PSG’s Luis Enrique claims he represents Barcelona’s style of play more than Xavi: “It’s not an opinion, look at the statistics.”

Seven years after overseeing one of European football’s most storied comebacks, Luis Enrique now finds himself on the opposing bench as PSG cross paths with Barcelona once again. 

“It’s a completely different game for me, but I’ve faced them before, both as a player and as a manager”, the former Blaugrana manager explained in today’s press conference. “My love story with Barcelona goes back many years, but my profession comes first.”

Asked about whether he could put any insider knowledge to good use tomorrow night, though, Luis Enrique pointed out that he has yet to face Xavi on the bench – “I’ve known him as a teammate, as my player, but not as a coach. I know the club very well, but I don’t know whether it’ll be an advantage.”

The manager’s answer was more definitive, however, when – with no hint of a wry smile – he asserted that he embodied the Catalans’ style of play better than his opposite number. “Without a doubt, it’s me.  It’s not an opinion, look at the statistics, in terms of possession, chances, pressing, trophies… Others might have a different opinion, but it’s definitely me.”

Such is the lasting, trauma of the remontada that even a convincing win at the Parc des Princes tomorrow night will be met with caution in the PSG camp. The Catalans, though, are evidently weaker this time round – no longer spearheaded by the most impressive front three ever assembled – even if their league form has picked up since the turn of the year. For the former Spain manager, though, beating the Blaugrana remains a tall task – “Nobody can say that this Barcelona team is weak, they are strong. They’re doing well going forward, they have good players, and they’re a club with a lot of experience, having already won five titles. It’s not easy, but I’m feeling motivated.”

With his PSG career now down to its final months, Kylian Mbappé will inevitably the centre of attention tomorrow night. His dwindling domestic playing time, as the team limps to a 12th Ligue 1 title, has fostered rumours of an increasingly strained relationship with his manager. When asked about the forward in today’s opening question, the Spaniard chose to “give a collective answer” – “We’re in great form, we’re going into the game at the best possible time for us”. 

For tomorrow evening, the Asturian will have the majority of the squad at his disposal – although both of his right-backs are out of action, with Achraf Hakimi suspended and Nordi Mukiele undergoing a concussion protocol. “Instead seeing of a problem, I see an opportunity”, the coach explained, albeit without giving any clues as to who would operate on the right-hand side of the defence.

In any case, unlike his predecessors, Luis Enrique will have the privilege of resting his players for a full week between two European ties. The Ligue 1 authorities have postponed their game against Le Havre – a decision which has not exactly been met with unanimous approval.

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