Barcelona host PSG at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. Former Southampton coaches Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino face off as the latter returns to the city where he played for Espanyol. Both managers are former players of these clubs and will be desperate to bring success in Europe this season.
After being thrashed 3-0 at home by Juventus on matchday 6, Barcelona have found a lot more consistency and their La Liga form is very good. However, there have been big disappointments in losing in the Spanish Super Cup final to Athletic Bilbao after extra time and being knocked out of the Coppa Del Rey by Sevilla in their second last match.
In La Liga, Barcelona have won seven matches in a row and are 12 matches unbeaten. On Saturday, they thrashed Deportivo Alaves 5-1 with Lionel Messi and Trincao scoring braces.
Barcelona Team News
Barca have four significant injuries to deal with for this match as long-term victims remain sidelined. Winger Ansu Fati and centre back Gerard Pique remain out with serious knee problems although a return for the latter is imminent.
Philippe Coutinho remains absent with a knee injury and right back Sergi Roberto is also out. Ronald Koeman has a big call at centre back. Frenkie de Jong has been covering there to good effect but he moved into midfield for the second half against Deportivo Alaves with Samuel Umtiti coming on. That would be a safer selection against PSG’s attacking prowess. Miralem Pjanic will also surely start this match over younger options in midfield. Trincao should keep his place on the right flank.
Koeman knows that La Liga is a long shot now due to Atletico Madrid’s excellent league position. That means that all focus can be on the Champions League. Barcelona’s older players like Messi and Sergio Busquets may see this as one of their last chances to lift the trophy again so will be very motivated.
In terms of set up, Koeman is a pragmatic coach and knows that a 0-0 home draw is usually a very good result. His side will play to win but also be very wary of the pace PSG possess on the counter attack and will want to protect themselves from the pace of Mbappe. Whether the Barcelona backline is equipped to absorb pressure is the big question so they may simply have to attack.
PSG have been playing well since Pochettino replaced the sacked Thomas Tuchel at the end of 2020. The new coach has overseen eight wins, one draw and one loss in his ten matches in charge. The lone loss was away to Lorient in the league after two goals in the final ten minutes for their opposition.
Paris Saint-Germain have bounced back well with four wins in a row without conceding a goal. That included a fine 2-0 away win at Marseille with Neymar left on the bench. In their last match, PSG beat Nice 2-1 at home as Julian Draxler and Moise Kean scored the goals.
PSG Team News
PSG are without Neymar for this match due to a groin injury and Angel Di Maria is also ruled out in attack. Colin Dagba and Juan Bernat are both missing in the fullback areas too and Marco Verratti is doubtful in midfield.
Pochettino will have to decide how to line up in forward areas. Kylian Mbappe will play and Moise Kean, with 14 goals this season and praised for his ability to play centrally or wide, could start in the front three. The coach has been using Mbappe and Kean either side of Mauro Icardi with Julian Draxler as a number ten but may go for a more solid setup in this match. Ander Herrera or Danilo Pereira could come in to solidify midfield with either Icardi or Draxler benched.
PSG will be very motivated and Pochettino will be desperate to do well on his return to face his old foes, Barcelona. The coach has his side playing at a high intensity and with the pressing he demands in Ligue 1, but PSG dominate matches and this represents the first major test for the Argentine coach.
Whether he is going to attack with a front four or play in a slightly more reactionary way will be seen when the team lineup is announced. Most likely is that PSG will attack in the hopes of scoring an away goal or two and drawing Barcelona out, thus exposing them to the pace of Mbappe.
Barcelona have drawn their last 4 cup matches in 90 minutes
Barcelona have lost 2 of their last 4 home CL matches (8-2 and 3-0)
Barcelona have seen Both Teams Scoring in 5 of their last 6 home CL matches
Barca are 6 home matches without a clean sheet
PSG have won 3 of their last 6 away matches
PSG have won 4 of their last 5 away CL matches
5 of the last 6 meetings between these sides have seen over 3.5 goals
This is a difficult match to predict. It does look likely to have goals with PSG used to attacking and not defending a great deal in Ligue 1 whilst Barcelona may not have the defensive solidity against better opponents (see recent 8-2 and 3-0 home defeats) to sit back. Therefore, going with over 3.5 goals seems the best bet.