Messi nets twice in win over Elche

Lionel Messi scored twice in the second half as Barcelona moved back up into third place in La Liga by defeating Elche 3-0.

Jordi Alba also scored after the break to help Barcelona move within two points of second-place Real Madrid and five behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who still have a game in hand.

Barcelona were coming off two consecutive setbacks at home a 4-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League and a 1-1 draw against Cadiz in the Spanish league.

Messi reached 18 league goals with his double, moving two ahead of Atletico Madrid’s Luis Suarez.

He opened the scoring at the Camp Nou Stadium with a shot from inside the area after a give-and-go exchange of passes with Martin Braithwaite, then added to the lead after picking up a pass from Frenkie de Jong and fending off a few defenders before finding the net.

Alba closed the scoring in the 73rd after being set up by Braithwaite and Messi.

Barcelona’s next two matches are against Sevilla, a league meeting on Saturday followed by the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on March 3.

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Does Messi to Man City make sense?

Talk of Lionel Messi’s future will ramp up in the coming months as he approaches the end of his Barcelona contract, but does a move to Man City make sense? The Pitch to Post Review show panel discuss.

Spokespeople for both Man City and Messi have confirmed to Sky Sports News no offers have been made by City to the player, neither last summer nor since, contrary to reports in a British newspaper on Friday a £430m contract offer was to be made.

Messi’s spokesperson has also reiterated the Argentina forward will choose whether to leave or stay at the end of the season, having announced his intention to do so in an interview in December.

Messi has resettled at the Nou Camp this season since demanding to be released from his contract last summer, when Pep Guardiola and City were considered the frontrunners to sign him.

Having entered into the last six months of his current deal, Messi is keen to find out the result of next month’s presidential election and what the winner will offer to him both in financial and sporting incentives, before making a call on the next step in his career.

Jasper Taylor was joined by skysports.com’s Ben Grounds and Nick Wright to discuss whether the move makes sense, or whether the money could be better spent elsewhere…

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Messi can prolong career like the best

Lionel Messi shows his frustration after Cadiz's late penalty
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Messi is keen to find out the result of next month’s presidential election and what the winner will offer to him both in financial and sporting incentives

Sky Sports’ Nick Wright on the Pitch to Post Review:

“There are many things to consider and I think the first is that Lionel Messi remains the best player in the world at 33, there is little or no evidence that he is on the decline. Elite players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are prolonging their careers at the moment, and Messi has everything around him to keep going. He has everything in his power to sustain his output for a long time.

“Another thing to remember is that Manchester City’s owners have near-limitless wealth, so they are capable of doing this deal. Is it good business? I would hate to be the guy arguing against signing Lionel Messi because he would make them better, of course he would.

“There is also the status-factor, which would be appealing to the owners. They already have the best manager in the world, so having the best player in the world I am sure is something they would be keen on.

Lionel Messi
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Messi is currently in the final months of his Barcelona contract

“Messi played some of his best football for Barcelona under Guardiola, they have a pre-existing relationship and an understanding, and I am sure he will have a good idea of how he would intend to use him.

“I think all the ingredients are there for it to make sense: obviously the financials are eye-watering. It is an enormous amount of money. But this is Messi we are talking about. I hope it happens, because it would just be incredible to see him in the Premier League.

“The owners want to turn City into the biggest club in the world, to win Champions Leagues and make it the most marketable club in the world. Signing the best player in the world, as well as having Guardiola as manager, that’s exactly the sort of thing they are aiming for. If they can find a way to finance the deal, let’s do it, let’s go for it. I hope it happens.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Haaland or Mbappe a better use of money?

17 February 2021, Spain, Sevilla: Football: Champions League, knockout round, round of 16, first leg Sevilla FC - Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Erling Haaland of Dortmund celebrates after scoring the goal to make it 1:3. Photo by: Daniel Gonzalez Acuna/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
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Would City be better off chasing a deal for either Erling Haaland (pictured) or Kylian Mbappe?

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds on the Pitch to Post Review:

“You have got this Manchester City juggernaut that has clicked back into gear since late November. There was talk even last season about whether that was it for Pep – could he rebuild City again?

“We have seen how Phil Foden has kicked on, and they signed Ferran Torres – and their signings are pointing more towards long-term thinking. This Messi deal would be a little bit different, but it’s an opportunity. He’s coming to the end of his Barcelona contract, has that relationship with Pep Guardiola.

