Messi, Mbappe and Neymar set to join forces for the first time since the World Cup

Paris Saint-Germain’s journey to Rennes on Sunday is set to be the first time their celebrity entrance three of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have all performed collectively since the World Cup.

Mbappe returned to coaching on Thursday having been given 10 days off after getting back from Qatar and enjoying in PSG’s first two video games following the event.

He jetted off to New York for a break and was nowhere to be seen as Messi made his comeback, and scored, in a 2-0 victory for the Ligue 1 leaders in opposition to Angers on Wednesday.

The World Cup was a transparent motivating consider the trio’s excellent type throughout the early months of the marketing campaign, and how they play collectively will probably be essential in figuring out how the the rest of the season goes for PSG.

They are six factors away from Lens earlier than finishing the first half of the season in Rennes, however the Champions League is their most important goal.

After failing to come prime of their group, Christophe Galtier’s aspect have been drawn to play Bayern Munich in the final 16, with the first leg at dwelling set for February 14.

Galtier described the 35-year-old Messi as “relaxed and in nice form bodily” after his first match since captaining Argentina to a penalty shoot-out victory over Mbappe’s France in an epic World Cup last final month.

The query now’s how a lot motivation the former Barcelona star has after that career-defining triumph.

PSG are eager to lengthen his contract in the French capital into a 3rd season and Messi’s greatest objective now will probably be to win the Champions League for the first time since 2015.

Fueled by shedding the World Cup last regardless of scoring a hat-trick, 2018 world champion Mbappe will probably be determined to get his palms on the Champions League trophy for the first time.

Neymar, in the meantime, seems a little bit like the odd man out — he left the World Cup in tears as Brazil misplaced on penalties in the quarter-finals, conscious that his probability of successful that trophy might have gone without end.

He was then despatched off in PSG’s first recreation post-Qatar in opposition to Strasbourg, finishing a depressing finish to 2022.

But for PSG it’s not nearly these three.

They look gentle in protection, the place they seem overly reliant on an growing older Sergio Ramos, and wanting muscle in midfield, an space the place a fragile Marco Verratti is their key participant.

Galtier insists they nonetheless want time to get again up to pace.

“We are all simply getting used to enjoying collectively once more and you possibly can see at instances that we lacked a few of the connections between the gamers that we had extra typically earlier than the World Cup,” he mentioned after the midweek recreation.

Player to watch: Ross Barkley

If the England midfielder hoped to relaunch his profession in France, the transfer didn’t work out for the 29-year-old former Everton prodigy as he struggled to make a severe affect in the first three months of the season. Things have improved for him at the starting of 2023, nevertheless. Barkley scored a superb objective in opposition to Rennes on January 2 in a 2-1 defeat, and then got here off the bench to rating twice in Wednesday’s 6-1 thrashing of Montpellier.

The latter recreation was additionally the first for Nice since coach Lucien Favre was sacked and changed by Didier Digard. Barkley will hope to make a better impression underneath a brand new supervisor in the months forward with the membership owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe.

Key stats

48 – Goals Mbappe, Neymar and Messi have scored between them for their membership this season

10 – Bottom aspect Angers have misplaced their final 10 league video games. The report for the most consecutive defeats in a single French top-flight season is 12

8 – Rennes have received their final eight dwelling league video games.

Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)

Saturday

Lens v Auxerre (1600), Marseille v Lorient (1800), Lyon v Strasbourg (2000)

Sunday

Lille v Troyes (1200), Reims v Nice, Angers v Clermont, Montpellier v Nantes, Toulouse v Brest (all 1400), Monaco v Ajaccio (1605), Rennes v Paris Saint-Germain (1945)

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