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PSG need Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the same page to reach their full potential

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Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier HSC 5-2 at Parc des Princes on Saturday to open an early two-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit. Neymar scored twice while Kylian Mbappe opened his account for the season, despite missing a penalty. Yet, the post-match focus was on the hints of tension between the superstar pair.

The Brazilian currently tops both the Championnat goal scoring and assist providing charts with three apiece after an opening day 5-0 win away at Clermont Foot 63 was followed up by the Montpellier drubbing. The Frenchman has taken longer to get going after a domestic suspension from last campaign kept him out of the Trophee des Champions before injury ruled him out against Clermont.

Now that both are back on the pitch along with Lionel Messi, who has also returned to action this term looking focused and in good shape, we are getting our first competitive look at the new balance of power in the capital. The hope, obviously, is that year two will prove to be more harmonious than the big tree’s uneven first go-around. But, no sooner had Mbappe extended his stay with PSG, then reports surfaced suggesting that Neymar was on his way out as part of a major cleanup operation.

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Once Luis Campos was appointed sporting advisor after Leonardo’s departure as sporting director and Christophe Galtier replaced Mauricio Pochettino as head coach, the door was left open to Neymar to play his way back into favor. However, it was abundantly clear that Les Parisiens would field offers for the €225 million man — assuming any arrived.

Despite links with Manchester City, which Pep Guardiola shot down himself, it was always going to be difficult to find any suitors capable of paying a fee for Neymar and covering his PSG salary without this sort of uptick in form. Whether it is enough to convince a club to go all in for the South American this month is doubtful, but his form and conduct so far have been impeccable under Galtier.

“Since July 4, Neymar has been beyond reproach,” said the 55-year-old. “He behaves well, came back ready and prepared well. He is performing very well in all our games. He is happy during those matches and plays for his teammates. He is opportunist with his goals. He works well for the team and in this system that is a must. Regarding what happens between now and the end of the transfer window, I see what is being written. Everyone is satisfied with Neymar regarding his investment.”

Factor in his two-goal haul against FC Nantes in the Trophee des Champions in Tel Aviv before the Ligue 1 season got underway and Neymar has five goals and three assists already this campaign. Two of those strikes have been penalties, admittedly, but it is not just his stats which have impressed Galtier — it is his overall work rate and attitude matching the expectations set upon arrival.

“That he must work for the team,” said the Frenchman of the challenge he set the mercurial No. 10. “We know that he is talented and a world class player. He is one of the best and he performs very well when he is physically and mentally well. He works for the team and puts in good displays. This system needs balance, and he is responding to that. You must be demanding defensively when you lose the ball. Collectively, he knows how to play with his teammates.”

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The worry for PSG is that this is part of Neymar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup preparation phase, with his hot form just as likely to dry up post-Qatar and midway through the current term, instead of lasting for the duration of the season. The same could be said of Messi who has three goals and an assist from three competitive outings so far.

Ultimately, if nobody makes an offer for Neymar which PSG would be willing to accept, debate is futile as he will remain in Paris. Mbappe’s early tensions are understandable given his suspension and injury-hit opening, but there can be no doubting that the team are much better off having two of their three attacking stars firing this early in the campaign while he gets up to speed.

Besides, given Mbappe’s ability to carry this PSG side of the past 12-18 months, getting the best out of him will have been the least of Galtier’s worries. Finding the best way for Mbappe, Neymar and Messi to coexist will now be the key as Campos continues to rebuild the squad with further transfer activity expected this week as the atmosphere within the group receives fresh oxygen.



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49ers Made A Powerful Statement On Monday

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(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

 

Coming into Monday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, there was a considerable amount of concern about the 49ers.

Their offense was struggling mightily, and after an ugly 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos the previous week, some were even speculating on whether head coach Kyle Shanahan could or should be on the hot seat.

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One of the funny things about the NFL is how quickly a team’s fortunes and perception can drastically switch with just one win.

That win came against the Rams, and it wasn’t exactly a squeaker where one or two plays decided the contest.

No, the 49ers dominated the Rams, winning by a score of 24-9 and controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football very well.

San Francisco is now 2-2 and tied with Los Angeles and the other two teams in the NFC West, and suddenly, it is looking like a potential Super Bowl contender again.

Things can change quickly in the NFL.

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The 49ers’ Defense Stepped Up Against The World Champions

While San Francisco’s offense looked very solid for a change, it was its defense that made its mark and won this contest for it.

The Rams, who looked very potent offensively last season, were held without a touchdown on Monday, and they had lots of trouble making any big yardage plays.

They went just 5 of 15 on third downs, and although Cooper Kupp had 122 yards and tight end Tyler Higbee had 73 yards, very few of them were gained when things mattered most.

L.A. quarterback Matthew Stafford was harrassed into one interception and seven sacks, and overall he posted a very dismal 71.0 passer rating.

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With just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Rams were down 17-9 and had a first down on the 49ers’ 44-yard line.

Instead of marching further downfield to perhaps tie the game, second-year safety Talanoa Hufunga intercepted a pass intended for Kupp and ran it all the way back for the touchdown that sealed the win for the Niners.

They came into this contest tops in points allowed, yards allowed, first downs allowed and passing touchdowns allowed.

Hufunga may be developing into a star, while middle linebacker Fred Warner continues his ascent as one of the league’s best at his position.

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As the old saying goes, defense wins championships.

