Clubs

Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi will not be involved against Benfica on Tuesday after failing to recover from a calf injury in time for the Champions League group stage game, the French club said on Monday.

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Messi had missed the weekend’s Ligue 1 draw against Stade de Reims in which PSG failed to score in the league for the first time this season.

The 35-year-old had asked to be withdrawn in the reverse fixture at Benfica last week due to the calf problem but PSG boss Christophe Galtier said he expected him to return for the weekend clash against third-placed Olympique de Marseille.

“We know the importance of Leo in our game, his form and the connection he can have with other players,” Galtier told reporters on Monday.

“We can’t be happy about his absence. But we will have to find other connections to bring danger to the Benfica defence.

“We must have other options. We need to be able to play down both sides. When Messi plays, we play a lot down the middle. We’ve been working hard on distribution to bring more variety in our attack.”

Mbappe had taken a dig at Galtier in a deleted Instagram post after Saturday’s 0-0 draw, suggesting he did not like playing up front as a lone striker and Galtier said he had spoken to the frustrated French forward.

“Kylian is already at 11 goals and given his quality I know he will score many more. He was not supposed to play in Reims, he was ill. But Messi was absent and Neymar was having muscle problems with so many games back-to-back,” Galtier said.

“So if Neymar and Messi were available, Kylian wouldn’t have played. He was ill and tired. The game didn’t go very well for us… hence, his reaction.

“These are discussions that we often have with Kylian. I exchange a lot with him to try to reassure him… We are very sensitive to his remarks and his thoughts because he’s a very important player.”

Presnel Kimpembe, Nuno Mendes and Renato Sanches will also miss Tuesday’s game.

PSG are top of Group H at the halfway stage with seven points, the same as Benfica, while Juventus are four points behind in third.

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