Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain meet again in this season’s Champions League last 16, and it’s not a fixture without its history.
This tie will forever be synonymous with that night at Camp Nou in March 2017.
Luis Enrique’s side kicked off the second leg of their tie against PSG at the same stage of the competition four years ago with an absolute mountain to climb.
Goals from Julian Draxler, Edinson Cavani and a double from Angel Di Maria at Parc des Princes just three weeks earlier had seemingly assured the Parisians of their passage through to the quarter-final stage of the competition.
Barça would need to produce the biggest comeback in Champions League history if they were to progress, and while Lionel Messi’s 50th minute penalty had home fans dreaming with the aggregate scores at 4-3, Cavani’s sucker punch just past the hour mark all but extinguished their feint hopes.
But Barcelona just don’t do boring.
With two minutes of normal time remaining, Neymar struck twice meaning Enrique’s men required just one more goal to complete mission impossible, before Sergi Roberto’s 137th minute (or something like that) decider sparked pandemonium inside Camp Nou.
The two sides meet again in the first knockout round of Europe’s premier competition on Tuesday evening, and it’s fair to say quite a bit has changed since their 2017 duel.
Now, that might sound like a stupid thing to say – it was four years ago, of course things have changed – though few could have envisaged Barcelona would be in the turmoil they find themselves in right now.
The Spanish giants where forced to embark on a fire sale of their hottest properties over the summer in a bid to generate cash, with reports claiming the club are struggling to repay €900m (£804m) of debt.
Said sale saw the departures of some stellar players – most of which were free transfers – including Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez, with the latter inexplicably sold to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid where he looks destined to fire them to their first Spanish title since 2014.
Ronald Koeman has threatened to implode just about every time he’s had a microphone shoved in front of him this season, with not even the club’s hierarchy immune from his criticism – probably not the best idea when you’re eight points off the league leaders and they’ve got two games in hand over you.
Meanwhile, PSG have gone from strength to strength since their collapse in 2017, with Kylian Mbappe added to their ranks and establishing himself among the world’s elite, and their Camp Nou tormentor Neymar swapping La Liga for Ligue 1.
Not only have PSG added plenty of flair to their squad over the past few years, they also look a far more solid outfit than the team that crumbled in Catalonia four years ago, and their steady progression has seen them notch three consecutive French titles as well coming within 90 minutes of being crowned Champions League winners last summer.
That being said, there are still areas of their squad which need addressing, with a number of high-earners being afforded little game time and needing to be moved on. Continue reading
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