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Three talking points ahead of PSG vs Barcelona

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Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona and PSG are famed in the UEFA Champions League history books for a certain tie. A game that left fans and pundits across the globe stunned for years to come.

Down by four goals after the first leg of the Round of 16 in the 2016-17 season, many wrote Barcelona off before the second leg began. A mesmerising and jaw-dropping 90 minutes later, the Catalans came out on top with a 6-1 scoreline to advance to the next round.

A lot has changed since then. The substitute who scored the winning goal on the night, Sergi Roberto is now the captain of Barcelona while the manager who oversaw La Remontada, Luis Enrique, is ironically on the PSG bench.

The last time the two teams faced off in the UCL was back in the 2020-21 campaign when the French giants steamrolled past the Blaugranas 3-2 on aggregate.

Since then, Lionel Messi has left Barcelona, played at PSG for two seasons and left the club for Inter Miami. Tomorrow, the two teams meet again in the knockout rounds and one can expect a doozy of a clash.

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

Rested and raring

The Copa del Rey final between Athletic Club and Mallorca last weekend was a spectacle to witness as the two finalists fought hard for a draw before the Basque side prevailed on penalties.

While the game did not have anything for Xavi’s side, it did indirectly gift them a much-needed break before a crucial game in the UCL.

With the matchday in La Liga suspended for the finale, Barcelona did not play at the weekend. Xavi’s men were thus rewarded with a complete ten-day hiatus from football after their win over Las Palmas, and the break could not have come at a better time.

The ten-day break gave the players and management the time they required to mentally prepare for the challenge ahead. Players like Ilkay Gundogan and Robert Lewandowski, who have been overworked, particularly stood to gain.

Others like Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, who were injured, utilised the time to speeden their recovery and make the squad. The former, in fact, could even start on the night in a massive boost to the manager’s plans.

Now rejuvenated and raring to go, Barcelona will look to come out all guns blazing against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. The French side enjoyed no such luxury and played three games in the same duration.

Barcelona’s prolonged rest, needless to say, could have a bearing on the result at Parc des Princes.

The defensive challenge

After a record-breaking defensive season in 2022-23, Barcelona’s numbers at the back saw a steep fall this campaign.

Araujo and Cubarsi will be up against it. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Blaugranas got off to a terrible start to the new season and were dismal even until the end of January. They conceded a staggering 46 goals across all competitions as of 27th January which was arguably their lowest point in the season.

On that day Xavi announced his departure from the club in June, and something suddenly changed.

The weeks that followed saw Barcelona get back into their groove all over the field, particularly in defence. Slowly, they began registering regular clean sheets and were much more organised at the back by the time they took on Napoli in the UCL.

At this point in time, they are quite clearly at their defensive best this season and have maintained five clean sheets in their last six games. The rise of Pau Cubarsi and the resurgence of Ronald Araujo have both contributed to the same.

Tomorrow’s clash will be the pair’s biggest test yet as they go head-to-head with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and former teammate Ousmane Dembele.

As one of Europe’s most pacey duos, the French combination will look to capitalise on Barcelona’s highline to inflict damage, and it will be interesting to see how the Araujo-Cubarsi duo fares against them.

Concurrently, there will also be a fascinating battle between Jules Kounde at right-back and Mbappe, especially considering that the Frenchman defender has begun shining in his new role in recent games.

Setting up for success

Most of Barcelona’s famed UCL knockout collapses have stemmed from second-leg fixtures away from home. The Catalans repeatedly failed to thrive under pressure and fell prey to humiliating defeats.

The Azulgrana core today is indeed very different from the team that last made it to the quarterfinal stage. Yet, one can only perceive the scheduling of legs to be advantageous for Barcelona given their history in the competition.

The first leg tomorrow will be played at Parc des Princes, and should Barcelona return with a lead or a draw, they will have the advantage at home for the all-important second leg.

A victory tomorrow will thus place Xavi’s men in the driver’s seat to qualify, and the team must go out looking for blood. However, it is also vital that they control the damage and avoid chasing a deficit at the end of 90 minutes.

The theme for tomorrow, thus, will be to set up a foundation that the team can capitalise on in the second leg. A strong away performance will go a long way.

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