Reigning French Champions PSG welcome Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals first leg.
PSG and Barcelona are currently the domestic leaders, leading the Ligue 1 and La Liga with one and two points respectively. The sides met earlier in the competition in the group stages, winning their respective home games.
Laurent Blanc’s side are hit with injuries and suspension, with as many as three first team players set to miss the Parc des Princes showdown. Influential midfielder Marco Verratti, who was crucial in his sides’ progression against Chelsea, is suspended, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who saw a red in the same encounter. David Luiz is also unavailable, after pulling a hamstring in the Parisians’ 2-3 victory over Marseille.
Luis Enrique meanwhile does not have any headache ahead of the trip to France bar the suspension of Dani Alves. The Brazilian right-back picked up a yellow against Manchester City in the previous round, which will see him miss first leg against the club he is closely linked to.
Lionel Messi vs Maxwell
Having mustered 8 goals already this season, Lionel Messi’s imperial form has propelled his side to a domestic summit, along with a convincing progression after defeating Manchester City in the previous round. The Argentine maestro has been deployed in a different role on the right, and Maxwell will have to restrict his attacking instincts in order to keep his former teammate in check.
Luis Suarez vs Thiago Silva
Another player whom the Blaugrana can bank on for goals is Luis Suarez. The controversial nonetheless majestic has formed a deadly combination with Messi and Neymar; the ‘MNS’, and perhaps its no surprise that atleast one of the three have netted in almost all their games. The Uruguayan’s astonishing tally of 16 goals and 13 assists across all competitions has made Suarez an instant fan favorite, and Thiago Silva will have to be on his toes in order to stifle the magical 28-year-old.
Edinson Cavani vs Gerard Pique
Perhaps PSG’s solitary goalscoring threat, Edinson Cavani will have the responsibility to step in the huge shoes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Uruguay hitman will start in his favored central role unlike out on the right, and concern Gerard Pique with his aerial prowess. Cavani is also the joint third top-scorer in the competition with six goals
– Of the last five meetings each side has one once, lost once and draw the remaining three.
– Lionel Messi needs one more Champions League goal to overtake rival Cristiano Ronaldo this season, both tied on 8.
– This season PSG have registered one goal every 48 minutes, on average.
“Do I feel a new momentum? It’s been the case for a while. We worked physically (during the winter break) and today, in money time, we’re good. We are gaining momentum while last year at the same time we were on the way down.”
“We have enjoyed a superb week, the supporters too, with the wins over Marseille, Saint-Etienne and Bastia. We are in form and we need to continue in this vein.”
“They’re (PSG) going to come at us with a lot more intensity, more ready to go and I think that they are going to try to avoid committing the same errors as before, especially in the match at Camp Nou, when we played much better than the game in Paris. In that first game there, we suffered too much. We didn’t succeed in keeping possession of the ball.”
“What we want to do is play our game. In the first half at Camp Nou we didn’t have the ball much but in the second half we corrected the mistakes we made in the first half, and we were able to do what we needed to do. That’s what we’re going to try and do in the first leg and hopefully we’ll get a good result in the return leg.”
Adrien Rabiot, Gregory van der Wiel and Ezequiel Lavezzi will come in for Verratti, Luiz and Ibrahimovic. Cavani will take a central role, flanked by Lavezzi and Javier Pastore.
Martin Montoya for Dani Alves will be the only change we will see.
PSG’s home form has been exemplary, but Luis Enrique’s side are too good for a defeat.