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September 28, 2021

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Pep hopes to see Messi in UCL

Lionel Messi’s sensational transfer to Paris Saint-Germain was a surprise for everyone, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said, adding that he hopes the Argentine plays in today’s UEFA Champions League group game between the two sides.

Messi joined PSG in August when he left Barcelona after the Spanish club — where he had spent his entire career — was unable to finance a new deal for the forward.

The 34-year-old suffered a knock on his left knee last week and is a doubt for the clash against the team led by his former Barcelona coach Guardiola.

“It was a surprise for everyone — what happened, happened. Everyone now accepts it,” Guardiola told reporters yesterday when asked about Messi leaving Barcelona.

“Long time ago you couldn’t imagine (it), but it happened. Life itself, you never know what happens. What’s important is that he’ll be happy there in Paris.

“I think this type of player speaks for itself on the pitch, I don’t have to add anything else. We were fortunate to see him during this 16 years... His career is exceptional. Hopefully tomorrow he can play for the benefit of the game.”

PSG’s potent frontline of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe poses a major threat to City’s defense.

“I don’t know, (with) this amount of quality, I don’t know how to stop them, they are so good,” Guardiola added.

“You have to defend well without the ball and let them run when we have the ball. They are exceptional players, everyone knows it, all of them so good. Individually and they combine so good.

“The three players up front can do whatever they want. Wide narrow, wide left, Messi can play right or middle, Mbappe wide or middle... They combine so well, the talent cannot be stopped.”

Riyad Mahrez scored against PSG in both legs of last season’s semifinal victories but the Algerian winger said there was no guarantee City would win again, predicting a “tight game.”

“I scored but the way we played was the most important, personality and character,” Mahrez said.

“We have to play like we played (in the weekend’s 1-0 win) at Chelsea, every game, especially away. We have to play with personality, impose your game everywhere you go — that’s why you’re most likely to perform good.”

Meanwhile, PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said he expects Messi to play today after taking part in a training session.

The Argentine forward missed two Ligue 1 games with the bruised knee but did not appear to be struggling with the injury yesterday morning.

“We will confirm the starting 11 tomorrow,” Pochettino told a news conference when asked about Messi ahead of the Group A clash at the Parc des Princes.

“But I think he will be in the squad tomorrow (today).”

Pochettino added that Messi would need time to adjust in Paris. “He did 20 years in Barcelona, it’s normal he felt at home there and here, everything is new for him. He did not arrive a long time ago,” the Argentine said.

Pochettino also confirmed that Marco Verratti would probably be involved after the Italy midfielder missed four games with a knee injury.

“He trained well the last few days and we think he will be able to be in the squad. We haven’t decided on the starting 11 but he could be in it,” he said.

PSG was knocked out in the semifinals last season by City, a club that is “ahead” of the capital side, Pochettino conceded. “It’s a fact, not an opinion, that we are a team in construction. City have been under the best coach in the world in my opinion with Pep Guardiola,” he said.

“It’s a matter of time but also, let’s face it, of investment.”

In that department, PSG has nothing to envy City for after spending well over a billion euros on transfers since Qatar Sport Investment took over in 2011.

On the field, it needs to be more efficient, midfielder Ander Herrera said.

“We work everyday to get better, we need to be more efficient than last season,” the Spaniard, who has been in good form this season, told a news conference.

“Against a team like them, we have to go for the kill when we have chances.”

PSG has one point after its 1-1 draw at Club Brugge, two behind City which hammered RB Leipzig 6-3 in the opening round of matches.


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