A lot has changed since Paris Saint-Germain made it to a Champions League quarterfinal, but money has brought them back among the top clubs in European football, at least for this season, hoping to be the arrow that finally pierces the armor of Barcelona, who won back a lot of intimidation power with their second leg performance in the previous round.
There’s no getting around the big elephant in the room, which is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who’s thirst to beating Barcelona has never been quenched, although that desire might have faded a bit since Pep Guardiola found himself a new team to manage. It doesn’t change the fact that Ibrahimovic has never led a team to the Champions League title or the final, and has been knocked out by Barcelona in the past, and has to go through them this time.
PSG rely on their defense, a stout and consistent unit, to carry them through this quarterfinal, not just the brilliance of Ibrahimovic and the hard work Ezequiel Lavezzi helps him with on the front. Thiago Silva next to Mamadou Sakho, with Blaise Matuidi and Clement Chantome probably very busy in helping the center of their defense while trying to find the right adjustment between closing down the box and interrupting as much as possible to the Barcelona passing game.
A big key to the Barcelona passing game is Xavi, who might not play in the first leg, along with Jordi Alba who is also doubtful. Not having Alba in the lineup might pave way for the return of Eric Abidal to the lineup, capping off (hopefully) his battle against his health issues which have kept him off the field for too long.
Xavi is a bit more of a problem if he’s out, meaning that Andres Iniesta becomes so much more important in the passing game, while Lionel Messi will be forced to play in a more retreated role, as both Cesc Fabregas and Thiago have more or less failed when the task of being the primary playmakers was handed to them.
Prediction – Everyone keeps talking about how Milan stopped and neutralized Barcelona in the first leg of the knockout stage, but the more you look back at that match, it seems like a one-time thing, with a perfect display that can’t be emulated. PSG will be a more attacking, although basing their tactics on long balls to Ibra. While Barcelona do not seem desperate to win on away matches, knowing the power they have at home for the second leg, I don’t believe they won’t score any goals. Looks like a 1-1 or 2-2 draw.