Anyway, thanks for reading. And I’ll leave you with this email from Karl Tulinius: “I’m a PSG fan since living in Paris as a boy. The idea of Messi playing for PSG is still unreal, and will probably never feel entirely real. If he’d leave tomorrow, I’ll feel like we still had those ten minutes from him and be happy. But if, when, Mbappé leaves, I’ll miss him. A kid from the Parisian suburbs playing for PSG feels real.”
Full time: Reims 0-2 PSG
Well then. Messi made his PSG bow, but the story was Mbappe, who made the difference for his side, won them the game, and generally looked a class apart. The current Champions League semi-finalists are on the precipice of greatness, and their summer has been hailed as one of the greatest transfer windows ever, most notably due to the signing of Messi (34). But if they end it by losing Mbappe (22) could they rightfully be accused of getting their priorities hideously wrong? (Hint: the answer is yes.)
94 mins: We’re in the fourth of six minutes stoppage time. and everyone on the pitch seems desperate for the final whistle. Some sloppy play yb Draxler means Navas makes an easy save.
90 mins: Mbappe glides forward on the left, cuts inside, but his shot is blocked. Mbappe has such an effortless athleticism: he would be a pleasure to watch in a hundred-metre sprint. It helps, too, that he is equally silky with the ball at his feet. A once-in-a-generation player.
88 mins: Paredes has come on for Verratti. He clatters Munetsi, a ludicrously reckless tackle, and gets a booking. That will not help his case in an increasingly competitive central-midfield squad list.
81 mins: If Mbappe wants away, he’s not showing it. He’s worked tirelessly all game and does so again to recover possession after a poor pass to him from Hakimi, giving away a free-kick. A minute later he plays a one-two with his illustrious new teammate and is promptly floored by Ektike – recently introduced from the bench – who is booked.
76 mins: Messi gets his first taste of the ball in a proper attacking situation, driving forward on the right and laying off to the overlapping Mbappe, who gets into the box before dutifully looking to make the return pass, but it’s cut out.
70 mins: Just I was typing “Reims are showing little appetite/ability to get themselves back into this”, Reims show the appetite and ability to get back into it, putting together a patient attack that ends with with Kebbal’s shot deflected wide. But the resulting corner comes to nowt, and Mbappe, hungry for the hattrick, tries to break at pace.
He trots on for Neymar, and is straight into the thick of it, playing a couple of one-twos, each touch greeted with a frenzied scream, and each touch characteristically immaculate. An absurdly talented footballer.
GOAL! Reims 0-2 PSG (Mbappe 62)
A ruthless counterattack. And it’s Hakimi who is released down the right by a wonderful first-time ball from Gueye, and the right-back steam forward and whips in the perfect crossto the back post, where Mbappe is waiting to tap home. Lightning stuff. And just as it went from bad to worse for Reims, now Messi is coming on.
57 mins: Messi goes for a little jog down the sideline. The home fans can’t help but applaud. He looks flattered, which is nice.
55 mins: PSG got away with one there: they’d started badly and the goal was well worked. As far as VAR is concerned, the time it took to make an easy offside ruling – well over three minutes – was an embarrassment. In the meantime, Marquinhos is booked for a clumsy tackle.
Goal disallowed by VAR
Oh dear. Munetsi was marginally offside when the initial ball was played in, so, after an interminable age, the officials rule it out. How tedious.
Goal! Reims 1-1 PSG (Munetsi 47)
Just call me Nostradamus. Toure meets it with a downward header, saved well by Navas, but Munetsi bundles home the rebound.
46 mins: And we’re back under way. PSG kick off and begin in intensely leisurely fashion, caressing the ball around midfield before giving away a couple of sloppy passes. Premature complacency?
A double half-time change for Reims: Berisha and Locko for Cassama and Mbuku.
Half-time: Reims 0-1 PSG
Nothing hugely unexpected so far, but a very watchable game. PSG have been playing within themselves, and Reims doing their darndest. But they’ve kept Neymar and (to a lesser extent) Mbappe quiet, and PSG’s clearcut chances have been limited to the one they scored from. This game is far from over.
44 mins: Kebbal, coming into the game now, receives the attacking player’s ultimate badge of honour: a needlessly brutal challenge from an angry opposition midfielder. Verratti casts himself in the latter role and is duly booked.
40 mins: Another clever attack from Reims – the silky playmaker Kebbal again at the heart of it – ends up being half-cleared by Marquinhos. But the ball falls to Cassama on the edge of the box. It’s a tricky one, as the ball is stuck under his feet, but he digs out a clever chipped effort that looks for an instant like it’s dropping into the goal … before brazing the top of the post and going wide.
38 mins: Reims work the ball well to the left flan k, where Kebbal cuts on to his right foot, rolls his studs over the ball and bends in a teasing inswinging cross. No attackers can get a touch, and Navas dives full length to gather at the far post.
35 mins: Hakimi has been great on the right – always there to receive a pass, and ridiculously quick – and again he takes the ball from Wijnaldum but can’t quite dig out the cross. Meanwhile Di Maria, with the usual blend of tirelessness and intelligence, has been the standout player of the half and is making a solid case to be kept in the side.
32 mins: Neymar picks up the ball in the Reims half and holds on to it. Foket thinks “screw it” and runs over to give him a kick. He escapes a booking.
30 mins: Great move from PSG, who work the ball beautifully down the right – Verrettii, Marquinos, Mbappe, Hakimi, Wijnaldum, Mbappe – but it concludes with a blocked shot from the French striker.
