Barcelona and PSG will battle it out in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg this midweek and hope to take a step closer to the next stage.
The knockout stages of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League kick off this week, with teams set to play out the first leg of the Round of 16 phase. And in what is arguably the biggest encounter on the cards, La Liga giants Barcelona will lock horns with French champions PSG at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.
Barcelona finished second in their Champions League group despite accruing the same points as leaders Juventus, owing to a poor head-to-head record. After a rough start to the season, the Catalans have gotten themselves on the right track in recent weeks under Ronald Koeman, having lost just one of their last eight games in all competition, thrashing Alaves 5-1 last time out.
PSG, meanwhile, ended up as leaders in a difficult Group H that also had the likes of RB Leipzig and Manchester United in the Champions League. Under the tutelage of new manager Mauricio Pochettino, who took over the reins last month, Les Parisiens have lost just one out of ten games (W8 D1), most recently beating OGC Nice 2-1 in Ligue 1.
The last time these two sides met in the Champions League was in the 2016/17 last 16 stage, as Barcelona pulled off a historic comeback to eliminate PSG with a 6-5 aggregate scoreline. Ahead of their latest clash this week, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) February 15, 2021
Heading into the blockbuster encounter, Barcelona will once again be without the services of Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Braithwaite and Ronald Araujo. Veteran defender Gerard Pique has returned to training but will be a touch-and-go for the clash against the Parisian outfit.
There are likely to a few changes to the side that started in the thrashing of Alaves last time out, but no alteration is expected in goal with Marc-Andre ter Stegen the undisputed starter. Given the number of injuries at the back, Ronald Koeman is expected to stick with the centre-back pairing of Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet once again.
Barcelona academy product Oscar Mingueza is likely to be preferred over Sergino Dest at right-back once again, owing to the defensive solidity he brings to the table. On the opposite flank, Jordi Alba should return after being rested against Alaves. His overlapping forward runs will be a key feature of Barcelona’s attack on Tuesday night.
At the base of the Barcelona midfield, there is no looking past Sergio Busquets who will look to act as the conduit between the attacking and defensive halves. With de Jong moving to defence, the creative onus will fall on the shoulders of summer signing Miralem Pjanic and breakout star Pedri, neither of whom started against Alaves.
Finally, at the top, there is no looking past Lionel Messi for the centre-forward slot. The Barcelona captain will look to drop deeper and get on the ball, in the process opening up spaces for Antoine Griezmann to veer infield from the left flank. Ousmane Dembele will pose a threat with his pace and directness from the right side.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Mingueza, de Jong, Lenglet, Alba; Pjanic, Busquets, Pedri; Dembele, Messi, Griezmann
Much like their opponents, PSG also have quite a few roster issues to deal with ahead of their trip to Catalunya. Former Barcelona star Neymar has been ruled out of the contest while the likes of Angel Di Maria, Colin Dagba and Juan Bernat have also been ruled out.
In what is an important boost, midfielder Marco Verratti is back in the squad after having missed the game against Nice with a hip problem. The Italy international is likely to slot in as the No. 10 for the French capital club with his ability to play defence-splitting passes making him key in their chance-creation.
The Parisian squad for #FCBPSG! 🔴🔵
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 15, 2021
Flanking him on the right and left flanks, respectively, will be Moise Kean and Kylian Mbappe, both of whom will be a serious threat with their pace and clinical nature in front of goal. The duo will look to operate close to Mauro Icardi, who will start as the No. 9.
Leandro Paredes and Idrissa Gueye are likely to be retained in the midfield double pivot ahead of Danilo Pereira and Ander Herrera. The duo’s primary objective will be to ensure that the likes of Pedri and Miralem Pjanic do not get enough time on the ball to bring the Barcelona attackers into play.
Marquinhos, who has stepped up as the leader of the PSG defensive unit following Thiago Silva’s departure, is a certain starter alongside Presnel Kimpembe at centre-back. Thilo Kehrer ought to get the nod ahead of Alessandro Florenzi at right-back while Layvin Kurzawa should feature at left-back with former Real Madrid man, Keylor Navas guarding the goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Kehrer, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Paredes, Gueye; Kean, Verratti, Mbappe; Icardi
- Barcelona have won their last 3 home matches against PSG in all competitions. No French side has been able to beat the Catalans in their own backyard in the Champions League till date.
- Neymar is the leading goalscorer in matches between Barcelona and PSG, with seven goals to his name, all of which came during his time with the Catalans.
- Barcelona have scored at least two goals in five of their last six matches against PSG in all competitions.
- In 11 matches against Barcelona, PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino has managed to pick up just one victory (D4 L6).
- Barcelona have knocked PSG out in each of their last three knockout stage meetings in the UEFA Champions League.
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With so many superstars like Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Marco Verratti on show on Tuesday, the contest promises to be a mouth-watering one for the fans. However, invariably, all eyes will be glued to a certain Lionel Messi, who, after a turbulent first half of the season, is starting to show why he is regarded as one of the best to ever grace the game.
The veteran forward put in a masterful display in the win against Alaves at the weekend as he scored twice to take his tally for the season to 19 goals in all competitions, helping him prepare for the big game against PSG. And, for Barcelona to take a step towards qualifying for the quarter-finals, they will need their skipper to be firing on all cylinders on Tuesday.
Barcelona 2-2 PSG
Barcelona have been in good nick of late, but have often found it hard to rise to the occasion against big clubs, as was witnessed in their recent Copa del Rey defeat to Sevilla in the semi-finals. PSG, meanwhile, have shown signs of promise under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, but are yet to find their best form under the Argentine.
The absence of Neymar and Angel Di Maria will be a huge blow for PSG. But given Barcelona’s defensive problems, the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Marco Verratti and Mauro Icardi have enough quality to make inroads. At the same time, with Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi also finding form, they will probe the visitors’ defence a great deal.
It ought to be an exciting clash between two titans of European football, with the game likely to end in a high-scoring draw, setting up a grandstand finish in the second leg in France.