ANTONIO CONTE has defended Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino for not getting Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to play well together.
Fans were expecting fireworks when the superstar trio took to the pitch for the first time in PSG’s 1-1 drab draw with Club Brugge in the Champions League last night.
But they were left disappointed as Messi, Neymar and Mbappe failed to combine to produce the lightning display needed to fire Pochettino’s men to victory.
The result left critics such as Nicholas Anelka blasting PSG’s performance and doubting their chances of success in the future if they don’t pull it together, the Metro reported.
He said after the game: “We expected PSG to play well, but it’s the PSG we don’t want to see. Nothing went well.
“There was no intensity, no tracking back, nothing going forward. If they play like that, it’s not going to be possible.”
However, Conte was more understanding and admitted that it would be hard for any manager to get the best out of the Ligue 1 giant’s star-studded line-up.
The ex-Inter Milan boss, linked with the Arsenal job, said to Sky Italia: “To find the balance at PSG is not simple, but not only for Pochettino, it would be difficult for anyone.”
But Michael Owen agrees with Anelka and reckons Messi’s addition to the PSG squad causes more problems than it solves.
While the ex-Liverpool striker thinks the Argentine, and his new team-mates Neymar and Mbappe are great individually, he’s not convinced that they will be able to be as good alongside each other.
Owen told BT Sports: “As much as we drool over them, this PSG team with those forwards, they’re all phenomenal players in their own right.
“But three together makes it weaker for me and I don’t really understand why they’re one of the favourites for it [the Champions League].”
Despite Owen and Anelka’s harsh criticism, Messi did show flashes of his brilliance on his PSG European debut.
The 34-year-old hit the bar in spectacular fashion with a left-footed curler from 25-yards out when the clubs were level in the first half.
And he came close again on the hour mark as he wiggled his way into the six-yard box only to be denied by Brugge keeper Simon Mingolet.