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Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs PSG

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Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

A few months ago, the average Barcelona fan was celebrating the team’s progression to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Starved of elite action for two years when the team collapsed in the group stages, the Catalans’ mere presence in the Round of 16 brought joy to the Culers.

Not only are Xavi’s men now through to the final eight but are also on the cusp of doing one better. Having secured a 3-2 win on Paris over PSG in the first leg of the quarterfinals last week, they are just one draw away from booking a place in the semifinals.

On Tuesday night, they take to the field for the all-important 90 minutes against Luis Enrique’s men. 90 minutes that can make or break their run in the UCL and can earn them a date with either Atletico Madrid or Borussia Dortmund in the semifinal.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs PSG.

A new PSG

Travelling to Paris and taking down Luis Enrique’s PSG in their backyard has undoubtedly been the peak of Barcelona’s season to this point. However, all of their efforts will be in vain if they do not capitalise on the advantage tomorrow.

The opponent they face at Montjuic is indeed the same as the one they took down a week ago, yet, will be more frightening for a number of reasons.

The first factor will be the return of Achraf Hakimi, who missed the first leg of the quarterfinal through suspension. The PSG right-back is one of their most serious threats in the final third and can generate devastating counterattacks with his pace.

Considering that Barcelona’s left-back position is relatively compromised defensively with Joao Cancelo pushing high up the flank, it is essential that Xavi places prophylaxis in place before PSG exploits the weakness.

Moreover, word has it that Luis Enrique is planning to start both Bradley Barcola and Warren Zaire-Emery at Montjuic, which could hint at PSG planning to attack on the counter.

Barcelona’s defence will thus be up against a stiff challenge, one similar to the opening 10 minutes of the second half last week which stumped them. Cancelo and Pau Cubarsi, primarily, will have to be more alert than ever on their flank.

Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo, meanwhile, will once again be up against Kylian Mbappe. This time, however, the soon-to-be Real Madrid star will look to up the ante given the match situation, and it will be anything but as straightforward as it was a week ago.

The Pedri factor

Sergi Roberto and Andreas Christensen both lived up to what the manager expected of them in the first leg against PSG. Both players, however, earned bookings on the night that see them out of contention to play tomorrow.

Is Pedri ready to start? (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Luckily for Xavi, he has his first-choice midfield available for selection. Frenkie de Jong is back to full fitness while Ilkay Gundogan earned his first day off when Barcelona took on Cadiz at the weekend.

The question, however, is around Pedri and how ready Xavi sees him to be to start at Montjuic. The Canary Islander would complete a formidable midfield unit alongside Gundogan and De Jong, but he is just two games out of injury and has had a poor fitness record this season.

Pedri changed the game in the first leg after coming on, providing a sensational assist for Raphinha’s equaliser. Coming on as a substitute midweek, he once again added composure and creativity to the Catalan side against Cadiz.

If Pedri does start tomorrow should Xavi see it worth the risk, he is likely to play as the attacking midfielder with Gundogan dropping to help De Jong defensively.

Else, it will be Fermin Lopez who starts in the 21-year-old’s place. While the youngster is indeed brilliant in his own way, he is simply not Pedri.

Barcelona’s den

The instant reaction from the Catalan club’s management and administration after the result in Paris was that the game was far from done. Xavi called PSG favourites to advance despite their setback, purely because the second leg still lay ahead.

Barcelona’s one-goal advantage may be a cushion heading into the game. However, their real boost lies in the crowd behind their back and a home away from home at Montjuic.

Fans in Catalonia are looking to create a pressure cooker situation in the stadium for PSG and will come out in large numbers to back Xavi’s men to a historic win. The team’s real chance, thus lies in capitalising on the home advantage.

Pressure has not bode well for the Blaugranas in recent years, more so in European competitions. The game last week, however, showed that they are developing some serious confidence.

Tomorrow night will be a real test of their grit and ability to stay cool under pressure. A place in the semifinal is within their grasp, and it only remains to be seen if Xavi’s men are mature enough to take it with ease.

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