Wednesday’s game at the Camp Nou is the biggest threat to PSG’s unbeaten start to the season. Chelsea being defeated away to Newcastle United at the weekend means that Les Parisiens are the only side yet to taste defeat within Europe’s top five leagues. But this is more than just an assessment of how far PSG have come during Laurent Blanc’s second campaign at the helm. It will give us a more vivid indication of the progress the club has made since QSI took control in the summer of 2011.
Yes, we have played Barcelona three times in the past 20-months including that magnificent 3-2 victory back in September. It will go down as one of Paris’ most infamous results in what was a wonderful occasion for all those affiliated with the club. But there is so much riding on Wednesday. The opportunity to finish ahead of the Catalans will give us a more favourable draw for the last-16. We can avoid the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Chelsea if we get a result. A defeat will see Luis Enrique’s men jump ahead of us to take that reward.
The players know what is at stake. Barca will be the favourites, they have the home advantage. Their destiny is in their hands. Blanc’s mentality for this will be interesting and will he be at a crossroads? His tactical nous is probably under its biggest test since his tenure. He knows that if we go there to play for a draw, they will sucker punch us. At the same time we cannot go out there and play an expansive game as we will be vulnerable at the back. It really is a catch-22.
The level of performance in the previous encounter was outstanding from our point of view. Right from the get go we looked like a team that was drilled and organised. Everybody knew their role, they were disciplined and the desire they showed was exceptional. When Barcelona were in possession our players got back into their positions whilst pressing the Catalans when they had the chance. We allowed them to keep the ball in areas that were not a threat to us and then sensing the danger when we needed to.
After we went 3-1 up, and Neymar quickly responded to make it 3-2, we dug-in deep for the remaining 30 minutes. We got men behind the ball, everyone in Parisian blue worked for each other. We hit them on the counter-attack which was orchestrated so many times by Javier Pastore. The last time he played at the Camp Nou he ended up on the score sheet as the home side beat us on away goals in the quarter-final.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to his old club. The Swede clearly has unfinished business there and would love to make an impact. His brace at the weekend could not have come at a better time. The number 10 looks sharp again, the midweek rest for the Lille game looked to have been a correct call and having missed the previous clash he will be chomping at the bit.
This is a different Paris Saint-Germain as an institution to the one that drew 1-1 with FCB in the spring of 2012. Carlo Ancelotti came within touching distance of taking us into the last-four but he could not stop an unfit Lionel Messi who came off the bench to play an integral role in the goal that ultimately sent us packing. I feel we are more complete now as to back then.
Are we up against a better Barca side though? They did go on to win the league title under Tito Vilanova that year as we captured our first league title in 19-years. Another league title for us has followed including a couple of cup victories (Coupe de la Ligue and two Trophee des Champions) but much of the team is pretty much the same from the previous encounter. Only Christophe Jallet and Alex who started that match have moved on.
So in essence the team, with the addition of a few new faces, are not exactly going to be fazed by the task in hand. Three years of pure euphoria under the QSI ownership will face its biggest test and if the club comes out the other side as group winners, then what a statement of intent that will make to the rest of Europe.