“Even if he is turning 34 in June, this is Lionel Messi. He’s different. He will be at the top of his game for at least a couple years to come.

“Yes, it is a bit of a vanity project, but the owners have always wanted that marquee signing to back up their credibility. That’s what it would be.

“But there are two other key players out there I think would be a better use of their money – Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe. I would rather see City go for them.

“Would Messi help Foden? I would be keen to see whether it disrupts him or improves him. If he did come in, I would be intrigued to see where he fits in. Does he play down the middle as a replacement for Sergio Aguero? What impact will that have on Gabriel Jesus?

“You do also wonder whether the intensity levels, the energy we see in the Premier League, will have an impact. That’s what all players say when they move from Spain to England – that the physicality and intensity is higher.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Where could Messi fit in? Everywhere!

Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi enjoyed huge success together
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Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi enjoyed huge success together at Barcelona

Sky Sports’ Nick Wright on the Pitch to Post Review:

“It would be dangerous to second-guess Pep Guardiola’s thinking, anyone with a Fantasy Football team can testify. Against Arsenal they were so fluid in the final third, with two or three players popping up in different positions, particularly in that false nine position at different times.

“I think Guardiola would see Messi as someone who gives him options; he used him famously as a false nine at Barcelona, he could use him from the flanks, he could play as a No 10, and could even play even deeper than that. He is still scoring at an extraordinary rate, but he has got more and more creative in recent years, with 21 assists in La Liga last season. Messi has had to drop further back as Barcelona’s midfield becomes less influential.

“Pep could basically do what he likes with him – there are so many areas he could play and fit in. It’s just a thrilling prospect.

“There is a question mark as to whether Messi would contribute defensively, if he is walking around the pitch, but he tends to be conserving energy and walking around when his team are in possession rather than out of it. I think he is more than capable of getting involved in the defensive side of the game.

“I think there are a lot of reasons this makes sense to City and Guardiola in a playing sense.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

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Cadiz end Barca winning streak, Bayern’s lead cut

Lionel Messi marked his record 506th appearance for Barcelona in La Liga by scoring a penalty but the Catalans could only draw 1-1 with Cadiz on Saturday after conceding a spot-kick late on.

The Argentine overtook former team-mate, Xavi Hernandez, in the all-time list of Barca appearances in the league and opened the scoring in the 32nd minute by calmly passing the ball into the bottom corner from the spot after Pedri had been tripped by Cadiz’s Iza.

Fielding the same starting 11 that had been thrashed 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday, a rusty looking Barca failed to build on their lead and paid the price when Clement Lenglet gave away a penalty for striking Cadiz forward Ruben Sobrino as he tried to clear the ball.

Cadiz’s Alex Fernandez made no mistake from the spot in the 89th minute to disrupt Barca’s run of seven straight league wins as the Catalans failed to take advantage of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid’s surprise 2-0 defeat by Levante a day earlier.

Barca are third in the standings on 47 points, trailing leaders Atletico by eight points and second-placed Real Madrid by five points.

Cadiz are 14th on 25 points.

Koeman: Draw more diappointing then CL defeat

Lionel Messi scored but Barcelona were pegged back to draw 1-1
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Messi scored but Barcelona were pegged back to draw 1-1

Ronald Koeman called the draw with Cadiz more disappointing than Tuesday’s heavy Champions League defeat to Paris St Germain as Barcelona’s frustrations continued.

“It is disappointing,” Koeman said in comments reported by Marca. “These types of games have to be won and we did not. It was a great opportunity lost after the loss of Atletico. I am very disappointed, more so than on Tuesday.

“We could not afford to let two points get away. I don’t like to blame individual players but we were not up to the task offensively and we have to defend differently. For our quality, we had to win.”

The draw leaves Barca continuing to trail both Madrid clubs but Koeman said there was still time for them to turn things around.

“We can still do something,” he said. “There is no team that wins games easily. But we must recognise that opportunities like this cannot be missed anymore. I don’t think it is unforgivable, but it was an opportunity to close the gap.

“[The league] is not more complicated than before. No team is unbeatable, nor are they going to win every game. There are still options. But we have missed two important points.”

Serie A: Inter hammer rivals AC Milan

Romelu Lukaku celebrates his side's 3-0 win (AP)
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Romelu Lukaku celebrates his side’s 3-0 win (AP)

Lautaro Martinez scored twice as Inter Milan established a four-point lead at the top of Serie A with a 3-0 derby win over second-placed AC Milan.

