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Saudi All-Star XI vs PSG: Are Messi, Mbappe and Neymar playing?

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Footballing behemoths will collide on Thursday when visiting French giants Paris Saint-Germain take on the All-Stars XI from the Saudi Pro League.

The World Cup has just taken place in Qatar but stars like Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have jetted off again to the Middle East for a mid-season tour.

There’s also former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who will captain the Saudi side against the Paris outfit. But who will be playing?

When is the game?

The friendly will take place on Thursday 19 January at the King Fahd Stadium. It will be hosted in the Saudi city of Riyadh.

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  • Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Stadium: King Fahd Stadium
  • Date: Thursday 19 January
  • Kick-off Time: 18:00 WAT / 17:00 GMT / 12:00 ET / 09:00 PT

Why are they playing?

PSG will face the All-Star XI – a mix of players from Saudi sides Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal – on Thursday. PSG are currently touring the Middle East and have strong ties to the region through their owners.

A statement from PSG in early January read: “Paris Saint-Germain will travel to Doha and Riyadh on the 18th and 19th of January. This tour will be an opportunity for the Parisians to meet their Qatari and MENA supporters, train in the iconic Khalifa Stadium and take part in a series of activations organized with the Club’s partners present in Qatar, such as Qatar Airways, ALL, Qatar Tourism, QNB, Ooredoo and Aspetar.

“The team will fly out on January 17th to Doha then travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to play against an all-star XI from Saudi top clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. The match will be held at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on January 19th. The team will fly back after the game to Paris.

“This trip to Qatar, following the successful organization of the 2022 FIFA World Cup – is a new opportunity to shine the spotlight on the innovative features of the country’s sports facilities.”

Are Messi, Mbappe and Neymar playing?

With a Ligue 1 title charge and success in Europe on the line, PSG will be praying they come through this mid-season tour without any major injuries.

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Star players Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are in the French side’s travelling squad and all took part in training on Wednesday before the game.

Head coach Christophe Galtier is unlikely to put his star players through too much hard work with so much football still to play in the season, but Messi, Mbappe and Neymar should all get plenty of minutes.

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PSG’s schedule has also been altered to ensure they don’t play another competitive game for another ten days, which will help Galtier with fatigue.

However, Nordi Mukiele has a hamstring injury and won’t feature, while midfielder Marco Verratti is expected back in training next week. Lucas Lavallee, who also has a hamstring issue, is the third PSG player who won’t participate in the tour.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo playing?

This may be the final time Cristiano Ronaldo plays against elite level opposition like Messi, Mbappe and Neymar.

It’s been confirmed the former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward will captain his combined side in what is his first on-pitch appearance since joining Al Nassr. He has had to wait for his league debut due to a ban he received while at Old Trafford being enforced worldwide.

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Ronaldo will be desperate to make a telling impact as he dances with old foe Messi for potentially the final time.

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EPL

RB Leipzig End Liverpool’s Hopes of Early Naby Keita Move

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Naby Keita will not be allowed to ditch Leipzig for ​Liverpool in January, regardless of progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League, according to Leipziger Volkszeitung.

It was announced during the summer that Liverpool had met Keita’s release clause and the Guinean midfielder would move to Anfield at the end of the 2017/18 season. 

However, recent speculation suggested that die Roten Bullen could be persuaded into letting Keita leave the club during the winter transfer window.

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“Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier,” said RB Leipzig sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.

“We want to qualify for Europe again, and we need Naby for that.”

Leipzig have won just one Champions League game this season, with defeats to FC Porto and Besiktas making progression to the knockout stages a difficult task this year.

Following their impressive maiden season in the Bundesliga, in which RB Leipzig finished ahead of Borussia Dortmund, the Red Bulls will be desperate to make sure their Champions League status continues next season.

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The 22-year-old has struggled to replicate the incredible form he showed last year since the announcement of his move next summer. 

Questions about Keita’s disciplinary record have also arisen this season, the midfielder seeing three red cards for club and country in less than one month.



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EPL

Man Utd’s fixture list up to Carabao Cup final including Barcelona & Leeds clashes

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Manchester United reached their first final under Erik ten Hag by securing safe passage through the Carabao Cup semi finals at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a brilliant run of form after their infamous defeats to Brighton and Brentford to start the season. They’re firmly in the Champions League qualification mix and remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, their commitments in cup competitions means Ten Hag faces a tough February as he tries to balance the playing time of a squad that has recently been struck by injuries to key players.

