UCL: Barcelona v PSG Preview

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We preview Wednesday's 2nd Leg Champions League tie between Barcelona and PSG.

Well, that Celta Vigo result came at just the right time to get a few jitterbugs going in old Paris. Fresh off the news that Luis Enrique will be stepping down as head coach of the Catalan giants at season’s end, Barcelona gave the type of vintage display that has largely escaped them in recent times. Messi was mesmeric in a performance that will no doubt have left Unai Emery with some minor doubts. But let’s be honest, PSG surely finished the job last time around. No team has ever overturned a four-goal defect in a Champions League knock-out tie. But if there’s any team in the history of the competition that could achieve the unachievable, Messi’s Barcelona would surely be that side.

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Barcelona v PSG Preview | Wednesday 8 March | The Nou Camp | 21:45

To Win (90 Mins)
Barcelona 4/10 | Draw 39/10 | PSG 5/2

Barcelona will be without Jeremy Mathieu and Alexi Vidal for this week’s clash. Their familiar 4-3-3 formation will look to stretch PSG this weekend, with the French side nursing a few injury concerns. Lionel Messi was sensational against Celta Vigo and will need to be amazing from the start here.

Barcelona have progressed to the quarter-finals in the last nine seasons, one has to go back to 2006/2007 to witness the last time they were bundled out before that stage: that was by Liverpool.

The potential absence of Di Maria with muscular problems could embolden Barcelona. The problem in Paris was that Messi was picking the ball up far too deep. That was a direct result of PSG absolutely dominating every 50/50 challenge. The return of both Iniesta and Rakitic to complete full fitness should galvanise an improvement in this area of the pitch. The atmosphere at the Nou Camp will obviously play a part. If Barca are able to score early, and the crowd gets behind an embattled Barca, there could be a small space for something incredible.

The thing is - if PSG hit on the break - as they will want to do - Barca will have to score 6 goals. Thiago Motta and Rabiot look likely to miss out, while Angel Di Maria is nursing a muscular problem. One wonders if Emery will consider it worth the risk considering they have such a comfortable cushion. I think he may opt to leave club Captain Thiago Silva on the bench, with academy graduate Kimpembe looking very much the real deal. Reading a rather amusing interview with left-back Kurzawa in recently, he notes that he prefers playing alongside Kimpembe, identifying Silva’s occasionally demonstrative tone to his fellow defenders.
Draxler was brilliant in the first leg and may play with Pastore on the flanks. Emery may play Matuidi in a more advanced role with the current tie situation, with the 4-2-3-1 formation looking even more defensively minded. He will have the likes of Moura and Ben Arfa to draw on should any heebie jeebies occur. I think that they will be far more stretched this week, with Barcelona seemingly finding more cohesion in recent weeks. Rakitic has been back at his best and is a vital defensive tool for the Spanish side when in full flow.

Verdict: Total Goals Over 3.5 9/10
Similarly to the Bayern-Arsenal clash, Barca will have nothing to lose. This will play perfectly into the hands of the cunning counterattacking instincts of the French side. I expect Barca to come out on top- there’s a romantic inside me that desperately wants them to succeed. But you can’t see them keeping a clean sheet against this well drilled PSG side.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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