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Pochettino reveals reasons behind Messi half-time withdrawal

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino says Lionel Messi was substituted “as a precaution” after the striker was withdrawn at half-time of Friday’s match with Lille.

Eyebrows were raised when Pochettino opted to replace the Argentine superstar with Mauro Icardi at the break with PSG trailing 1-0, meaning Messi has yet to hit the target in Ligue 1 for his new club.

PSG managed to turn the game around in the second half but only just, with Marquinhos levelling on 77 minutes before Angel di Maria hit the winner with two minutes left.

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What was said?

Speaking about his decision to take off Messi, Pochettino told Amazon Prime:  “We have to wait. We spoke with the doctor. It’s a precaution. He couldn't go on, but it's not a big issue. He will be available for the next game."

Asked whether playing with a number nine like Icardi suited the team batter, Pochettino added: “I don't think that was the problem in the first half. It's just that Lille knows us well. We weren't good enough to feed our offensive players and have control of the game. But I don't think it's a single player or a position that changes everything.

"Overall I think we deserved to win. It's an option to play (a three-man defence next time), to find different ways to play. We can adapt to this system. But it's good to be flexible. Sometimes the starting plan doesn't work and I'm happy to have that option for players with different characteristics. But we have to keep working on it.”

The bigger picture

There were understandably sky-high expectations when Messi made the dramatic move to Paris following his release by Barcelona over the summer.

But Friday’s blank against Lille has made it five league appearances without a goal for the 34-year-old, even if injury curtailed his evening on this occasion.

The only goals so far have come in the Champions League – a double in the 3-2 win over RB Leipzig and the critical second goal in last month’s win against Manchester City.

Pochettino does not seem to concerned with Messi’s form and it has certainly has not hampered their ability to pick up results. Despite not being at their fluent best at times so far, PSG have won 10 out of their 12 league matches to open up a 10-point lead at the top the table.

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