Martinez opened the scoring with a fifth-minute header before Inter keeper Samir Handanovic made a brilliant save to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic an equaliser.

The Argentinian doubled Inter’s lead in the 57th minute and Romelu Lukaku drove home the third from a tight angle nine minutes later after a defence-splitting pass from Ivan Perisic.

Inter players celebrate their 3-0 win at the end of the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Inter Milan, at the Milan San Siro Stadium, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
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Inter players celebrate their 3-0 win at the end of the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Inter Milan, at the Milan San Siro Stadium, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Elsewhere, Udinese hit back from two goals down to grab a precious point in a 2-2 draw at relegation rivals Parma.

The hosts ended a run of eight home games without a goal when Andreas Cornelius headed them in front after three minutes.

Juraj Kucka doubled Parma’s lead from the penalty spot but Stefano Okaka reduced the deficit against his old club, then Bram Nuytinck headed the equaliser 10 minutes from time.

Leipzig power past Hertha to close in on leaders Bayern

Willi Orban, left, celebrates his goal for RB Leipzig on Sunday
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Willi Orban, left, celebrates his goal for RB Leipzig on Sunday

RB Leipzig eased past Hertha Berlin 3-0 on Sunday to cut the gap to leaders Bayern Munich to two points with their fourth consecutive Bundesliga victory.

Marcel Sabitzer put the visitors in front in the 28th minute with a ferocious shot from 30 metres that went straight into the top corner with Hertha goalkeeper Rune Jarstein frozen to the spot on a sunny afternoon in the capital.

Nordi Mukiele then took advantage of a mistake by Hertha’s Matteo Guendouzi in the box to drill the ball in and double their lead in the 71st.

Leipzig, who lost 2-0 to Liverpool in their Champions League round-of-16 first leg on Tuesday, were initially on the backfoot with Hertha missing several good chances before Sabitzer’s goal against the run of play.

They then survived late pressure from Hertha with keeper Peter Gulacsi coming to the rescue twice before Willi Orban headed in Leipzig’s third goal in the 84th to seal the win.

The Saxony club are in second place on 47 points, with Bayern top on 49 following their 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. VfL Wolfsburg and Frankfurt are on 42 in third and fourth place respectively.

Hertha are now without a win in their last eight league games and are stuck in 15th place, level on 18 points with 16th Arminia Bielefeld, who sit in the relegation playoff spot.

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No offers from City with Messi to decide in summer

Manchester City have yet to make any offers to Lionel Messi, with the Barcelona star to decide his future in the summer.

Spokespeople for both the Premier League-leaders and Messi have confirmed to Sky Sports News that no offers have been made by City to the player, neither last summer nor since, contrary to reports in a British newspaper on Friday.

Messi’s spokesperson has also reiterated that the Argentina forward will choose whether to leave or stay at the end of the season, having announced his intention to do so in an interview in December.

Messi has resettled at the Nou Camp this season since demanding to be released from his contract last summer, when Pep Guardiola and City were considered the frontrunners to sign him.

Short of entering into a legal dispute over a contract clause that would have allowed him a free transfer, Messi stayed but is now free to negotiate with other clubs outside Spain, with Paris Saint-Germain also interested, having entered into the last six months of his current deal.

However, Messi is keen to find out the result of next month’s presidential election and what the winner will offer to him both in financial and sporting incentives, before making a call on the next step in his career.



Ronald Koeman and Lionel Messi




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Messi’s current contract at Barcelona expires in the summer. Should he remain a one-man club or move elsewhere? The panel from The Beautiful Game podcast have their say

The 33-year-old has said publicly he would like to play in Major League Soccer before he retires.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s current contract – signed in 2017 – was leaked last month by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, claiming its worth to total £492m (€555m).

It went on to claim it was the most expensive ever awarded to an athlete, describing it as having “ruined” Barcelona by causing their current financial crisis. Barcelona since denied the leak came from the club’s board and threatened legal action against the paper.

In December, interim president Carlos Tusquets also claimed the club should have sold Messi last summer when he wanted to leave. “Both in terms of what you save on the wage bill as well as the money you make, it would’ve been desirable,” he said.

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Lionel Messi 360: The view from all sides as Man City, Paris Saint-Germain, MLS clubs prepare to lure Barcelona star

Lionel Messi is now free to speak to clubs outside of Spain about finally leaving Barcelona in the summer but – despite last year’s transfer request – does he still want to leave?

