Five things we’ve learned from previous PSG v Barcelona battles
Champions League second-favourites Barcelona (5/2 with Coral) and PSG have already met in the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition this term. These are two of four encounters the Catalan giants and Parisian powerhouses have had in the last couple of years.
Their quarter-final clash is littered with sub-plots; Laurent Blanc played for Barca, but manages PSG for example, and he’s not the only one. Is familiarity breeding contempt? Our football experts began to wonder what we have learned from their recent head-to-heads, and have noted five things:
It’s a shame PSG and Sweden’s star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic serves a suspension for the first leg, as he has scored three goals and made as many assists in six outings against old club Barcelona since leaving them.
With fine form like that, it will surprise punters to learn he has never been on the winning side against La Liga’s leaders. PSG have beaten Barca this term, but Ibrahimovic was sidelined through injury.
Matuidi the magnificent
That Parc des Princes victory in September came courtesy of Blaise Matuidi’s winner, and he is 5/1 to net again anytime in the first leg. The France international box-to-box player has caused Barcelona a real problem with his physicality and dynamism in the past.
Matuidi has netted twice, and been booked just as often, when lining up against a diminutive Barca midfield. His left foot and driving force will be essential to Parisian hopes of a home leg win, especially with playmaker Marco Verratti banned and Thiago Motta out with a hamstring problem. Relive Matuidi’s key goal below:
Flying full backs
Much has been and will be written about the attacking options on display here. Barcelona’s awesome trio up front are in direct competition with fellow South American threesome Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and one of Lucas Moura or Javier Pastore here.
The importance of supporting width given by overlapping full backs cannot be understated. With Serge Aurier suspended, Dutch defender Gregory van der Wiel has an important job for PSG, and has assisted goals against Barca before. On the other flank, Maxwell (a Champions League winner with the Nou Camp club in 2011), will be well up for facing his former teammates.
Recent rhetoric talks up Dani Alves exiting Catalonia, as he is out of contract this summer. Italy’s Matteo Darmian is the latest name in the Spanish press to be linked with replacing the Brazilian, though a poll of Marca readers clearly concluded Arsenal starlet Hector Bellerin was the people’s choice.
Like Ibrahimovic, Alves is banned for the first leg, which is a pity, as he has assisted more than one goal against PSG. Understudy Martin Montoya has a real opportunity here to show Barcelona that another of their academy graduates can fill the void.
More Messi magic
It will come as no surprise for punters to learn Argentina icon Lionel Messi has a perfect three goals in as many career starts against the Parisians. Tied with seemingly eternal El Clasico rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the highest active scorer in this term’s Champions League with eight, Barca’s brilliant inspiration remains a real danger.
Backed up by Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have both also netted against PSG this term, Messi is unsurprisingly short at 21/20 in the anytime market for the first leg. He has opened the scoring at the Parc des Prince before, though, so better odds of 7/2 are available for that to happen again.
Watch highlights of Barcelona’s 3-1 group stage win at the Nou Camp from December below:
A close call
The four meetings since April 2013 between Barcelona and PSG have produced one home win apiece and two draws. None of these encounters have resulted in either side keeping a clean sheet, however, which explains why both teams to score carries an odds-on price of 8/11.