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Cesc Fabregas backs Monaco to challenge Lionel Messi’s PSG in Ligue 1

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Cesc Fabregas believes Monaco’s enthusiastic and talented young group of players are ready to push Lionel Messi’s Paris St Germain all the way in the Ligue 1 title race this season.

The Argentina captain was officially unveiled by PSG on Wednesday at a press conference at the Parc de Princes after he completed a shock move on a free transfer a day earlier.

Messi and Fabregas came through Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy before they spent three years as team-mates in the first-team at the Nou Camp, but they will be domestic rivals in France and the Monaco ace warned his good friend picking up more silverware in Paris will not be a formality.

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Fabregas said: “Who would have thought Lille last season would win the title? Probably right now last year probably nobody, not even Lille themselves but they tried, did a really good campaign, stuck together and worked hard.

“Of course in certain moments they were lucky but which team that wins a title is not lucky at certain points of the season? For this reason on paper yes PSG are the best team, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.

“They have had top teams in the past and they still didn’t manage to win what they are dreaming of, that is the Champions League. Obviously with Leo, the level increases a lot because I know he wants to win the Champions League and I know he goes there to basically win it so it will be tough.

“We are a young group – not me but in general – full of energy and we are proud of what we are doing. Hopefully we keep growing as a team and manage to compete against them, at least until the end and make it difficult. They have a fantastic team and it helps, but it doesn’t guarantee they win all the titles.”

Messi may be PSG’s most high-profile signing of the summer, but the other business completed by Mauricio Pochettino’s team has been impressive as they aim to take the final step in Europe’s elite competition.

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Former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, Euro 2020 winner Gianluigi Donnarumma and ex-Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum have all joined on frees, while right-back Achraf Hakimi moved from Inter Milan.

And while Fabregas admits PSG have created a “super team”, he believes that brings its own pressures.

He added: “Certainly when PSG don’t win the league everyone sees it as a disaster because they spent a lot of money and everyone takes it as a one-team league but in the last five years they won three because Monaco and Lille have been in the middle and put a break on the winning streak they had.

“It is a competitive league, it is not as easy as people think, it is very aggressive, very fast with strong players who defend well. As a coach I am sure Pochettino prefers to have a fantastic squad with a lot of pressure on himself knowing he needs to win than the other way round.

“They must have pressure when you create a super team like that. It is obvious they want to win the Champions League, they have been following it and trying to catch it for a very long time now.

“It seems like this is the last push, there is nothing better than Leo Messi, no better defender than Ramos, Wijnaldum is one of the best midfielders, Hakimi is one of the best right-backs, it feels like they are doing that little extra and final push to see where it takes them.”

Fabregas, who is in the final year of his contract at the Stade Louis II, is the elder statesman of Niko Kovac’s Monaco team which contains numerous young players.

Several have already pestered the former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder about trying to help them get Messi’s number 30 shirt when PSG host their rivals for the first time this season on December 12.

“Obviously it is big news for France, for Ligue 1, I think four days ago no one expected this is happening,” Fabregas admitted.

“All the boys are really excited and they have a lot of enthusiasm knowing they will be playing against Lionel Messi. For some of them they are dreaming of it so for them it is a really good thing.

“They don’t stop asking questions and sometimes this brings even more motivation and confidence to do well and try to do whatever you can for something special to happen.

“Everyone wants his shirt, they all want me to ask already for the mid-December to keep the shirt for them and I say probably he’s only got two so we are 25 and I don’t know how I do that.

“But it is nice to see the will to compete and show their talent because this team at Monaco is full of talent. It will be a big test, they know that but when the right time comes to play against the best player in the world, they will show what they can do.”

BT Sport is the exclusive home of Ligue 1 football in the UK and Ireland, with around 200 top-flight clashes available to watch this season. For more info, visit btsport.com