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PSG vs Real Madrid: Pochettino backs Messi to shine in reunion with old foes

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Messi has scored only one goal in Ligue 1 since joining PSG last summer following his departure from Barcelona.

But he has fared much better in Europe, scoring five times in five group games, and usually upped his game while playing against Madrid for Barcelona. Messi scored a record 26 goals in 45 El Clasico meetings, and PSG boss Pochettino has backed the 34-year-old to deliver the goods when they host the first leg of their last-16 tie in Paris.

“Leo is in good form, he has great desire, these are the nights that are important for his talent,” Pochettino said. “It’s clear he’ll play an integral role in the match and in terms of what he transmits to his team-mates.”

Pochettino’s PSG lost in the semi- finals to Manchester City last season and the pressure is growing on the former Tottenham manager to deliver their first European title.

PSG star Lionel Messi scored 26 goals in 45 meetings for old club Barcelona in the Clasico derby against Real Madrid

/ AFP via Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar will also be under the microscope tonight. Mbappe has made clear his intention to join Madrid on a free transfer in the summer, while Neymar has only just returned from an ankle injury that has kept him out since November.

Madrid have issues of their own. Karim Benzema, their key player this season, is just back after three games out with a hamstring issue.

If the France star is not considered fit enough to start, there could be a role for Gareth Bale. Bale will leave Madrid in the summer, but Real manager Carlo Ancelotti has praised his attitude, saying: “He’s always been respectful, always followed the rules.

“Maybe he wasn’t motivated at some point but he’s okay now. He deserves a great ending.”

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