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Will Messi, Mbappe & Neymar play in PSG’s next Ligue 1 game?

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The 2022 Qatar World Cup saw some of the biggest stars in world football come up against each other and go home in very different moods. It just so happens that three of the biggest stars all play in attack for Paris Saint-Germain; Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Lionel Messi.

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Two of those three stars made it all the way to the final, whilst Neymar saw his Brazil side get eliminated in the quarter-final by Croatia on penalties. For Mbappe, it was a defeat in the final against Messi’s Argentina that meant France could not win back-to-back World Cups.

PSG fans are now left understandably wondering who will be available for their first competitive match back following the break.

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The Ligue 1 champions get their title defence back underway on Wednesday, December 28. They welcome Strasbourg to the Parc des Princes, a game that the fans will expect to see their side win easily.

Strasbourg currently sit 19th in Ligue 1 and are in serious danger of being relegated to Ligue 2 at the end of the season. They are without a win in their last five before the break and will set up to frustrate PSG.

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Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe still won the Golden Boot in Qatar / Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Having been knocked out of the World Cup just 12 days ago, Neymar has already returned to PSG training and for that reason, it is hard to imagine that he won’t have a role to play on December 28 as long as he does not pick up an injury between now and then.

He will be a man on a mission considering Brazil were the bookies’ favourites to win the World Cup when the tournament began.

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As for Mbappe, his World Cup only ended on December 18, even though he scored a hat-trick in the final. Just three days later though, he surprisingly arrived at PSG’s Camp des Loges facility on December 21 and has chosen not to take the holiday that the club granted to those participating in the World Cup.

For that reason, it is hard to see why the clearly determined 23-year-old won’t be involved in the match against Strasbourg along with Neymar.

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Neymar, Dani Alves

Neymar was left distraught after Brazil’s shock exit / Zhizhao Wu/GettyImages

Messi’s case could be slightly different to his teammates. Having won the tournament and achieved what must be the crowning moment in his career, the Argentine is understandably less likely to give up his well-earned break. Age is also a relevant factor as to why some time off could help Messi later in the season.

It is expected that he will be back in Paris at the start of January. Given there is one game in December and then PSG face Lens on New Year’s Day, he seems set to miss at least two matches whilst he celebrates the World Cup win.

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His return to PSG will also coincide with the resumption of contract extension talks, as the former Barcelona man’s current deal expires at the end of the 2022/23 season.



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EPL

Fabio Paratici opens up on Antonio Conte’s Tottenham exit & provides update on manager search

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Tottenham Hotspur managing director of football Fabio Paratici has discussed the decision to part ways with head coach Antonio Conte.

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Spurs reached a mutual agreement for Conte to depart the club on Sunday night following a disappointing run of results.

Conte oversaw exits in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and UEFA Champions League this season despite high hopes of ending the club’s 15-year trophy drought.

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In his personal life, Conte lost three close friends – Spurs fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone, former Italy colleague Gianluca Vialli and Serie A legend Sinisa Mihajlovic – while he had to undergo emergency surgery on his gallbladder at the start of February.

Speaking to Tottenham club channels, Paratici leaned on these reasons as to why Conte’s reign ended so sourly.

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“About Antonio, we know how difficult this season was for him personally. Gian Piero died, Vialli and Mihajlovic [died], the surgery, the club supported him a lot about this and everyone was close with each other. But we arrived to this mutual agreement, and I think the decision we made was the right decision to everyone,” Paratici said.

Paratici went on to talk about interim manager Cristian Stellini – Conte’s former assistant who took charge of Tottenham in his absence this year – as well as speculation over a permanent successor.

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“So Cristian managed the team even when Antonio was sick this season and was good. He has a lot of experience as a second and even first coach in the past. We have Ryan Mason who can help him a lot because he’s been part of this club for a long time, he knows everything about this club and this kind of group of players. So I think we are really, really confident that these two persons can do a very good job,” Paratici continued.

“The players doesn’t have to change a bit, the style of training. So change everything when you have just 10 games to go I think would be really difficult to the players.

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“I would like to see, not just this season but even last season, when we came here we speak about ‘rebuild’ a bit. We started to play Conference League, starting not so good. Then at the end of the season we achieved a big result to get Champions League.

“Then this season, we played Champions League, we passed the group, it was a good achievement for us. And then we get out against Milan.

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“I think about growing up, the team and the club. The pathway for the club was good about results in that way. And then of course we are disappointed because we can be better in the FA [Cup] against Sheffield [United]. Every time you lose one game, you regret it.