His future is shrouded in uncertainty with every option on the table, so Sky Sports News has pulled together this comprehensive analysis from all sides of the equation.

Will he be reunited with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City? Will he play for compatriot Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain? Will he fly straight to the United States to play in MLS? Or will he finish his career as a one-club man and stay with Barcelona?

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Mbappe hits hat-trick as PSG demolish Barcelona

Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick inspired Paris Saint-Germain to an emphatic 4-1 victory at Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

In what was an open first half at the Nou Camp, Lionel Messi (27) gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot after Frenkie de Jong had his heels clipped by Layvin Kurzawa before Mbappe responded five minutes later for the visitors, who were without Neymar and Angel Di Maria.

After the break, PSG took over and Mbappe (65) added his second of the night before Moise Kean, who is on loan from Everton, stretched the French side’s advantage.

Mbappe (85) then produced a brilliant curled finish to leave Barcelona stunned, rounding off a stunning evening for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

It leaves Barca requiring another considerable comeback heading into the second leg at the Parc des Princes on March 10, four years on from the sides’ memorable last-16 clash in which the La Liga outfit recovered from a 4-0 first-leg loss in France by winning the second 6-1 at the Nou Camp.

How PSG stunned Barca…

Kylian Mbappe scored twice for PSG
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Mbappe scored twice for PSG

PSG started brightly, with Mbappe’s pace causing the Barcelona defence problems straight away. The French forward tried to latch onto Marco Verratti’s pass over the top but Marc-André ter Stegen was quickly off his line to clear for the hosts.

Despite a confident start from the visitors, it was Barca who created the first clear opening. Messi dropped deep to start the move, playing the ball into Pedri, who then slid in Antoine Griezmann. However, the Frenchman scuffed his shot, allowing Keylor Navas to make a simple block at his near post.

The deadlock was eventually broken in the 27th minute and Messi was at the heart of it for the hosts. His direct pass looked to release De Jong into the penalty area and the midfielder had his heels clipped by Kurzawa as the defender tried to track the run, and referee Bjorn Kuipers correctly pointed to the spot.

Player ratings

Barcelona: Ter Stegen (7), Dest (5), Pique (6), Lenglet (5), Jordi Alba (6), De Jong (6), Sergio Busquets (5), Pedri (6), Griezmann (5), Messi (6), Dembele (5).

Subs: Mingueza (6), Tincao (n/a), Puig(n/a), Pjanic (n/a), Braithwaite (n/a).

PSG: Navas (7), Florenzi (7), Marquinhos (7), Kimpembe (7), Kurzawa (8), Paredes (8), Gueye (6), Kean (8), Verratti (8), Mbappe (9), Icardi (7).

Subs: Herrera (7), Draxler (7), Pereira (n/a), Kehrer (n/a).

Man of the match: Kylian Mbappe.

It was over to Messi, who emphatically picked out the top corner with his penalty for his 20th goal of the season in all competitions.

Ousmane Dembele had a brilliant chance to make it two moments later, but his scuffed shot was straight at Navas, and it proved to be costly as Mbappe struck the equaliser.

PSG's Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against Barcelona
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Mbappe celebrates after scoring his second goal against Barcelona

Verratti’s flick picked out the striker in the penalty area and he showed quick feet to shift the ball past Clement Lenglet before powering the ball into the roof of the net for a crucial away goal.

The game was now end-to-end as Ter Stegen denied Kurzawa, while Griezmann shot wide after a swift Barca counter-attack. Ter Stegen also had to be alert to keep out Kean’s powerful strike before Mauro Icardi powered a header wide in the closing stages of a brilliant first half.

Team news

  • Barca’s line-up included Gerard Pique, returning to Ronald Koeman’s defence after almost three months out due a knee injury. Ousmane Dembele was also among the players coming in as he joined Messi and Antoine Griezmann in the attack.
  • PSG, with former Barca man Neymar and Angel Di Maria still sidelined, started with a front three of Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Kean.

Barcelona needed Ter Stegen to keep them in the game after the break too as the goalkeeper produced a smart save to keep out Kean’s deflected effort.

However, he could do nothing about Mbappe’s second of the evening. Leandro Paredes’ pass released Alessandro Florenzi and his cut-back was deflected into the path of Mbappe, who guided the ball into the back of the net.

Magical Mbappe

Of players with 20 or more goals in the UEFA Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe has netted the highest proportion in away matches (71 per cent – 17/24).

