It was a disappointing group stage for PSG, failing to beat Ludogorets in the final game of the group stage and consequently Paris have been drawn against one of the most ominous names in European football. So are Paris ready and can Unai Emery overcome the odds and beat Barcelona?
Its not the first time PSG have crossed paths with the mighty FC Barcelona during the Qatari era at Paris. Losing on away goals back in 2013 but Barcelona and Suarez ran riot in both legs when Les Parisiens were beaten 5-1 on aggregate two years later. Both of those encounters were in the quarter finals but the two heavyweights are in risk of going out in the Round of 16 this year around.
With recent history on their side and the fact that Paris have been unable to beat the so called ‘better teams’ in the Champions League, Barcelona are the clear favourites for many going into the fixture.
However, I don’t think the French champions should be written off easily. Paris may not be in control of Ligue 1 at the moment but they have been enduring their best run of form all season since the turn of the year. Edinson Cavani has been a handful for all defences he has played against this season and Barcelona’s back line should be very fearful of the Uruguayans form. 33 goals in 31 games in all competitions for Paris so far this season really speaks for its self.
Barcelona have not been firing on all cylinders either this season. They are playing catch up too in La Liga to Real Madrid and will have some key players missing for the first leg trip to the Parc Des Princes on Tuesday. Alex Vidal, Arda Turan and Javier Mascherano are all missing and this will make the Barcelona back line quite vulnerable. Emery will also take confidence from Barcelona’s poor second half display against Atletico Madrid last week when the were lucky not to lose in the Copa Del Rey.
Despite their form, over the two legs Barcelona will be extremely hard to overcome. Unai Emery has experience about facing Barcelona, but its not a record he will boast about. He’s only beaten the Catalan giants once in 23 attempts.
In addition, Les Parisiens are without captain Thiago Silva or Thiago Motta for the clash. As daunting as it may seem to be without such key figures at the back, the last time PSG beat Barcelona back in 2014, they were without Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimović. So there is certainly hope for Paris and the French side should not be written off from a shock at the Parc in the first leg of this gripping Round of 16 fixture on Tuesday night.
The big team news is Paris’ captain Thiago Silva is out through injury. Thiago Motta and Goncalo Guedes are also out, with the latter unable to play in the Champions League. However Pastore is in the squad and has a chance of featuring. It will be interesting to see weather Emery will decide to play 4-2-3-1 in order to cover the defence and disturb Barcelona’s feared attack or stick with the more recognized 4-3-3.
Predicted Starting XI
(4-3-3) Trapp; Aurier, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Rabiot, Verratti, Matuidi; Lucas, Cavani, Draxler
Subs: Areola, Maxwell, Meunier, Nkunku, Pastore, Di Maria, Ben Arfa
PSG 1-2 Barcelona
Thiago Silva’s absence will be a crucial factor in this game and the match could easily turn out to be who can outscore the other, rather than a tactical battle. Unfortunately I believe the loss of Thiago Silva will be decisive in Paris’ downfall in the first leg of the tie with Barcelona’s menacing attack too much for PSG defence.