By Matias Grez, CNN
Lionel Messi isn’t expected to be back with Paris Saint-German until the “2nd or 3rd January,” according to the the club’s coach Christophe Galtier as the 35-year-old continues to spend time back in Argentina after winning the World Cup following the penalty shootout victory over France in the final.
However, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar Jr. and Achraf Hakimi — who played for France, Brazil and Morocco at Qatar 2022 — could return to the PSG team for Wednesday’s Ligue 1 match against Strasbourg, as long as they are “doing well physically and mentally,” said Galtier.
PSG has a five-point lead over Lens at the top of Ligue 1 as the French domestic season returns after a a six-week midseason break for the World Cup.
Ligue 1 clubs will play two matches this week and Galtier says returning to play football will help those players that suffered disappointment in Qatar.
“I sent messages of support to those who suffered disappointment and messages of congratulations to those who went far in the tournament,” the PSG coach told reporters.
“They’re elite-level footballers, and I think that the best cure for them is to come back to work as quickly as possible, where they’re surrounded by their mates, and to get a taste for competitive football again.
“I’ve noticed that everyone is mentally ready for us to work together again. I saw Kylian congratulate Leo and the opposition manager during the trophy ceremony, which are signs of respect between our players.
“What I remember is Kylian’s good attitude, as he showed savoir-faire and class despite the disappointment. That’s a very good thing for the team and for the club.”
PSG and Lens face off in a huge top-of-the-table clash on Sunday, but Galtier believes previous form counts for little as the six-week break means the restart will be “like the start of a new season” for teams.
The second half of the season is action-packed for PSG as both the French Cup and Champions League return.
In the coming days, Galtier is confident of having a full squad — minus Messi — to choose from, including Neymar who suffered an ankle sprain in the World Cup group stages but was able to return for Brazil’s two knockout matches.
“With the players who have come back, we’ve operated on a case-by-case basis, both physically and mentally,” Galtier said.
“Unfortunately, some players were knocked out earlier than others, but Achraf and Kylian were eager to rejoin us very quickly.
“As long as they’re doing well physically and mentally, there’s no reason for us to go without them for the next two league games, which will be very important.
“However, it’s up to us to think about what will be the right time for them to rest and to decompress in the next few weeks. All of the players who have come back will be available for tomorrow’s game.
“The Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Brazilians had about ten days off, but everyone came back at the agreed date and is training normally.”
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