The first leg was a watershed moment for PSG. A club that has valued respect in Europe above all else finally got their hallmark win. PSG have proven they’re capable of being one of Europe’s top sides and were frankly stunning to watch. Tenacious pressing coupled with decisive, ruthless attacking movement demolished the side that has defined soccer for a decade.
That leaves Barcelona with a 4-0 deficit to overturn, which has not been done before in European competition. Without an away goal to make their task easier, going through will require a Herculean performance that Barcelona are capable of (they’ve won their last two matches 6-1 and 5-0), but also tactical nous from manager Luis Enrique to shut down PSG. Enrique announced last week that he would not extend his contract at the end of this season to avoid burnout. And while he is still in contention for two trophies in Spain, an unprecedented win in Europe would be a perfect send off and reports are that he has been “obsessed” with finding a way to go through.
A determined Barcelona side on the hunt for a handful of goals should make this fixture incredible viewing.
With the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar up front, Barcelona are automatic contenders for the Champions League. Last season, they managed a domestic double, but lost 3-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals to eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid. Their starting eleven will be largely the same, bolstered by centerback Samuel Umtiti, who starred for France at the Euros and a few other up-and-comers to fill out the squad. After satiating their appetite for domestic silverware and watching two league rivals face off in last year’s final, expect La Blaugrana to make winning the Champions League priority number one. Plus, after a season of playing in sacrilegious horizontal stripes, they’re back to their traditional vertical.
PSG are gearing up to win a fifth Ligue 1 title that feels almost like a foregone conclusion, even with Zlatan’s departure. Again, the measure of their season will be how well they do in Europe. To that end, they’ve brought in former Sevilla manager Unai Emery who won three Europa League titles during his tenure. They’ve also added to the squad, adding Jese Rodriquez from Real Madrid, Hatem Ben Arfa, and defensive midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, among others. While none of them are superstars, it does appear that their aim is to create a more cohesive squad, instead of following Madrid’s Galacticos model.
Averages nearly a goal per game for Blaugrana.
Scored 40 goals in 35 appearances last season on his way to winning the European Golden Shoe.
Despite being overshadowed by Zlatan for most of his PSG career, Cavani has never scored fewer than 25 goals in a season for the club.
After a disappointing season at Manchester United, Di María scored 15 goals for PSG last season.