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Here’s United’s truncated schedule leading up to the Carabao Cup final, including some juicy derbies and European fixtures.

Michael Olise, David De Gea

Olise denied Man Utd with a late free kick last time out / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Fresh from sealing their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle, United are back into Premier League matters when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday 4 February in a 15:00 GMT kick off.

The two sides duked it out earlier a few weeks ago in their first meeting of the season as a late Michael Olise free-kick earned Palace a point after Bruno Fernandes’ strike just before half time.

Manchester United and Leeds are fierce rivals and the tension between the two teams has risen again following Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.

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The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in the four meetings in that time, only failing to win once when they were held to a goalless draw in April 2021. The fixture was originally postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September and will take place on Wednesday 8 February at 20:00 GMT.

Fred, Anthony Elanga

Fred and Elanga struck at Elland Road last season / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

That fixture rearrangement means the two Uniteds will face each other twice in four days.

In this fixture last season, two headless chickens went at it as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds were downed 4-2 by Ralf Rangnick’s Man Utd. Goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from Rodrigo and Raphinha squared things up.

Substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga gave the Red Devils all three points. However, they would win only three more league games before the end of the season.

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The stakes are really upped in mid February when Man Utd travel to Barcelona to face the Catalan giants at Camp Nou in the Europa League knockout play-off round.

It’s Barça who hold the edge in recent meetings, having won the past four games between the two sides.

Once they return home from the trip to Catalonia, United have a home game against Leicester to contend with.

The Foxes have endured some turbulent form this season but have mostly been a mess at the back, though the sides were only separated by Jadon Sancho’s strike they met back in September.

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Lionel Messi

A lot has changed since United and Barça last met in 2019 / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The return leg of the Europa League knockout play-off round will determine who between United and Barça continue in the continent’s secondary club competition.

United’s last win over Barça came at Old Trafford in 2008 when Paul Scholes scored the only goal of a Champions League semi final tie to send his side to final in Moscow.

Two of the most improved sides this season meet in the Carabao Cup final in late February when Newcastle face Man Utd.

Both sides are eyeing up Champions League qualification and each sit in the top four currently and this meeting could be an opportunity to land a significant psychological blow.

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Player ratings as Catalans pull clear in La Liga

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Barcelona survived a late scare against Real Betis to secure a 2-1 win and at least temporarily extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points before Real Madrid play on Thursday night.

Barça went into the game at Benito Villamarin knowing they had the opportunity to start pulling away from their fierce rivals in Madrid. But it took until well into the second half for the breakthrough to come, with Raphinha and later Robert Lewandowski eventually netting.

An own goal from Joules Kounde in the closing stages threatened to make it a difficult end for Xavi’s team, but they managed to see it out. Betis midfielder William Carvalho, who had already been substituted with an hour played, was then sent off for dissent at the game’s conclusion.

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Betis were actually the first to threaten in the contest, seeing Luiz Henrique only narrowly miss an early chance when his shot was deflected just wide by Alejandro Balde.

Pedri had a chance for Barça at the other end not long after, but his touch in the penalty area wasn’t sharp enough and Rui Silva in the home goal got down to pick the ball off his toe.

Silva again denied Pedri after the restart, but Raphinha broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. The Brazilian, whose debut season hasn’t been a rip-roaring success, tapped in from close range after excellent work from Balde down the left flank.

Lewandowski’s ultimately decisive second was from only a little further out, pounced on by the Pole after Ronald Araujo flicked on Raphinha’s cross.

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That cushion was enough for Barça and ensured that Kounde’s own goal mattered little in the end.

GK: Silva (6); RB: Ruibal (7), CB: Pezzella (6), CB: Felipe (6), LB: Abner (6); CM: Rodriguez (6), CM: Carvalho (5); RM: Henrique (7), AM: Fekir (6), LM: Canales (6); ST: Iglesias (6)

Subs: Guardado (6), Juanmi (6), Rodri (6), Jose (5), Sabaly (6)

GK: Ter Stegen (6); RB: Kounde (6), CB: Araujo (7), CB: Chistensen (7), LB: Balde (8); CM: De Jong (7), CM: Busquets (8), CM: Pedri (7); RW: Raphinha (8), ST: Lewandowski (7), LW: Gavi (7)

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Subs: Fati (5), Torres (N/A), Kessie (N/A)

Player of the match – Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)



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