The knock-out rounds of UEFA Champions League are set to kick-start this week, with Barcelona hosting Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou on Tuesday in the first leg of Round of 16. The clash between the two European giants will be the highlight of the round, and both the teams will be vying for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Mauricio Pochettino will be leading the Parisians in the Champions League for the first time after he was appointed as manager for the team earlier this year. Paris have topped Group H under Thomas Tuchel – Neymar’s Matchday 6 hat-trick helped them secure the club’s place at the top of the table. PSG would like to win the Champions League desperately this year, after coming within inches of winning the cup last year but losing in the final against Bayern Munich. The visitors will head to Camp Nou having won eight of their last nine games in all competitions, including a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Nice in Ligue 1 at the weekend.
Barca’s hero in the ‘Remontada’, Neymar, has since joined PSG but has been ruled out of Tuesday’s fixture due to a groin injury he sustained last Thursday in the match against Caen. With Angel Di Maria already missing the fixture due to injury, Pochettino has to rely on Kylian Mbappe to lead the attack against Barcelona.
After a shaky start to the season, Barcelona are in excellent form in the La Liga. They secured seven consecutive league wins heading into Tuesday’s encounter, which has put them back in contention for the Copa de La Liga. The string of league wins and absence of Neymar from the PSG squad will give them the confidence they need to look beyond their poor performance in knock-out games this season. Lionel Messi’s form will be a huge boost for the Blaugrana, with the GOAT scoring twice in Saturday’s 5-1 rout of Alaves.
Ronald Koeman will have crucial decisions to make regarding the squad as defender Ronald Araujo is under an injury cloud. Gerard Pique is likely to return to the squad after recovering from his injury, but Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto are still recovering from long-term injuries and are set to miss the game.
HEAD TO HEAD
Barcelona and PSG have faced each other 11 times, with the first encounter between both the teams occurring in the 94/95 Champions League season. Barcelona have come victorious five times against their French rivals, while PSG have won three fixtures. In a boost to the Barcelona camp, PSG have never won a match at the Camp Nou, and the Parisians will be keen to break that record. The number of controversies has increased in the past few years, and there are signs of a cold war developing between both the clubs and the fan bases.
CAN WE EXPECT ANOTHER REMONTADA?
The last time Barcelona and PSG faced off each other in the Champions League, we were witnesses to the incredible ‘La Remontada’, when Barca bridged a four-goal first-leg deficit and progressed to the next round. Two of Barca’s stars in that match have since switched sides -Neymar and Rafinha, but both will be missing the game. The increasingly-hostile rivalry might generate some ramifications on and off the pitch.
When the draw for the round of 16 was unveiled, PSG might have been the favourites for the fixture, but the return to form of Barcelona combined with the absence of Neymar tip the scales in favour of the hosts. Barcelona are likely to win the first leg of Round of 16, and will head to Paris with confidence next month.
Barcelona Predicted XI (4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Jordi Alba; Clement Lenglet; Oscar Mingueza; Sergino Dest; Sergio Busquets; Frenkie de Jong; Pedri; Ousmane Dembele; Antoine Griezmann; Lionel Messi.
Paris Saint-Germain Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Keylor Navas; Layvin Kurzawa; Presnel Kimpembe; Marquinhos; Alessandro Florenzi; Idrissa Gueye; Leandro Paredes; Marco Verratti; Moise Kean; Kylian Mbappe; Mauro Icardi.
When: Wednesday, 17 February 2021, 1:30 AM IST
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona.
Where to Watch: All matches of the UEFA Champions League, including Barcelona vs PSG will be streamed on Sony Six and Sony Ten 2 Channels. All matches will also be streamed live on SonyLiv.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT FOOTBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES