Pep Guardiola has admitted he is hopeful that Lionel Messi will feature for Paris Saint-Germain against his Manchester City side when the two teams meet at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night.
The eagerly-anticipated match-up will see last season’s Champions League semi-final opponents meet once again in the competition, this time in the group stage, with City currently topping the table following their thrilling 6-3 win over RB Leipzig last time out.
While Mauricio Pochettino’s side slipped up with a 1-1 draw away at Club Brugge, the Ligue 1 giants will no doubt represent a stern test for the Premier League champions, despite the outcome of their last meeting.
In last season’s last four, City produced a stunning second-leg showing to secure passage to the final, winning 2-0 at the Etihad – and 4-1 on aggregate – before being narrowly defeated by Chelsea in the showpiece.
The already fearsome French outfit have, however, been further bolstered this summer with a whole host of impressive signings, most notably with the addition of Lionel Messi, who stunned the world by ending his long association with Barcelona after the La Liga side revealed they simply could not afford to keep him in Catalonia.
Arguably, the Argentine’s spell at the Nou Camp had come under Guardiola, as La Blaugrana became European champions in both 2009 and 2011 with victories over Manchester United on both occasions.
Facing the prospect of coming up against his former player once again, Guardiola admitted he was shocked to see the forward making the switch to France over the summer.
“It was a surprise for everyone, what happened happened,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference. “Everyone now accepts it. A long time ago you couldn’t imagine [he would leave Barcelona], but it happened. Life itself you never know what happens. Important is he’ll be happy there in Paris.”
Messi – who had been linked with a move to the Etihad over the last 12 months – is an injury doubt for Tuesday’s encounter, although the City boss is hopeful that he can feature ‘for the benefit of the game’.
“What he has done in his career is more than exceptional and hopefully tomorrow he can play for the benefit of the game,” said the City boss.
“Last season they were a fantastic team and it was a tight game and now they have Messi. They are huge competitors. It’s a new game, it’s the group stage, it’s different. We will see.”
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