Paris Saint-Germain will be without both of the Thiagos – Motta & Silva – for tonight’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg. The skipper Silva was initially named in the group for the trip to Catalonia but was later withdrawn having not fully overcome his injury. Instead he will remain at Camp des Loges as he looks to get fit for this weekend. Not having the pair of them is a blow as we look to overturn a 1-3 aggregate loss which looks improbable.
We do have some of the big hitters back which will put us in much better stead than it did in Paris last week. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back! This is huge for us after Edinson Cavani failed to impress as the central striker during the Swede’s absence. But, just as important as Ibra’s return is that of Marco Verratti. We lacked any sort of control in midfield when the Italian was absent and being on that huge Camp Nou pitch tonight will be a sight for the Italian’s eyes.
We know what kind of challenge lies ahead and it does look grim. We would have to at least score three goals to stand any chance of going through and to do that against La Liga’s best defence seems like climbing Everest at the moment. Coach Laurent Blanc was very honest in his pre-match presser at the stadium yesterday but he still harbours believe. He said; “I am pretty realistic. Obviously I think we can do it, but it will be extremely difficult. We need to score goals and I truly believe we will have opportunities to do that. The biggest difficulty will be to avoid conceding. We have nothing to lose and we want to show we can play better than we did in the first leg”.
He is right when he says there is nothing to lose. Of course, we cannot go out there in front of 90,000 Catalans gung-ho otherwise we will get picked off at will. But in no way can we let the game peter out by not taking the game to Barca. We have some key personnel back now so hopefully we can at least perform to a standard we shown in the first 25 minutes at the meeting in the Camp Nou last December. Defensive frailties let us down that night and to be honest, it will take a brave man to bet that we will keep a clean sheet. Logic says they will find the back of the net.
All the right noise is coming out of the camp. There is a genuine belief that an upset can be caused. Javier Pastore remonstrated that yesterday during the presser by saying; “We have nothing to lose. The first leg was a very bad result for us but we get two important players back that can help the team a lot. We will try to win with them. It will be tough, but we believe. That’s what we’re working towards. Sometimes football can provide a surprise”.
If the players have that kind of mentality then you cannot ask for no more than that. There is no sign of a towel being thrown it yet. Still, if the Catalans were to score early it will make for a very long night for the French champions.
The victory over Nice was a good one. The first-half was lacklustre to say the least before we turned it round after the interval. It was a professional victory in the end. Pastore excelled and Cavani ended a drought of 671 minutes without a league goal which will hopefully give him a boost heading into tonight.
Lucas Moura started his first game in two months during that victory so it is more than likely he will do so tonight. As important as Zlatan and Marco’s return is, having Lucas back in first-team action is huge! Obviously he will not be at the level he was before the injury but Luis Enrique will be wary of him.