 

Deebo Samuel Was Deebo Samuel

Through the first three games of the season, Samuel, who was named to the All-Pro First Team last year, had a relatively quiet 131 receiving yards and 111 yards on the ground.

But offensively, he was the unquestioned star for the 49ers on Monday, as he tallied 115 yards and a touchdown in the air.

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His biggest play came inside of three minutes left in the second quarter when he made a catch in traffic and broke at least one tackle while taking the ball 57 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.

It was his best play so far this season, and perhaps it’s the one that will take the proverbial cap off his overall game and be a prelude to some more big games in the near future.

The post 49ers Made A Powerful Statement On Monday appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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GSOC’s Boost National serves as first ‘major’ test for new teams

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NORTH BAY, Ont. — New team, who dis? There are a lot of familiar faces in new places playing in the Boost National, the first major tournament of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season, which starts Tuesday at Memorial Gardens.

Featuring the top-ranked teams in the men’s and women’s divisions, the Boost National also serves as the first major test for those who retooled their rosters over the off-season as they now prepare for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.

For some, it’s not only adjusting to new teammates but also to new roles. Kaitlyn Lawes, who played third for Jennifer Jones for 12 seasons, winning Olympic gold and six Grand Slam titles, has now returned to her skip roots and is calling the shots with the all-new Team Lawes.

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Even just seeing the Team Lawes scoreboard sign for the first time following Monday’s pre-tournament practice brought a huge smile to the face of the 33-year-old from Winnipeg.

“We are so excited to play in our first Slam together,” said Lawes, who won back-to-back Canadian junior titles as a skip in 2008 and 2009. “I actually can’t believe we’re here. We have a couple of events under our belts already. We’re just excited to get started.”

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After the members of Team Jones announced they were parting ways, Lawes retained second Jocelyn Peterman and linked up with third Selena Njegovan and lead Kristin MacCuish, both formerly of Team Fleury.

A “flurry” of team changes is exactly what we saw in both the women’s and men’s divisions.

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Brendan Bottcher was among those who cleaned house, and the three-time Grand Slam men’s champion acquired some marquee talent in third Marc Kennedy (Team Jacobs), second Brett Gallant (Team Gushue) and lead Ben Hebert (Team Koe). All three of his new teammates have been to the Olympics and on the podium to boot. Kennedy and Hebert claimed gold together at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games while Kennedy also collected bronze alongside Gallant earlier this year in Beijing.

The Olympics is where Bottcher would like to see himself in four years, but it is a long and bumpy road and the 30-year-old from Edmonton acknowledged: “There are a lot of dominoes between here and there.”

“There’s going to be highs and lows and I just want to focus on working hard,” Bottcher said. “I think I’m with a great group of guys. I know everyone is going to work hard and then you’ve got to let the chips fall where they lay out on the ice.”

While Lawes may face a steep learning curve readjusting to skipping, even Bottcher admitted he’s had to work on some things he hasn’t in a while.

“I think we’re all in the same boat having been with pretty established teams for a handful of years,” Bottcher said, referring to himself and his veteran teammates. “Just getting back to some of the communication, some of the smaller strategy things but even things as simple as, ‘What does a normal hit look like to you versus me?’

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“Kind of back to square one but we’ve put in a ton of time and our coach Paul [Webster] has helped us a pile. I think that’s really set us up for success here.” 

Both Team Bottcher and Team Lawes have found early success this season. Team Lawes started their year overseas finishing runners-up in the Oslo Cup before returning home to win the Mother Club Fall Classic in Winnipeg.

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“Getting the chance to go over to Norway and do some travelling together was one of the best ways we could start the season,” said Lawes, who was also a semifinalist at the new PointsBet Invitational in Fredericton, N.B. “It was fun just to get to know each other, hang out and see how we travel together.

“Honestly, I’m having so much fun and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and vice versa. We’re really enjoying it so far.”

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Bottcher won his first event, going undefeated 6-0 through the Okotoks Classic in Okotoks, Alta., and reached the semifinals in the PointsBet Invitational.

“That new event that came into the calendar this year, the PointsBet Invitational, was awesome. I think that’s a great direction for our sport to go in,” Bottcher said, adding, “It feels like we’ve been a team for a long time. Hopefully, we can expand on that and have a really good week here.”

There will be growing pains along the way for sure as they’re still getting to know one another with Lawes looking at the Boost National as a learning experience.

“With us being a new team and year one, we just want to try and enjoy each other’s company, learn what kind of team we are and so far it’s been going well,” Lawes said. “We’re having a ton of fun on and off the ice. We just want to see how we match up against the top teams and play with no pressure.”

Bottcher’s team has embraced a “growth mindset” to start the year as they’re aiming to build towards a great second half of the season.

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“It’s obviously nice to have some success early,” he said, “but as much as we can set up for a good second half of the season, I think that’s what we’re after.”

NOTES: The Boost National is the first of six events on the 2022-23 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tour featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … A $300,000 prize purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions, is on the line. The winning teams receive $35,000 plus berths into the season-ending Kioti Tractor Champions Cup. … Points are also up for grabs in the chase for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the season champions based on their results in the series. … Broadcast coverage begins Thursday on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

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Ben Simmons is exactly who he used to be, and that's OK with Nets

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Ben Simmons made his Nets debut on Monday and did what his team wanted him to do: be himself.



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