Lionel Messi was substituted at half-time against Lille as a precautionary measure and should be available for Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League clash with RB Leipzig, according to Mauricio Pochettino.
The Argentina international was a doubt heading into Friday’s Ligue 1 meeting with Lille and lasted just 45 minutes before being replaced by Mauro Icardi with his side 1-0 down at the time through a Jonathan David strike.
PSG went on to win 2-1 at Parc des Princes thanks to second-half goals from Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria as they returned to winning ways and stretched their lead at the summit to 10 points on Lens, who have a game in hand.
Messi’s departure on the back of another below-par display was undoubtedly the big talking point of the game, but Pochettino does not expect the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to spend any further time on the sidelines.
“We don’t think he’s injured. He saw the doctor as a precaution, in accordance with the medical staff,” Pochettino said at his post-match news conference. “It is hoped that he will be available for the next match.”
Messi has now had 15 shots without finding the net for PSG in Ligue 1 – the most of any player in the division – with his only three goals for the club in eight games since arriving from Barcelona coming in the Champions League.
It is the first time since October 2020 that he has gone five league games without scoring, and PSG coped in his absence on Friday as Di Maria set up Marquinhos for the leveller and then tucked in the winner himself two minutes from time.
The Parisiens have won eight points after the 85th minute in the French top flight this season – at least five more than any other side – and Pochettino put that down to the strong character of his side.
“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the team responds this way to adversity,” he said. “They showed a good state of mind today. We suffered but responded just as well. It’s no coincidence we have won 10 out of 12 games.”
PSG had lost their previous two matches to Lille, including a 1-0 loss in this corresponding fixture six months ago, with that the most recent occasion they have dropped points at home following their latest fightback.
The runaway leaders were far from their best once again, but Pochettino is pleased with what he saw from his side in an improved second-half display – notably when Messi was off the field.
“The feeling in the first half is that we didn’t manage to have control,” he said. “That on recoveries from Lille, they created danger too easily, that each attack ended with an opportunity.
“In the second half we were much better. We managed to give this security to the team to engage more in attack, to play. There are always things that can be improved, but the important thing was to win.”
PSG have now won 76 per cent of their Ligue 1 games in 2021 (25 out of 33), a success rate that is only bettered by Premier League champions Manchester City (79 per cent) from teams in Europe’s top five leagues.
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