UEFA Champions League
Paris Saint-Germain vs FC Barcelona
It is news that we wasn’t expecting but damaging when it was revealed. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss the game with Barcelona tomorrow after the club conducted a medical on him this morning. Unfortunately the talisman has been unable to overcome his heel injury and will therefore miss the game against his former club. After the performance on Saturday, Les Parisiens evidently needed the big Swede to come back and get us firing again. The emphasis now lies on Edinson Cavani who has an incredible opportunity to quell his critics and put on a performance.
We are up against a formidable outfit. One that has washed away the blemishes from last season under Tata Martino and looking like the Barca of old under a former prodigy in Luis Enrique. They sit top of La Liga. Second highest scorers behind fifth placed Real Madrid. But here is the key stat – one which deserves adulation – they have not conceded a single goal. One of the big reasons for that is down to a Frenchman, Jeremy Mathieu who cost the Catalans big money from Valencia. Javier Mascherano alongside him has been terrific as well. It is not like they have faced pushovers, Villarreal and Bilbao were in that run of games. We are going to have our work cut out to break them down and having Ibra on side would have been a huge benefit.
As good as they are in defence these days, their attack remains superb. The little genius Leo Messi bagged his 401st career goal last weekend in a 6-0 thumping of Granada. PSG supporters have memories of him of course. He netted the opener at the Parc des Princes 18 months ago and then dealt the killer blow at the Camp Nou with his involvement in the goal to send his team into the last-four. Have to mention, he was unfit at the time but still had the capability to dig his team out of trouble.
Neymar will be facing three of his Brazilian teammates in the Parisian back-four. He was a star during the summer in the World Cup before he got injured for the hosts. He was the main reason they got so far and his form from that has continued, netting six goals in the league – one more ahead of Messi. He also netted a hattrick against Granada in what was a walk in the park for the Catalans.
In midfield, the acquisition of Ivan Rakitic is proving to be a real shrewd piece of business. He was given a phenomenal reception by the Barca public when he came off at the weekend. They have taken to him greatly and rightfully so. The Croatian will prove to be one of the best buys in Europe this season. His energy, desire as well as his technical ability are all attributes adored by those affiliated with his club.
We do have our work cut out, there is no doubt about it. The pressure is even greater on us after failing to beat Ajax in the opening game. A defeat would set us back greatly and perhaps if you offered Laurent Blanc a draw now he’d take it. Especially as we have back to back games against APOEL where we have to get maximum points.
The gaffer rested so many of his players in that dull 1-1 draw with Toulouse. Lucas Moura, Thiago Motta, Marquinhos, Maxwell and Gregory Van der Wiel will all return. How he sets us up remains to be seen but it’s most likely to be a 4-3-3. If he wants to take the game to Barca, 4-2-3-1 will be the way to go, having Javier Pastore playing just behind Cavani with Lucas Moura and Jean Christophe-Bahebeck providing width. It is a headache for Blanc. After the recent performances and an expectant Parc des Princes, the team needs to put on a performance. We are up against a side that – if we are as serious about winning the European Cup – will be a rival come the latter stages of the tournament.
It is going to be fascinating, enthralling and above all beautiful. Blanc said it best in his presser by saying; “It is an amazing game to play for everyone and for all those who love football”.