Paris (AFP) – Having scored a hat-trick for Argentina in World Cup qualifying, Lionel Messi will have to wait for his home debut in France, possibly leaving Paris Saint-Germain without their star front three for Saturday’s Ligue 1 match against promoted side Clermont.
PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino will be deprived of the majority of his South American contingent after their countries played World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.
Messi notched all three goals as Argentina, who also included PSG’s Angel Di Maria in their lineup, beat Bolivia 3-0 barely 36 hours before the Parisians are due to kick off at the Parc des Princes.
The triple strike made Messi the top international goalscorer in South American football history with 79 goals, overtaking Pele.
Neymar will also be absent after scoring in Brazil’s 2-0 victory against Peru.
The third member of the attacking trio, Kylian Mbappe, is still an injury doubt after leaving the France camp with a calf injury he suffered in their first qualifier of the international break against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All three are however expected to be ready in time for PSG’s Champions League opener at Club Brugge on Wednesday.
The 2020 Champions League runners-up will be judged this season on their performances in the European competition, which they have never won despite the substantial injection of funds from their Qatari owners.
Expectations are even higher than usual after a transfer window in which Messi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma all joined the club.
There could be a debut against Clermont for Portugal full-back Nuno Mendes, the lowest-profile of the summer arrivals.
But the 19-year-old impressed in Sporting Lisbon’s title-winning team last term and could prove a bargain after joining PSG on a season-long loan for a reported seven million euros ($8.3 million), with an option to buy for 40 million euros.
“It’s a moment of great pride for me to have signed here among all these great players,” Nuno Mendes, who has won eight international caps, told PSG’s website. “I think it’s every player’s dream to play alongside them.
“I think it’s important for me to stay calm, to do what I do best.”
PSG are stronger favourites to win Ligue 1 than ever before — although Lille wrested the title from them last season — and their expensively assembled team already sit top after four wins from as many matches.
– Suspension-hit Marseille visit Monaco –
Marseille hit out at the French league (LFP) on Thursday, arguing that the punishment given to Nice for their fans’ behaviour during a suspended match between the two teams last month was too lenient.
Nice will have to play three games behind closed doors and had two points deducted, albeit one suspended, after fans invaded the Allianz Riviera pitch when Dimitri Payet threw a bottle which had been launched at him back into the crowd.
Payet has been given a one-match ban, with Alvaro Gonzalez handed a two-game suspension.
The match, which Nice led 1-0 with 15 minutes remaining, will be replayed.
“The club regrets that any invasion of the pitch affecting the safety and health of players is not sanctioned immediately and more firmly,” Marseille said in a statement.
Marseille, who now sit one point ahead of Nice with seven points from three games, face Monaco in the principality on Saturday.
Nice, backed by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, visit Nantes on Sunday.
Player to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri
— The Switzerland forward could make his debut for Lyon on Sunday against Strasbourg after joining from Liverpool for an initial fee of six million euros.
Lyon will be hoping he can fill the boots of Memphis Depay after the Dutchman’s fine start to life with Barcelona.
The 29-year-old Shaqiri will be hoping to become a key player for Lyon, after often finding himself on the periphery at Anfield and during spells at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
Six – Amount of teams still unbeaten in Ligue 1 this season. There are also six teams still winless.
Seven – Goals scored by Clermont in the first three Ligue 1 games in their history.
10 – Assists made by PSG’s new full-back Hakimi since the start of last season.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Lorient v Lille (1900)
Paris Saint-Germain v Clermont (1500), Monaco v Marseille (1900)
Montpellier v Saint-Etienne (1100), Bordeaux v Lens, Brest v Angers, Metz v Troyes, Rennes v Reims (all 1300), Nantes v Nice (1500), Lyon v Strasbourg (1845)