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“Of course we are focused and looking forward about being better arriving at the end of the season and the next season better again.

“The Premier League always is tough, so we have a lot of teams and clubs [who are] really, really prepared…but we fight, we like that. So we will fight to achieve our target, we are prepared to fight until the end of the season. We have to be focused on the last part of the season.

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“We don’t speak about other coaches or follow the speculation in the media because this is just speculation. We are focused and now concentrating on helping Cristian and the staff, the players.

“I think today we have to be focused on our squad and our manager because it’s an important moment.”

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Paratici is one of 12 former Juventus officials who were due in court this week regarding the club’s financial mismanagement, though a date for the hearing has now been pushed back until May.

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On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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EPL

Bruno Fernandes disagrees with Cristiano Ronaldo’s assessment of Roberto Martinez

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Bruno Fernandes has revealed he does not agree with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo regarding the impact of new Portugal head coach Roberto Martinez.

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The former Everton and Belgium boss was named as the surprise successor to Fernando Santos following the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While Martinez has been known to coach attacking and entertaining football, his teams are often characterised by their haphazard and sloppy defending – almost the inverse to how Portugal played under Santos.

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Ronaldo, who scored four goals in two games for Portugal this month, was quick to tell reporters of the positive impact Martinez has had on the team.

“It’s a new chapter for everyone, for the players, the staff and the country. We feel good energy. It’s a breath of fresh air,” the Al Nassr forward said.

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But when speaking to Portuguese channel RTP3, Fernandes simmered Ronaldo’s excited judgement.

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When asked if he agreed with Ronaldo’s comments, Fernandes replied: “No, it’s just a new coach with new ideas. There is no breath of fresh air at all. It’s just a transition period.

“The atmosphere in the national team has always been good. There’s never been anything that wasn’t fresh of the air, so I think it’s just new dynamics, new coach, and you have to assimilate his ideas.”

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Portugal have made a perfect start under Martinez’s management, securing a 4-0 win at home to Liechtenstein before beating Luxembourg 6-0 on the road.

Fernandes and Ronaldo’s recent careers have been intertwined due to their prominence with the Portugal national team and their 15-month spell together at Manchester United.

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Upon Fernandes’ arrival in England, the Old Trafford faithful devised a chant which referenced his arrival ‘from Sporting like Cristiano’.

The duo didn’t quite hit their best heights in tandem while at United, and Ronaldo’s bitter exit in November 2022 was followed by the two appearing to be on frosty terms ahead of the World Cup.

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But Ronaldo dismissed this suggestion at the time, telling the press: “My relationship with him is excellent.”

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On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott SaundersGraeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss Julian Nagelsmann’s future and links to the vacant Tottenham head coach role, Barcelona’s ambition to bring Lionel Messi ‘home’, Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson, Florian Wirtz, Kalvin Phillips and more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Football

Barcelona appeal to RFEF to claim 1937 league title

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Barcelona are expected to appeal to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in an attempt to be awarded the 1937 league title.

The RFEF was suspended between 1936 and 1939 due to the Spanish Civil War but, in the meantime, and handful of cup competitions were organised alongside the Mediterranean League which, unofficially, took the place of La Liga.

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Barcelona won the Mediterranean League in 1937 but, given it was not an official RFEF tournament, it is not a triumph which has been counted in their tally of 26 league titles.

However, they could be about to change that as ESPN note Barcelona are prepared to appeal to the RFEF in an attempt to be formally recognised as national champions that season and therefore take their tally up to 27.

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Barcelona, who failed with an appeal to be credited with this title in 2009, believe the RFEF have set a recent precedent which means they should be entitled to claiming the title.

Levante have recently been granted the honour of winning the 1937 Free Spain Cup, which took the place of what is now known as the Copa del Rey, even though that was not an official RFEF competition. Similarly, Deportivo de la Coruna have been named the winners of the 1912 Concurso de Espana – another unofficial cup competition.

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With Levante and Deportivo now permitted by the RFEF to claim triumphs in these unofficial competitions, Barcelona are understood to believe that they must be recognised as league champions for 1937.

Barcelona have officially won 26 league titles to date, putting them second in the rankings behind Real Madrid, who have 35 trophies to their name.

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Xavi’s side are favourites to win this season’s title, having opened up a 12-point lead at the top of the table, but Barcelona are looking to add a bonus honour to their record books.

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