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

After not playing together since the World Cup, PSG’s superstar front three of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar will take the field together for the first time on Sunday’s road trip to Rennes.

After playing in PSG’s first two games after returning from Qatar, Mbappe was given 10 days off before returning to training on Thursday.

When Messi returned from injury and scored in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Angers for the league’s top team, he was nowhere to be found because he had taken a vacation to New York.

The World Cup was an obvious inspiration for the trio’s outstanding form in the early months of the campaign, and their play together will be crucial in determining the rest of PSG’s season.

They’re six points ahead of Lens with half the season still to play, but they have their sights set on the Champions League.

If Christophe Galtier’s team doesn’t win their group and advance to the quarterfinals, they’ll face Bayern Munich in the round of 16. The first leg of that match is scheduled for February 14 at home.

Galtier said of Messi, 35, that he is “relaxed and in great shape physically” after his first game since leading Argentina to a penalty shootout victory over Mbappe’s France in the epic World Cup final last month.

Now that he’s tasted career-defining success at Barcelona, the question is how motivated he still is.

Messi’s primary focus this season will be on bringing home the Champions League for the first time since 2015. PSG would like to keep him in Paris for a third season.

Mbappe, the 2018 World Cup winner, will be even more determined to win the Champions League than he already was after losing the World Cup final despite scoring a hat trick.

Meanwhile, Neymar seems to be in the minority; he reportedly left the World Cup in tears after Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals due to a penalty shootout loss, realizing that his chance to win the trophy may be gone for good.

Completely capping off a dismal 2022, he was then sent off in PSG’s first game after Qatar, a loss to Strasbourg.

However, the Paris Saint-Germain is more than just a trio.

They lack strength in the middle of the field, with Marco Verratti as their key player, and vulnerability in the back line, where they appear to be overly reliant on an aging Sergio Ramos.

Galtier maintains they require additional recovery time.

Following the midweek match, he explained, “We are all just getting used to playing together again and you could see at times that we lacked some of the connections between the players that we had more often before the World Cup.”

Keep an eye on Ross Barkley.
The 29-year-old former Everton prodigy, who moved to France in the hopes of relaunching his career, has struggled to make a significant impact through the first three months of the season. Now, at the beginning of the year 2023, things are looking up for him. Barkley scored a brilliant goal in a 2-1 loss to Rennes on January 2, and then scored twice in a 6-1 thrashing of Montpellier on Wednesday.

The latter match was also Nice’s first since firing Lucien Favre and hiring Didier Digard as head coach. During the upcoming months with the club owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, Barkley will try to make a bigger impression under a new manager.

Important data point: Mbappé, Neymar, and Messi have scored 48 goals for their respective clubs this season.

  1. The lower part For the record, Angers have lost their last 10 league games. There have been no fewer than 12 consecutive losses in a single French Premiere Division season.

Rennes has won their last eight league games in their own stadium.

Saturday’s games (all times in GMT)

Lyon vs. Strasbourg (1700), Lens vs. Auxerre (1600), and Marseille vs. Lorient (1860). (2000)


Matches at Lille (1200), Troyes (1400), Reims (1400), Angers (1400), Clermont (1400), Montpellier (1400), Toulouse (1400), Brest (1400), Monaco (1605), and Rennes (1700) take place in the French Ligue 1. (1945)