A convincing 3-1 victory for Barcelona in the reverse meeting last week has put the hosts firmly in the driving seat, although the Parisians have already shown this season that they should not be written off at any stage.
Even before they took apart PSG at Parc des Princes in the first leg, Barcelona were backed by many to go all the way in Europe’s elite competition for the first time since the glory days of Pep Guardiola in 2011. That win made it 12 games without defeat for Barca, a run which includes 10 victories, and, going even further back, the Catalan giants have failed to pick up victory on just four occasions in their past 36 games.
It is a mightily impressive stretch of form which has taken Luis Enrique‘s men to the La Liga summit and within touching distance of a place in the final four of the Champions League. The job is not quite over yet, though, despite a Luis Suarez-inspired triumph in the French capital last week, with Gregory van der Wiel‘s deflected shot giving PSG just a glimmer of hope.
Barca have showed no signs of fatigue as we approach the closing weeks of the campaign, scoring in the first and last minute of their meeting with Valencia on Saturday afternoon to continue their recent imperious streak with another two-goal margin of victory.
Suarez opened the scoring in that league fixture with his sixth goal in seven matches, taking his overall tally in his impressive debut campaign at the Camp Nou to 19 goals in 34 outings. There was also, rather inevitably, a place on the scoresheet for Lionel Messi, who racked up his 400th goal in the famous Blaugrana strip.
With a Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao also on the horizon, things are certainly looking up for Enrique’s charges, but they will have to focus on getting the job done against their fellow European heavyweights in order to remain on track for a memorable treble.
Recent form in Champions League: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDWW
PSG have got to know their quarter-final opponents well over the past few seasons, with this their sixth meeting since April 2013. Blanc will be quick to remind his players that they have beat Barcelona once already this season, inflicting a first defeat in European competition on the Spanish side this term in the process.
That has been an anomaly in terms of those previous encounters, however, with PSG often falling just short when they come up against the best. This inability to match the top sides on the continent looked likely to be the case in the last round when PSG found themselves heading for the European exit at Stamford Bridge, but a superb second-leg performance saw them prevail on away goals in the end.
PSG really could have done with a victory in the first leg of this intriguing tie, though, in the knowledge that Barca have lost just one of their last 31 games on home soil in this competition. Blanc’s charges boasted a similar record of their own prior to last week’s match, going 34 games without tasting defeat at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League.
There have been some suggestions from afar that Blanc’s job is hanging by a thread at this moment in time, with even a Ligue 1 triumph not being enough to save his skin. Even domestic success is delicately poised at this moment in time, with PSG finding themselves at the top of the table but just one point clear of closest challengers Lyon.
A place in the semi-final of the Champions League for just the second time would certainly mark a progressive improvement from their recent disappointing exits but, having failed to get a grip on proceedings in the opening 90 minutes, the task may now simply be too much to overcome.
Recent form in Champions League: WWLDDL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWLW
Barcelona made five changes to their starting lineup for the weekend win over Valencia, although Enrique was never going to leave the South American attacking trio of Neymar, Messi and Suarez on the bench for that game.
Dani Alves also started at the Camp Nou on Saturday, and he will almost certainly be involved against PSG having sat out the first leg due to a one-match suspension. Messi, fresh on the back of his 46th goal in 45 games for the club this season, also came through unscathed and is fit to start.
In terms of the visitors, Marco Veratti and former Barca star Zlatan Ibrahimovic have also served their European suspensions and are in line to return to the starting lineup, with the latter needing just five more goals to become the French outfit’s all-time goalscorer.
Thiago Silva limped off in the first leg, meanwhile, meaning another fitness doubt in David Luiz should fill in at the back. However, Thiago Motta, who has missed the last four games, is unlikely to feature.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Paris Saint-Germain starting lineup:
Sirigu; Van der Wiel, Marquinhos, Luiz, Maxwell; Rabiot, Cabaye, Matuidi; Cavani, Pastore, Ibrahimovic
Head To Head
This will be the two sides’ fourth meeting this season, with PSG winning just one of those games. It is also the third time that Barcelona and PSG have met at this stage of the competition, with the La Liga giants coming out on top on away goals following two draws when they last clashed in the final eight two years ago.
The 1994-95 quarter-final went the Parisians’ way, though, with a 1-1 draw in Spain being followed up by a 2-1 home success to see them make it into their first semi-final.
Barcelona have got the better in terms of recent meetings, but they have only actually won two of the last seven games against their European opponents in normal time.
We say: Barcelona 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain
Blanc will certainly ensure that his players are fired up right from the off, but Barcelona have been in superb form this year and their recent unbeaten run will continue for a little while longer yet with a 2-0 win on the night.