PREVIEW | Paris Saint-Germain v FC Barcelona – FC Barcelona

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For 13 years between 2008 and 2020, FC Barcelona set a record of 13 consecutive Champions League quarter final appearances. It became a habit. But that has been followed by three years of disappointment, including two years in which the Catalans didn’t make it beyond the group stage.
So it’s great to be back among the last eight standing in Europe, and the next challenge is about as enticing as football can get. Paris St Germain, winners of 9 of the last 11 French championships, managed by a very familiar face in Luis Enrique and spearheaded by Kylian Mbappé, regarded as one of the finest players in the world right now, are a side with which Barça share plenty of recent history.
As always, we have all the times and broadcasters from around the world in our viewing guide.
Naturally, this game brings back memories of that extraordinary match in 2017 when despite being blitzed 4-0 in the first leg in Paris, Barça mounted the comeback to end all comebacks at Camp Nou, needing to score three goals with just two minutes left to play and doing the impossible to win 6-1.
But the most recent meeting between the teams was a less cheerful one for blaugrana interests. Three years ago, an Mbappé hat-trick inspired PSG to a 4-1 victory in Barcelona, and this time there was no miracle in the second leg.
Both those games were in the round of 16, but this is the fourth time that the two clubs have met in the quarter finals of this competition. In 1995 it was PSG who advanced, but Barça came out on top in both 2013 and 2015.
So there’s quite a history between two sides that also met in the 1997 Cup Winners’ Cup Final, which Barça also won, 1-0 in Rotterdam.
They’re one of the biggest and richest clubs in the world and this year they are once again dominating Ligue 1, ten points clear of surprise outfit Brest in second place and only having been beaten once. But a first European crown still eludes les Rouges-et-Bleus.
This is the 12th season in a row that they have made it into the knockout stages of the Champions League but they have generally failed to live up to expectations. The only time they reached the final was in the Covid hit year of 2020, which they lost to Bayern Munich (when Robert Lewandowski was on the winning side) while a year later they lost to Chelsea in the semi-finals. On every other one of those occasions they have failed to progress beyond the quarter finals at best, and it is now Barça’s job to make sure that happens again!
This season’s first campaign without the services of former Barça legends Leo Messi and Neymar Jr saw PSG huff and puff their way through the group stage. Newcastle United and AC Milan both beat the Parisians, who looked on the way out and could then only draw in their last two games. But other results went their way and they somehow managed to squeeze their way into the last 16 where things finally clicked and they impressively saw off Real Sociedad to the tune of a 4-1 aggregate victory.
It’s not always been the easiest of seasons for Barça either. Despite a strong start, things got a bit bumpy mid-season and although the results have improved tremendously since, there is still a large gap separating the Catalans from Liga leaders Real Madrid. The domestic cause is by no means lost, but it is in Europe where blaugrana hopes truly lie.
Barça got off to such a strong start in their group that defeats to Shakthar and Antwerp were ultimately inconsequential, and they were too good for Napoli in the first knockout round. Now on a run of 11 games without defeat in all competitions comes the biggest test of the season so far. But confidence is sky-high, with the added advantage of the all-important second leg being played at the Estadi Olimpic next Tuesday.
Frenkie de Jong and Pedri have both made the trip to the French capital despite not having been declared fit to play. Midfielder Gavi, who is out for the rest of the season, is also in the travelling party. Alejandro Balde is also unlikely to have any further say in the 2023-24.
There are also concerns about the second leg, because any of Ronald Araujo, Lamine Yamal, Ferran Torres, Joao Félix, Sergi Roberto and Andreas Christensen would miss that match if they get shown a yellow card in Paris.
As there was no Liga football at the weekend due to the Copa del Rey Final, Barça are going into this game in the unusual situation of having had over a week to prepare.
✈️ The squad for #PSGBarça
Gavi will also join the team in Paris! 💙❤️
But the PSG squad should be reasonably fresh as well after Luis Enrique opted to rest some of his bigger names for the last weekend’s game with bottom-of-the-table Clermont at the weekend. His gambit didn’t pay off though, as they were held to a 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes, endangering their run of five months without a defeat across all competitions.
Moroccan right-back Achraf Hakimi is an important absentee for them as he is serving a yellow card suspension, the problem confounded by now that his natural replacement, Nordi Mukiele, was injured against Clermont. The only other confirmed absentee in the home squad is international centre-back Presnel Kimpembe who has now been sidelined for well over a year.
Parallels with previous games are largely irrelevant on Wednesday. In the Barça squad, and with Pedri and Frenkie de Jong both out injured, only Marc-André ter Stegen, Ronald Araujo and Sergi Roberto survive from previous meetings, while everyone at PSG has changed apart from Mbappé himself and former Barça man Rafinha Alcántara.
He’s not the only familiar face in the PSG squad. Aside from manager Luis Enrique, Ousmane Dembélé and Arnau Tenas have both graced the blaugrana jersey before as well.
Barça Joao Felix spoke to Catalan radio to explain how “it’s big games like these that get me going the most.” Ludovic Giuly, who played for both clubs in his day, reckons that “Barça have more experience in this kind of game” and Fermin Lopez insists that “PSG are a great team but we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got.”
PSG manager Luis Enrique confirmed that “my decision is already made as to who will replace Achraf Hakimi”, while his Portuguese midfielder Danilo Pereira gushed with praise for Lamine Yamal but insisted that PSG will not be giving any special treatment to any of the blaugrana stars.
That contrasts with what Jules Kounde had to say about the French side’s biggest name. “Mbappé is a player who makes the difference and the aim is to stop him” said a man who knows all about his international team-mate.
And Xavi made the interesting comment that “I think PSG are favourites because they took one of our best players [referring to Ousmane Dembélé who he tried to convince to stay at Barça last summer] and they also have Mbappé, Dembélé, Kolo Muani, Vitinha…”







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