Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona | Wednesday 15 April | Parc des Princes | 20:45
The Parc Des Princes is the venue for perhaps the most intriguingly poised quarterfinal in this year’s Champions League. The Herculean resolve that saw PSG past Mourinho’s Chelsea came at a severe price; suspensions will greatly limit the efficacy of France’s premier club against Luis Enrique’s Barcelona. Zlatan’s controversial red-card will see him miss out while both Aurier and Verratti will also be sidelined due to suspension. Barcelona’s selection issues seem far less compromised, with Lionel Messi back to supreme fitness at just the right time for the Catalan giants. This promises to be a titanic war of attrition that will require all of Laurent Blanc’s supreme tactical know-how.
To Win (90mins)
Paris Saint-Germain 7/2
The French outfit will be on a high following their Coupe De La Ligue victory over Bastia at the weekend. Zlatan was instrumental in the match, scoring two whilst Edinson Cavani also scored a brace. Though Zlatan’s enigmatic qualities will certainly be missed against his former club, it is the suspension of the indefatigable Verratti that will likely hurt PSG the most. They are likely to surrender large tracts of possession to Barcelona, which would probably have alienated Ibra to some extent. Additionally, Thiago Motta is likely to miss the match due to injury, heaping huge pressure on the likes of Rabiot and Cabaye. David Luiz is also set to miss the match through a thigh strain, which will necessitate the selection of Marquinhos alongside Thiago Silva.
The continued absence of Lucas Moura is really going to hurt PSG this time around. Mourinho’s Chelsea were so criminally negative that Moura’s absence was not noted, but against the likes of Messi and Suarez you can expect Moura’s dashing athleticism to be sorely missed. Edinson Cavani will manfully lead the line - in fact I think that Cavani is better suited to playing the lone striker than Ibra - while Pastore and Lavezzi will attempt to lend support when possible to Cavani. Matuidi will have his work cut out in a holding role, with Barcelona’s three musketeers ready to be unleashed against this vastly diminished Parisian force.
Barcelona had a slight set-back at the weekend, surrendering a two goal lead to an inspired Sevilla side. That being said, there was always a chance of pre-European jitters with a game of such magnitude midweek. Dani Alves will miss due to a ban, which should see the versatile Javier Mascherano drafted back into the side. Rakitic has been an unsung hero for the Catalans this season, bringing midfield solidity to the side and thereby facilitating the unadulterated attacking license afforded to the likes of Messi and Suarez. Messi has scored 46 goals in all competitions this season and will be licking his lips at the prospect of taking on this slightly threadbare PSG lineup.
The absence of Motta and Verratti is going to allow Iniesta more time and space to switch the impetus from defence to attack. Messi will be able to drop more freely into those dangerous pockets of seemingly harmless space that he exploits so adroitly. You can’t imagine Rabiot and Cabaye will have the temperament to emulate Verratti and Motta’s titanic display at Stamford Bridge. It is a pity that PSG have the suspensions and injury concerns that they do; this could have proved a particularly difficult task for Enrique’s men were PSG at full tilt.
VERDICT: Barcelona 15/20
I really believe that Verratti and Motta are going to be huge losses for the French side, which is compounded by the lack of both Moura and Ibrahimovic. Their list of injuries and suspensions reminds one of Chelsea’s Champions League final victory over the highly touted Bayern Munich, but I just can’t see this PSG side putting up a similar rearguard action.