For four years straight, PSG have made it to the quarterfinals, twice being knocked out by Barcelona. They’ll now have to get past their European nemesis in the Round of 16 simply to match that streak.
Typically by the knockout rounds, the four-time reigning French champions have Ligue 1 on auto-pilot, but this year they’re still chasing Monaco. Further complicating things is star midfielder Marco Verratti’s poorly timed comments that “any player” would play for Barca. In PSG’s favor, they went on a tough away trip to Bordeaux on Friday, winning 3-0. Edinson Cavani scored twice, giving him 25 Ligue 1 goals on the season - not bad for someone maligned for missing easy chances.
Meanwhile, Barcelona may have won in a 6-0 rout of Alavés, but they lost right back Aleix Vidal after a horrific ankle injury. That means it could be Barcelona B player Nili Perdomo who will be tasked with stopping Ángel Di María. Not the easiest of introductions to the first-team.
PSG fans have been desperate for their squad to make noise in Europe. Beating Barca decisively at home would be a clear statement of intent that this squad hasn’t reached its ceiling.
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.
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.
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.