Mbappe was then denied a third by a smart block from Ter Stegen but again, he was powerless to prevent PSG’s third as Kean ran through unmarked to head home Paredes’ free-kick.

Barca had absolutely no answer to PSG’s dominance and Mbappe rounded off a perfect night for Pochettino’s men with a curled finish after a swift counter-attack from the visitors.

What the managers said…

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman: “Surely the result reflects how superior they have been. In the second half, we had problems defensively. They proved physically to be very superior to us.

“We have to admit that they have been superior. They have shown that they have a more complete team than us. We have to accept it, improve things. We know that this can happen because we play against a great team, a physical team, with experience… for many things, that is ahead of us.

“A 1-4 defeat is normally very difficult. I can lie to you but losing at home 1-4, there are very few options. The game has shown us that we lack things to be at the best level, especially at the Champions League level.”

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino on Mbappe’s display: “Yesterday, at training, he asked me how many times I had won at the Camp Nou. Once, I told him. He replied to me: ‘Tomorrow, we are going to win a second time.’ He is a top player.”

Man of the match – Kylian Mbappe

PSG's Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side's first goal against Barcelona
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Mbappe celebrates after scoring his first goal

Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew:

Many a Champions League night at the Nou Camp has been about the irrepressible Lionel Messi, but, against PSG, he was well and truly upstaged by Kylian Mbappe’s stunning performance.

As early as the second minute, the French forward was giving the Barcelona defence a fright with his pace and from then on, every time he got the ball, he caused Ronald Koeman’s side problems.

It was a performance that drew special praise from Barca forward and international team-mate Antoine Griezmann. “Kylian Mbappe had a great night,” he said. “PSG has a great star for the future, who will be at the level of Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.”

And it is hard to argue.

Mbappe went on to produce three fine finishes to become only the third player to score a treble in the competition against Barcelona, after Faustino Asprilla for Newcastle and Andriy Shevchenko for Dynamo Kiev (both in 1997) and the first player to score a hat-trick against the Spanish club in the knockout phase.

But on what was a truly special night for PSG, he could have had more goals but for some fine saves from Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

With 110 goals now to his name, the 22-year-old is already PSG’s third-highest goalscorer in all competitions, overtaking Pauleta (109). Now only Edinson Cavani (200) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156) have netted more for PSG, but, if he stays at the club, those records will not be intact for long.

He has also drawn level with Zinedine Zidane with eight goals in the list of the top goalscorers in the Champions League knockout stages, with just Thierry Henry (12) and Karim Benzema (18) ahead of him.

The sky is the limit for Mbappe, who confirmed himself as football’s best young player with an astonishing performance that Messi himself would have been proud of.

Opta stats – Barca’s dismal night

  • In what is their 151st home match in the European Cup/Champions League, Barcelona have lost consecutive matches for the very first time.
  • Barcelona have played 278 home matches in all European competitions and have lost by a 3+ goal margin only six times – the last two occasions have come in successive games at Camp Nou (0-3 vs Juventus, 1-4 vs PSG).
  • Paris Saint-Germain became just the second French side to beat Barcelona at Camp Nou after Metz also won 4-1 in the 1984-85 Cup Winners’ Cup. French sides were winless in 10 subsequent visits (D2 L8).
  • Coming into this game Barcelona were unbeaten in their last 15 UEFA Champions League knockout stage matches at Camp Nou (W13 D2) since losing 0-3 to Bayern Munich in 2012-13 in the semi-final.

Messi on target on bad night for Barca

Lionel Messi’s opener was his 20th goal of the season for Barcelona in all competitions; it’s the 13th consecutive campaign he’s scored 20+ goals for the club.

Messi has scored in the UEFA Champions League in each calendar year since 2005. This run of at least one goal in 17 consecutive years is the joint-longest run in the competition’s history alongside Raul (1995-2011).

What’s next?

Barcelona host Cadiz in La Liga on Sunday; kick-off 1pm. Meanwhile, PSG host Monaco in Ligue 1, also on Sunday; kick-off 8pm.

The second leg of this Champions League last-16 tie takes place on March 10 at the Parc des Princes; kick-off 8pm.

Champions League key dates

Round of 16 first legs: February 17/23/24

Round of 16 second legs: March 9/10/16/17

Quarter-final and semi-final draws: March 19

Quarter-finals first legs: April 6/7

Quarter-finals second legs: April 13/14

Semi-finals first legs: April 27/28

Semi-finals second legs: May 4/5

Final: May 29 (Atatürk Olympic Stadium)

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