27 mins: Neymar receives his first kick of the evening, from Toure, and a few seconds later he receives his second kick of the evening, also from Toure. The referee books Toure.
23 mins: A second goals beckons for the visitors. A flurry of corners concludes with Marquinos heading just over. But Reims hang in there, and then Kebbal nutmegs Di Maria to make it clear that they are not cowed. Lovely stuff.
19 mins: PSG’s pressing reaps a reward when Wijnaldum pounces to win the ball brilliantly within sight of the Reims goal. He charges into the box with the ball, with a glut of passing options, dawdles fatally and in the end takes an awkward shot that’s blocked.
Goal! Reims 0-1 PSG (Mbappe 16)
A goal from nowhere! PSG work the ball via Wijnaldum out to Di Maria on the right flank, and the Argentinian jinks inside and floats a delicious inswinging cross towards the near post, where Mbappe ghosts between two defenders to head home from close range.
12 mins: PSG have started to turn the screw, pinning Reins into their own half for a good couple of minutes. Then the hosts break smartly, with Kebbal sliding through a lovely reverse pass to Toure, but again he slices his finish, this time wide of the near post. That was a chance!
10 mins: First chance for PSG: Mbappe receives the ball inside the box with his ball to goal, turns on a sixpence and prods goalwards – but his effort hits the side netting.
8 mins: A sort-of sight of goal for Reims, as Toure is released over the top in the inside right channel. With Navas in no man’s land, he tries to take the shot early, on the bounce from 25 yards, but slices it horribly.
6 mins: The first proper sight of Mbappe, who spins in midfield and looks to accelerate forward but is matched for speed and dispossessed fairly by Munetsi – not often you can say that – who then turns well himself and wins a clever free-kicks. Nice. Reims aren’t here to make up the numbers.
4 mins: Reims have started confidently, Lopy asserting authority in midfield and Foket a constant outlet down the right.
2 mins: Reims attack down the right though some Kebbal and Foket. They link smartly but come a cropper when Foket, er, messes it up, playing the ball to an offside teammate.
1 min: We’re off – and Reims get their kickoff wrong. So it’s a free-kick to PSG on the centre spot. Never seen that before. Not a good omen for the home side.
The teams are out, and on BT Sport Jonathan Pierce is reciting Jean-Jacques Rousseau while Marquinos calls a coin toss.
A few emails asking after the whereabouts of Sergio Ramos. He has a calf injury, so we are deprived of his
theatrics histrionics talents for the time being, too. We hold out hope for an appearance in the stands in a suitably ludicrous outfit.
Kanye West finally released his long-awaited new album today. So, [deep breath] are PSG bound 2 runaway with Ligue 1 this season or will it be the year it all falls down? Should we be so appalled at the money on display? And will the summer additions make them stronger or are they only in Paris for the good life?
Any more for any more?
PSG’s goalkeeping situation is an odd one. New boy Gianluigi Donnarumma said this week that “I came to PSG to play” – as indeed you would if you were one of the world’s most highly rated keepers. But Keylor Navas is not mug, and indeed has been key to PSG’s transformation from a silly team into a serious one.
You can’t help feeling for Navas: he has been brilliant wherever he’s played. He was effectively replaced at Real Madrid for the crime of not being famous enough (Thibaut Courtois was signed the summer after Navas was named Uefa’s goalkeeper of the year), and it looks like the same is set to happen here.
So we’ll have to hold on a bit for the long-awaited sight of Messi in a not-Barcelona shirt. In the meantime, though, that’s still a hell of a team and one that looks a lot more sensible and balanced with the addition of Wijnaldum. He may not have quite the same passing range as Leandro Paredes but he plays the ball sooner and quicker, and has a blend of athleticism and diligence that is very handy when his side don’t have the ball. You imagine that Mbappe and Neymar will be pleased to count him as a teammate.
The teams are in
… and the lad Messi is on the bench. Boooo. Poch the party pooper has named the following side:
Navas; Diallo, Hakimi, Kehrer, Marquinos; Gueye, Verratti, Wijnaldum; Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar. Subs: Danilo, Dina, Donnarumma, Draxler, Herrera, Kalimuendo, Kimpembe, Parades, Him.
Reims: Rajkovic; Abdelhamid, Cassama, Faes, Foket, Gravillon, Kebbal, Lopy, Mbuku, Munetsi, Toure. Subs: Berisha, Cafaro, Diouf, Doucoure, Ekitke, Flips, Ghislain, Locko, Van Bergen.
Have you heard? PSG have stepped upped their recruitment of late. But despite putting together perhaps the most star-studded list of summer arrivals in football history, the makeup of the PSG side has thus far barely changed. Georginio Wijnaldum started last week and Achraf Hakimi has impressed at right-back, but Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and – yes – Leo Messi are yet to play a minute for
the Harlem Globetrotters PSG. Not that that’s hampered their new side: PSG have won their first three games of the season at a breeze, scoring 10 in the process. No Messi, no problem. At least half of that equation may change today, with the great man set for his debut.
Reims – modestly resourced and lacking any big names – should on paper be straightforward opponents, but the teams they’ve played so far have not found them to be. Reims have played out three draws so far, ranging from a helter-skelter 3-3 to a mind-numbing 0-0.
A repeat of the latter appears unlikely today (though Reims would surely take it) not least because of the presence up front of the best player in the world. No, not him – Kylian Mbappe, the absurdly talented Frenchman who, in service the Great Superclub Pantomime, may be playing his last game for the club before doing one to Madrid.
For now, though, the holy trinity of him, Neymar and Messi have been named in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad for tonight’s game. This may be our only chance to see them play together up front. Over to you, Poch.