Dazzling Messi in-form as PSG smash Clermont in Ligue 1 opener

This season, PSG is not playing games. The reigning Ligue 1 champions opened their title defense with a 5-0 road win against relegation candidate Clermont Foot, one week after winning the Trophee des Champions with a 4-0 thrashing of Nantes.

Neymar scored the first goal and assisted the next three, and Lionel Messi added the final two goals as the PSG stars demonstrated that they are already on their game under new manager Christophe Galtier.

Their opponents are probably shaking their heads because they did it without superstar Kylian Mbappe. The French World Cup champion was suspended for last week’s match and then ruled out against Clermont with an adductor injury. Galtier confirmed that he will most likely play against Montpellier next weekend.

The new PSG manager used the same lineup for the second week in a row, and the results were similar, indicating that Les Parisiens are already gaining momentum thanks to their superstars.

Messi scored amazing bicycle kick, but was his assist better?

When Lionel Messi sprinted in behind to receive a long ball, PSG was already up 4-0. With his back to goal, he took it off his chest and sent an overhead kick over the keeper to put the finishing touches on his and his club’s performance.

And if you thought the bicycle kick was impressive, the assist he provided on Neymar’s goal was probably even better given his finesse and football IQ.

Messi and Neymar set the tone throughout the game with their selfless running. The team maintained a solid shape throughout the game, and goalkeeper Gigi Donnarumma had little to do against a weak Clermont team. However, there were only a few lapses in concentration.

PSG were on point from the start. And, while they had moments when they stepped on the ball and pulled back slightly, they were focused and cohesive from start to finish, which was uncommon under Mauricio Pochettino last season.

Neymar has sent a message

Prior to the season, many speculated that Neymar could be on his way out of PSG as part of the necessary changes to get the club back on track.

Two goals and an assist against Nantes last week, followed by a goal and three assists the following week, tell you everything you need to know about the Brazilian’s future.

Aside from the goals and assists, what stood out most about Neymar’s performance was his ability to defend and apply pressure on the ball. Last season, the three front men were given the option of defending at that level. It has been a key component of PSG’s success under Galtier. We’ll see if it holds up throughout the season, especially in the tougher matches.

“What I take away from the game is the collective desire to recover the ball as soon as possible, and the high intensity without any relaxing,” Galtier said after the game. “Pablo Sarabia provides us with good balance, Leo Messi is quick to react when we lose the ball, and Ney has made an effort to recover. And with that density of players, the team block can be very compact and win the ball.”

New debuts for PSG

With the quality of the players they brought off the bench against Clermont, PSG was really flexing their muscles.

Nordi Mukiele, a newly acquired French defender, could fill in for Sergio Ramos in defense. Hugo Ekitike is a promising attacking option for Pablo Sarabia. Vitinha was replaced by in-demand Argentine international Leandro Paredes. Warren Zaire-Emery, who stood in for Marco Verratti, was also on the roster.

Get used to the name Zaire-Emery if you haven’t heard it before. He impressed the coaching staff with his preseason performances, and he did well enough that Galtier gave him his official debut for the club, making him the club’s youngest senior player, four months younger than Kingsley Coman.

“It’s also important to put words into action,” said PSG manager Galtier. “We talk about how our [PSG] youth development is at an extremely high level. As a result, our young players must feel involved. In that sense, we’ll try to get them to play when matches appear to be over.”

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