Camp Nou, Barcelona
Wednesday 11th Dec, 2014, 19:45 GMT
Barcelona host Paris Saint-Germain in a “winner takes all” final Champions League group game. PSG need only a draw to progress as group winners but coming to Camp Nou with such a mentality will be very risky and Laurent Blanc would be well advised not to sit back and play for one point. The French side need to start with a positive attitude and knock Barca out of their stride early in the game to ensure progression as the first-placed side, thereby potentially giving themselves an easier opponent in the next stage of the competition. Both clubs have already booked their place in the last 16 and PSG, who have a one-point advantage, need only avoid defeat to hold on to top spot.
This is a game Barcelona simply have to win if they want to progress as group winners—a draw is good enough for the visitors, thanks to their 3-2 win in Paris. While there are no easy games in the knockout stages of the competition, finishing atop the group should at least mean one of the big teams will be bypassed until the quarter-finals. A packed Camp Nou will be fully behind their team as they look to avenge their loss at the Parc Des Princes in the second match week of this year’s tournament.
Team news and tactical brief
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has recovered well from his disastrous debut in this reverse fixture, and looks set to continue as the Champions League keeper of choice. Alves and Rafinha are both suspended on matchday six. Thomas Vermaelen has been ruled out of action until April after undergoing surgery to treat a persistent hamstring problem. Javier Mascherano looks likely to partner Jeremy Mathieu in defence. Lucas Moura will seek to unsettle Jordi Alba once more and it will be down the flanks where PSG are likely to garner the greater success. Douglas made his first appearance since September’s Blaugrana debut against Málaga CF because of a foot problem but Adriano will be favored as the right back tonight.
The return of Andres Iniesta couldn’t have come at a better time. Iniesta made his first appearance since injuring his calf in the Clásico defeat by Real Madrid CF on 26 October this weekend. Messi surpassed Raúl González’s competition best of 71 UEFA Champions League goals with his matchday five hat-trick, taking his total to 74. Lionel Messi started the weekend win over Espanyol on the right and may be deployed here once more, with Luis Suarez spearheading the attack. Thiago Silva and David Luiz may be revelling in their unbeaten run, but they’ve yet to face Barca’s front three. Messi, Suarez and Neymar are all finding form just at the right time and the three represent an ominous attacking presence for PSG to deal with. Enrique will need his front men on form tonight because there is little doubt that PSG will cause them problems particulary with Ibrahimovic up front. If the French side found it hard to contain two of the three in the corresponding fixture, then Suarez’s addition potentially poses them a real problem. His solitary goal for the club so far came in the Champions League, and the Uruguayan is certainly due another. The fact that he hasn’t registered more than once isn’t for want of trying.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Ter Stegen(GK); Adriano, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba; Iniesta, Rakitic, Busquetes; Suarez, Messi, Neymar
Team news and tactical brief
Ibrahimovic will certainly be a threat and is more than capable of giving Barca’s back line a difficult evening tonight. His inclusion will add an extra spice to a match that has all of the ingredients to be a classic. Barcelona’s full-backs were constantly tormented by the PSG wingers in the corresponding fixture and once again they will target that area of the pitch to find space and deliver crosses in the middle. If Barcelona maintain any hope of claiming top spot in the group, then it’s down the flanks where they must shut up shop. Though the vintage free-flowing football from PSG has been missing this season, they are still unbeaten this season. Thiago Silva and David Luiz have been a part of a defence that has conceded just 12 goals in 17 Ligue 1 games this season and the PSG captain looked confident that his side has what it takes to continue the run too.
Ibrahimović struck twice on Saturday as PSG came from behind to win 2-1 at home to FC Nantes. That goal took him to 87 goals for the club, moving him clear of Safet Sušić in fifth on the club’s all-time list. Pauleta (109), Dominique Rocheteau (100), Mustapha Dahleb (100) and François M’Pelé (95) are the only men to have scored more for the French side. Edinson Cavani has scored eight goals in his last ten appearances for PSG. Their streak of nine successive wins ended with a 1-1 draw at LOSC Lille on 3rd December but still they are unbeaten. Edinson Cavani started the weekend win over Nantes on the bench, but could come into the starting XI for the trip to Barcelona. Marco Verratti should also come into the side here, while Javier Pastore is expected to drop out. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck is Laurent Blanc’s only main injury concern.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Sirigu(Gk); Aurier, Silva, Luiz, Maxwell; Veratti, Motta, Matuidi; Lucas, Cavani, Ibrahimovic
Barcelona have not failed to win their UEFA Champions League group since 2006/07, but need a victory to extend this sequence to an eighth season
Barcelona have lost just one of their last 29 UEFA Champions League home matches, winning 22
Barcelona’s record against French sides at the Camp Nou is W5 D2 L1. Their most recent victory over Ligue 1 opponents was the 5-2 second-leg win over Olympique Lyonnais in the 2008/09 round of 16, in which Lionel Messi scored their third goal
The French champions have lost just two of their last 11 UEFA Champions League away games, winning seven
PSG’s record in Spain is W4 D3 L3. Their last victory came in the 2012/13 round of 16 when Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore struck in a 2-1 win at Valencia CF
PSG’s 92% pass completion rate is the highest in the UEFA Champions League alongside Barcelona, FC Bayern München and FC Schalke 04
Players to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Three hat-tricks in the last four games is everything that needs to be said about Messi’s current form. PSG need only one point to top the group but Messi will definitely have his say tonight as Barcelona look to overturn their 3-2 defeat in the second match week.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG)
Ex-Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to his former club which he had to leave after failing to settle in. Whenever the Swede has returned to Camp Nou, it has always provided the fixture concerned with a little bit of extra spice, and it’ll be no different this time. Four goals in his last seven appearances represents something approaching his best form, but the injury that ruled him out of the first leg has curtailed his prowess somewhat this season.
FC Barcelona 3-3 PSG
Barcelona currently sit just 1 point behind PSG in Group F and know that only a win will see them progress as group winners. The Liga giants are likely to go all out against their French counterparts and can take solace in that they have won all but one of their home competitive games this season.PSG need only to avoid defeat to secure top spot and it’s crucial Laurent Blanc remind his players of the task at hand. They are yet to taste defeat in all competitions this season and will know what to expect when they travel to Camp Nou on Wednesday. This has all the makings of an entertaining affair with goals at either end, though the final result could favour PSG, especially if Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes with a point to prove to his former employers.
Blast From the Past
Pedro Rodríguez’s 71st-minute strike sent the Spanish side into a sixth straight semi-final in the 2012/13 quarter-finals.