Mauricio Pochettino wants Lionel Messi to be given time to adapt to his new surroundings at Paris Saint-Germain, who are preparing to go up against “the best coach in the world” in Pep Guardiola.
Messi has yet to score or assist in three appearances since joining PSG on a free transfer amid financial difficulties at Barcelona, but Pochettino is prepared to be patient with the iconic superstar.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has been struggling with a knee injury of late, though he may be involved when the French club host Manchester City in a titanic Champions League clash.
“[Messi] is progressing very well, and I think he’ll be in the squad, but I don’t know if he’ll start,” Pochettino said in his pre-match media conference ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in the French capital.
“He’s the best player in the world, but he’s still a human like everyone else. He also needs to adapt to this new team, new culture and new country. He was at Barcelona for 20 years, everything is new here for him.
“With time, I have no doubt that everything will go well and we’re going to have real success together.”
The former Tottenham and Southampton boss also attempted to downplay expectations as his side chase European glory, claiming that PSG are not yet the finished article – unlike their next opponents.
“We’re a work in progress,” Pochettino said. “It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. We have to look at where we have come from and where we are today.
“We’re going to face Manchester City and the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola. They’re a great team, a club that dreams of winning the Champions League, as we do. They’re perhaps ahead of us, but anything can happen in a football match.
“We’re going to try and cause them problems with a lot of desire, determination, and also by applying our ideas and limiting their qualities, and finding weaknesses to exploit. It’s a match for the players in which they can show their potential.”
Pochettino also dismissed the idea that the contest with City is their first real challenge of the season, having won all of their first eight Ligue 1 games to sit nine points clear at the top of the table.
“A first test? I don’t think so. We’ve had a different challenge in each game. The start of the season hasn’t been easy because we have got players back gradually. Since we’ve had a complete squad, we’ve worked,” he said.
“We know the expectations on us and we know we have to work with responsibility and rigour today, not tomorrow. We have to stand up and be counted when a game comes up.”
There was also an update on the fitness of Marco Verratti, who, like Messi, is set to be part of the squad but may not be ready to start.
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