MATCH PREVIEW: FC Barcelona v Paris Saint Germain
Barcelona (CNA).- There was a mood of doom of gloom after PSG put four goals four goals past Barça in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie. But the last three weeks have provided plenty of time to digest that hefty setback, and going into the return leg the atmosphere is surprisingly upbeat. Barça are on a 14-match winning streak in the Champions League and few would dare bet against an extension of that run. But can they get the goals they need against another of the strongest teams in world football? While also ensuring that they don’t concede any at their own end? Just one PSG goal would leave the Catalans needing a minimum of six…Nobody is saying it won’t be difficult. Very, very difficult. But as Luis Suárez said in his pre-match conference, “if any team can do this, Barça can.” We can but dare to dream…
The name of André Gomes in place of Denis Suárez is the only change with respect to the one that beat Celta 5-0 at the weekend. The Galician midfielder will have to sit this one out along with Jordi Masip, while Jeremy Mathieu and Aleix Vidal continue to recover from their respective ankle injuries.
The full Barcelona squad is therefore as follows: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Arda, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, S. Roberto, André Gomes and Umtiti.
There were question marks over the heads of two of the most influential PSG players at the Parc des Pinces, Adrien Rabiot and Angel di Maria, but both are reportedly good to go and have been included in the squad. Former Barça man Thiago Motta, who missed the first leg though suspension, has also managed to put his calf trouble behind him.
Barça boss Luis Enrique knows full well what a difficult task lies ahead, but like his players, knows that if they give it their best shot, anything might happen. “We have to score a lot of goals, which we have done plenty of times before” he told a packed pressroom on Tuesday. “But let’s not get crazy, tomorrow we have nothing to lose and everything to win.”
“I am certain that at some point we will be close to evening up the score. And when get close, you raise morale, and your opponent starts getting discouraged.”
PSG coach Unai Emery knows Barça well from his days in La Liga as coach of Almería, Valencia and Sevilla and despite his team's advantage in the tie, he is taking nothing for granted. "We are playing against a great team and I have great respect for FC Barcelona. We have to try and continue from the first leg, attack and defend and win the individual battles," remarked the Basque boss.
A repeat of any of Barça’s three earlier results in Champions League games at the Camp Nou this season would be enough to at least take the game with PSG into extra time. Celtic were battered 7-0 and both Borussia Mönchengladbach and Manchester City went down 4-0. What’s more, either the 6-1 defeat of Sporting Gijón or 5-0 rout of Celta in the last two Liga games would also suffice. So it’s not as if Barça are being asked to do anything that they haven’t already done before.
But they are up against a PSG side that’s on an unbeaten run of 14 games in all competitions, including an impressive 5-1 win in the French classico away to Marseille just ten days ago. It still leaves them three points adrift of Ligue 1 leaders Monaco, but finding weak spots in a team on such fine form is not going to be easy.
This is the fourth time that the sides have met in the Champions League since April 2013. Before the fateful meeting three weeks ago, Barça were on a three-match winning streak against the French club, although none of those results (3-1 and 2-0 at home and 3-1 in Paris) would be enough to prevent Barça from missing out on the quarter finals for the first time since going out to Liverpool in 2007.