must beat Maccabi on Tuesday to stay in contention for a place in the Champions League last 16.

“I believe there is a growth path. Experience is gained by playing important games,” Allegri told reporters.

“However, we must not use it as an alibi because we have to give everything on the pitch. Indeed, we must do much more to start a new cycle.”

Juve emerged as comfortable 3-1 winners against the Israeli side last time but Allegri added they would need to raise their game to get a similar result away from home.

“Tomorrow we have to play a compact game. We need to minimise errors. The match against Milan was similar to the one against Benfica,” said Allegri, whose team trail group leaders Paris St Germain by four points.

“At this moment we need to give something more. That centimetre, that extra attention to detail, can make the difference.”

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