Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain | Tuesday 21 April | Camp Nou | 20:45
PSG went into the first leg with high hopes of ousting the Catalan giants in the same manner as their 3-2 victory at the Parc des Princes in the UEFA Champions League group stage. It was not to be for France’s premier football club as Barcelona eased to a 3-1 victory and effectively evaporated PSG’s hopes of a first semi-final appearance since 1995. Barcelona haven’t lost at the Camp Nou by more than two goals in nearly two years, fellow quarter-finalists Bayern Munich the culprits. Although the Parisians welcome back key players for this clash, the odds are most certainly stacked against Laurent Blanc’s charges.
To Win (90mins)
Paris Saint-Germain 6/1
To Qualify for Semi-Final
Paris Saint-Germain 25/1
Barca remain on course for an elusive treble with complacency their only enemy. Sure, PSG are a world-class side but for Barcelona to be on the brink of a seventh Champions League semi-final appearance in eight seasons highlights a certain gulf in quality. The Catalans will relish the two-goal advantage and look to control the game from the outset with the smart, possession based football that has become the hallmark of the club over the years. The irresistible frontline of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi seem just about unstoppable as their movement in and out of pockets of space continues to flummox defences the world over. The first leg was no different, Suarez picking up a brace after Neymar opened the scoring with a neat finish past the goalkeeper following a typically fast Barcelona break. Messi scored in La Liga at the weekend to take his tally to an astounding 400 goals for the club at the age of 27.
Iniesta has been cleared to face PSG following a back injury in the first leg. The diminutive midfielder will pull the strings in the middle of the park while Dani Alves, returning from suspension, will likely reclaim his place at right-back at the expense of Martin Montoya. The experienced central defensive pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano may sit slightly deeper than usual so as not to be caught on the break, but Barcelona will certainly not be parking the proverbial bus. Canny performers in Rakitic and Busquets will look to draw PSG out at every opportunity and distribute to Barcelona’s famed frontline. Marc-Andre ter Stegen will likely keep his place between the sticks in a goalkeeping anomaly. He continues to start in the Champions League but has yet to displace first-choice Claudio Bravo and make his La Liga debut.
Although PSG will undoubtedly be bolstered by the return of key players for this clash, the French club still have an almighty mountain to climb if they wish to progress to the next round. There are doubts about the fitness of their wildly inconsistent Brazilian centre-backs David Luiz and Thiago Silva, with the latter set to travel to Camp Nou but unlikely to participate. Silva was replaced injured in the first-half of the first leg by Luiz, which was probably for the best considering Silva’s almost comical errors at the back. However, the captain’s dodgy defending was trumped by the sloppiness of Luiz, who was nutmegged twice by Luis Suarez to concede the final two goals. French midfielder Blaise Matuidi has called for a better defensive effort and PSG will certainly need to tighten up dramatically if they hope to leave the Camp Nou in high spirits.
Thiago Motta and Serge Aurier will be sidelined through injury and suspension respectively as the Parisians welcome back top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and influential playmaker Marco Verratti. While it strengthens the spine of the side significantly, the expected inclusion of Lucas Moura will probably make the biggest difference. Moura was instrumental in PSG’s 3-2 win over Barcelona back in the group stage and even though the task ahead of him is monumental, especially after a lengthy absence through injury, he could be the one beacon of light for French fans on Tuesday night.
VERDICT: Barcelona + Both Teams to Score (YES) 14/10
While PSG will put everything into this clash I feel that Barcelona are too strong in front of their home fans. PSG will be forced to chase the ball from the outset and Barcelona will simply look to pick them off as the situation becomes more and more dire. However, with Barca priced up at a paltry 4/10 I’m in favour of looking for a bit more value. PSG simply have to get on the scoresheet and have the quality to do so. However, as the game becomes more extended, Barca should punish the away side. Look to the Matchbet + Both Teams to Score market to boost returns.