PSG win without Messi ahead of City showdown

PARIS (AFP) – Lionel Messi was again sidelined for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and in the Argentine’s absence it was Idrissa Gana Gueye and Julian Draxler who scored as the Ligue 1 leaders beat Montpellier 2-0 on Saturday.

Senegal midfielder Gueye crashed a shot into the roof of the net from 20 metres to give PSG an early lead at the Parc des Princes and substitute Draxler added a late second as Mauricio Pochettino’s team maintained their perfect start to the French season.

They have won eight matches out of eight in Ligue 1 and are already 10 points clear of second-placed Marseille, who do nevertheless have two games in hand.

However, this was once again a far from completely convincing performance from PSG, who in the last week had scored stoppage-time goals to claim respective 2-1 wins against Lyon and struggling Metz.

“I don’t know if this was a perfect evening but it was a good evening. Eight matches, eight victories,” said Pochettino.

Paris Saint-Germain’s midfielder Idrissa Gueye celebrates after scoring a goal during the Ligue 1 football match against Montpellier at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

His side host Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday looking for revenge for their defeat at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s side in last season’s semi-finals.

“The Champions League is such an important objective for this club that it’s best to prepare for it by winning and avoiding any more injuries,” Pochettino added.

The hope is that Messi will be able to play in that match after he sat out a second straight game for PSG with the knee problem that led to him being substituted against Lyon.

Messi has made just three appearances for the Qatar-owned club since arriving from Barcelona in early August, playing a total of 190 minutes.

Not that PSG – wearing their black and grey third kit – were short on attacking options, with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria all playing but failing to find the net.

Neymar clipped an effort onto the top of the bar early on and Mbappe was denied by Montpellier goalkeeper Jonas Omlin before Di Maria set up Gueye for the opener in the 14th minute.

His superb left-foot strike was already his third goal this season, as many as he managed in the last two campaigns combined.

Ander Herrera’s sliced half-volley came off the bar just before half-time and PSG were surprisingly flat after the break, although they did have chances to add to their lead.

The second goal only arrived in the 89th minute when Draxler, just on as a substitute, collected a Neymar pass with his first touch of the game and fired in a low shot with his second.

Meanwhile, Lyon were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Lorient after playing most of the game with 10 men following the sending-off of Italian international defender Emerson Palmieri inside the first 15 minutes.