Josh Mart takes the chance to preview the second leg of this year’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
The first leg was nothing short of remarkable. PSG defied all the odds and managed to thrash the Catalonian giants by four goals to nil, a scoreline which was thoroughly deserved and reverberated around the football world. PSG were on to Barcelona straight from the kick off and were utterly relentless. Goals from Edinson Cavani, Julian Draxler and an Angel Di Maria double were the least the Parisians deserved even if Barca didn’t perform at anywhere near their best.
The second leg tonight promises to be interesting to say the least as Barcelona look for revenge at Camp Nou. Most online tipsters, unsurprisingly, are backing Barcelona for the win but with outside odds of 21/5 for PSG to cause an upset, some might fancy the away side finally getting one over on the team which has been their proverbial “thorn in the side” for years.
Since the heavy defeat in Paris, Barcelona have been near perfect domestically scoring a mightily impressive 15th goal in their last 4 games. Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing of Celta Vigo was considered by some to be Barcelona’s most complete performance of the season.
This coincides with Luis Enrique’s decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation which could be deployed against PSG tonight. Coach Luis Enrique has recently announced that he will be leaving Barcelona at the end of the season, but he and his squad will be desperate to make history and pull of the near impossible at the Camp Nou this evening.
PSG have also been in great form in France, despite a minor European hangover after the Barcelona rout where they drew 0-0 at home to Toulouse. A fabulous 5-1 victory in ‘Les Clasique’ away to Marseille has been followed up by a Coupe de France win over Niort and a routine 1-0 victory over Nancy at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.
Despite their good form, Unai Emery’s men still behind leaders Monaco in the Ligue 1 standings but their spectacular performance against Barcelona has gone some way to silencing Emery’s critics this season.
Team News and Tactics:
Barcelona are without the injured duo of Aleix Vidal and Jeremie Mathieu for this one, but Luis Enrique’s main decision to make is whether to play the 3-4-3 formation which worked so well against Celta at the weekend, or revert to the clubs typical 4-3-3 formation.
I think that Barcelona will line up with the 3-4-3 with Ter Stegen behind a back 3 of Mascherano, Pique and Umtiti. The midfield will be quite narrow to try and gain more control of the ball- something which they lacked terribly at the Parc des Princes. Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta look set to start and will most probably be joined by Ivan Rakitic and one of Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto or Andre Gomes depending on how much Enrique wants from the midfield. The front 3 of Messi, Suarez and Neymar picks itself, despite a very under par performance from them all 3 weeks ago.
Unai Emery really does have some big selection problems here, as he is missing Thiago Motta and probably Di Maria through injury and there has been speculation about Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot missing out too.
With this in mind, I expect Unai Emery to stick with his 4-3-3 formation with Trapp in goals behind a defence of Meunier, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Kurzawa. Kimpembe could retain his place but the experience of Thiago Silva may be needed here. If the injury rumours are to be believed it would be very tricky to assume PSG’s midfield trio, but I think at least one of Verratti/Rabiot will play alongside Matuidi in midfield. The other option (if needed) could be filled by Krychowiak or the talented youngster Nkunku. Di Maria’s void is likely to be filled by Lucas Moura, who will play in the front three alongside Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – He had a very unusually poor evening in Paris in the first leg, although he wasn’t alone in that regard. He has been in scintillating form since then and is said to be full of determination and desire to make history and overturn this monumental deficit in this game. If anyone can…
Julian Draxler (PSG) – Julian Draxler’s career promised so much when he broke through and became an integral part of the first team at Schalke but he was criticised heavily (partly justifiably) for what was seen as a sideways move to Wolfsburg. Since moving to Paris though, he has been superb. The talent which has never been in question is now accompanied by a hunger and desire to win which was so evident in the first leg.
This is a very strange game to predict because it is not often that there is such a large margin in the aggregate scores at this level of competition. It’s hard not to see Barcelona winning, purely because PSG have no need to try and win the match and because they will know that their pride is at stake here. I think Barcelona will win the game, but PSG will go through thanks to their marvellous first leg performance.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 PSG