18 months ago, Paris Saint-Germain came up against Barcelona in the last-eight of the UEFA Champions League. It was a draw that received so much attention that over a million applications for tickets were made for the first-leg at the Parc des Princes where Blaise Matuidi scored a stoppage time equaliser to make it 2-2. We were not even the domestic champions of France at that time but the club well and truly announced itself to the world with an admirable display over the two legs. We bowed out but only on away goals as we drew 3-3 on aggregate. On another night at the Camp Nou, who knows? It may have been us heading into the last four but Lionel Messi, despite being unfit at the time, still had the sparkle to create a piece of magic and send the Catalans through. Those two nights were incredibly special but just how far have we come 18 months on?
Well, we face the Blaugrana as champions of France this time around. Two league titles, a Coupe de la Ligue and two Trophees des Champions now adorn the cabinets in the Parc des Princes. The club as a whole has grown to a whole new level. Three consecutive seasons in the Champions League has played a major part in that. Lest we forget that when we did face Barca in 2013, that was the club’s first appearance in the competition for eight years, emphasising just how long it had been since the club mixed it up with the giants of the European game.
We have another coach now in Laurent Blanc. Carlo Ancelotti was in the opposite dugout to the late great Tito Vilanova, god rest his soul. Ironically Carlo would go onto take charge of Barca’s biggest rivals Real Madrid and end up winning the European Cup in his first season.
On the back of yet another draw away from home, and a below par performance in Toulouse, Laurent Blanc needs to make sure his team are on song for the visit of the Catalans. If we perform as we did on Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side will tear us to shreds. I will not take the excuses that marquee players were rested, the conditions were too humid and we missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic. No, it is not good enough. The player’s on the pitch were more than capable of performing and the fact that it took to the 85th minute for a PSG player to have a shot on target in the second-half is unacceptable.
As I said in my match report, there was an opportunity to capitalise on the midweek win over Caen and give us another gee-up heading into Tuesday. It was a missed opportunity in my opinion. Then when you see Barca put six past Granada, it shows the run of form they are in. They are top of La Liga, Lionel Messi has just eclipsed 400 career goals and looking like an FCB that is reminiscent from the Pep Guardiola days.
We have come so far since the last meeting between the two clubs. Paris Saint-Germain as a whole is in a different league to what it was. It is far bigger, more renown and most importantly, more successful. But is the team better? Well, tomorrow will be a great way to answer that question. In essence, it is only going to be Edinson Cavani, David Luiz and Marquinhos who will be the new faces from the team in 2013, possibly Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Yohan Cabeye too if Blanc decides to utilise them.
Nevertheless, we are just a Thiago Silva off from being at our best. Barca are still a force to be reckoned with and so is the great Leo Messi. Bring It on!