FC BARCELONA VS PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER FINAL (SECOND-LEG)
VENUE: CAMP NOU
DATE: 10TH APRIL 2013
KICK-OFF: 19:45 (GMT)
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I could come up with all the clichés, adjectives and quotations in the world to describe how big a night this is for Paris Saint-Germain. To go to the Camp Nou in the quarter-final of the Champions League and still be in it after the first-leg harbours potential dreams of actually doing the unthinkable. As the club’s marketing slogan has said in the build-up to all this; “Make History”, PSG will not only do that if they overcome the Barca juggernaut but Parisien eyes will firmly be lit up on Wembley Way.
The mammoth of the task in the first-leg was huge, but this is a completely different scale. In front of 98,000 screaming Catalans, littering that beautiful football cathedral in a sea of red, yellow, maroon and blue, Carlo Ancelotti and his men will realise the enormity of the task of knocking out the world’s greatest football team in front of their own adoring public. We go into the game as massive underdogs, no doubt about it. The Blaugrana have two vital away goals, so the emphasis us on us. Quite simply, we have to beat them. Only a high scorning draw – greater than 2-2 – will also take us through. After last night’s drama in Dortmund and Istanbul, you would not write it off.
The game-plan for us sounds simple but against this team it is near impossible. We will need to contain them for the opening 30 minutes, make sure we keep a clean sheet, weather an early storm and make sure that the tie is still open. The last thing we need is to concede early on which will undoubtedly open us up as we panic and chase the game. AC Milan fell into that trap in the last round. They went to Catalonia with a 2-0 first-leg win but were undone by an early Lionel Messi strike in the opening minutes and ended up losing 4-0. That can quite easily happen to us if we do not stay compact, have 10-men behind the ball when they are in our half and stay focused. Tactical organisation as well as concentration are the key ingredients for us. They are an absolute must.
Then there is our ability on the counter-attack. It evidently gave the La Liga side problems in Paris last week. Lucas Moura gave them a torrid time as they inflicted foul after foul on him down the right-hand side. The pitch at the Camp Nou is considerably bigger and that can suit us by stretching them. They are vulnerable down the flanks so Lavezzi and Lucas will be licking their lips in that respect. Fatigue however will come into play, especially if we are chasing the game for long periods. It depends on how well we manage that as well so we can get the best out of our counter-attacks.
Lionel Messi is in the squad, but whether or not he starts remains to be seen (after picking up a hamstring injury last week). Ancelotti has said the game-plan will not alter if he starts or not. There is no question that he harbours a fear factor to every, living breathing player he comes across in the opposition. It is important our players do not pay too much attention to him – easier said than done – as quelling the space around our penalty area is crucial. But, as we know, just one flash of genius on their part can undo all our hard work. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets are just as important as Messi’s involvement as they will be the three that dictate the whole night. If we can disrupt them, we have a chance.
Ancelotti’s selection in midfield is as important as it has ever been since he arrived as PSG coach. With Blaise Matuidi suspended, we are going to miss a dynamo with an abundance of energy, just what we need on a night like tonight. Thankfully, Thiago Motta is back and is fit to play. Ancelotti did not confirm if he would start but his experience and tactical nous may just give him the nod. Who accompanies him is also interesting. Marco Verratti has showed naivety of late but when he arrived on the pitch for David Beckham last week in the 70th minute, he made a difference. He has bags of ability but he is an inexperienced player in this kind of environment so will Anceloitt risk it? Then there is of course Beckham but as we saw, he tired last week so may just find himself on the bench this time around. Clement Chantome and Javier Pastore – who can play a deeper role – are other options, as well as Jeremy Menez. Even though the Frenchman is more accustomed to play out wide, his energy in midfield would be beneficial.
Ancelotti needs to rely on his troops tonight. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Beckham, Maxwell, Alex and Motta are the only members in the squad who have experienced a match of this magnitude. They have been there, done it, bought the t-shirt. It is the younger members of the squad that are going to have a baptism of fire and they need the assistance of their older peers to get them through. There is a nice blend there, but will it be enough to pull off the improbable?
We have a chance. We are in a decent position after the first-leg after being completely written off. Barcelona, are unbeaten in their last 20 Champions League games at home, nearly four years without defeat. But, as the club motto states; “Dream Bigger”, that is exactly what we have to do if we want to make it into the last-four.