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Preview: Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League clash between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Nearly four years on from the infamous La Remontada, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain renew on-the-pitch hostilities in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 battle at Camp Nou on Tuesday evening.

Notwithstanding the importance of progressing to the quarter-finals for both sides, Barcelona and PSG have already locked horns off the pitch over soon-to-be free agent Lionel Messi, and all eyes will be on the Argentine this week.

The hosts warmed up for this game with a comfortable 5-1 thrashing of Alaves in La Liga, and while PSG also picked up a vital victory in the league at the weekend, the manner of their 2-1 triumph over Nice was not as dominant.


Match preview

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on February 13, 2021© Reuters

Lionel Messi equalled yet another club record for Barcelona against Alaves on Saturday night, and the talismanic Argentine did not even have to find the back of the net to etch his name into another chapter of the Blaugrana's history books.

The wantaway 33-year-old pulled on the Barcelona jersey for the 505th time in the Spanish top flight - matching the previous record held by illustrious midfield maestro Xavi - and in typical Messi fashion, he marked the occasion with two spectacular goals as Ronald Koeman's side eased to a 5-1 victory, with Trincao (2) and Junior Firpo also getting on the scoresheet.

As speculation over Messi's future continues to dominate talk behind the scenes, the Argentine showed PSG a glimpse of what could be theirs if they play their cards right over the next few months, but unlike Manchester City - who are believed to be going about their business quietly - numerous members of PSG's playing and non-playing staff have made no secret of their desire to bring Messi to the French capital for the 2021-22 campaign.

Such outspoken tactics have reportedly irked Barcelona, who will be even more determined to humble their opponents in midweek - and potentially convince Messi that they are once again capable of challenging for the biggest prize of them all - and the hosts' recent form suggests that they are perfectly capable of gaining the upper hand before next month's trip to the Parc des Princes.

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman pictured in February 2021© Reuters

Victory over Alaves ensured that Barcelona immediately returned to winning ways after a crushing Copa del Rey first-leg defeat to Sevilla in the semi-finals - although they will have the chance to rectify that 2-0 loss on home soil on March 3 - and Saturday's triumph marked their seventh straight success in the Spanish top flight as they rose to second in the rankings.

As well as going 12 games unbeaten in La Liga, Koeman's side have lost just two of their last 18 matches across all competitions and enjoyed a near-perfect group-stage campaign in the Champions League, but a worse head-to-head goal tally with Juventus meant that the Catalans - who sit joint-second in the goalscoring charts with 16 so far - progressed as runners-up from Group G with 15 points from a possible 18.

Barcelona have not failed to progress past the round of 16 since their enthralling tie with Liverpool in the 2006-07 campaign, with the Merseysiders advancing courtesy of away goals, and La Blaugrana boast a remarkable record against French sides in this competition too, as no team from the nation has ever come away from a Champions League tie at Camp Nou with a victory to their name.

The only French club to get the better of Barcelona at Camp Nou was Metz in the 1984-85 Cup Winners' Cup, and Barcelona will be desperate to consign last year's humiliating quarter-final exit to Bayern Munich to history as they gear up for their first meeting with PSG on Tuesday, where another 6-1 thrashing certainly would not go amiss with the impassioned Blaugrana faithful.

Unsurprisingly, Barcelona became the first team ever in the Champions League to overturn a four-goal deficit during that astonishing night at Camp Nou on March 8, 2017. Then-PSG manager Unai Emery witnessed his side hit Barca for four without reply in the first leg, but one of the most memorable and controversial matches of the 21st century culminated in the Blaugrana winning 6-5 on aggregate. However, one of the heroes of that night will not be reuniting with his former Catalan teammates this time around.

Paris Saint-Germain PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino pictured on January 9, 2021© Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino came under fire for his decision to field Neymar in the Coupe de France meeting with Caen earlier this month, and it was a move that certainly backfired on the Argentinian manager as his silky winger has now been ruled out for a number of weeks with an adductor injury.

Whether the former Catalan star will be able to take to the field for the second leg remains to be seen, but there is no chance of Neymar - who has been very vocal about his desire to link up with Messi again - stepping back out onto the Camp Nou turf on Tuesday in order to show Barcelona what they are missing.

The PSG infirmary has been well-occupied for a large portion of the season and is starting to fill up again at the worst possible time for Pochettino, who is taking charge of his first Champions League game for the Ligue 1 champions after Thomas Tuchel guided them to a first-placed finish in a daunting Group H.

Les Parisiens' most recent European outing against Istanbul Basaksehir was overshadowed by a racism scandal involving a fourth official - after which the players walked off the pitch in a show of solidarity - but the teams returned the next night to finish what they had started, and Neymar's hat-trick helped propel his team to top spot and a 5-1 win on the night.

Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar celebrates scoring against Marseille in the Trophee des Champions on January 13, 2021© Reuters

The Brazilian superstar is one of four players who lead the way in the top scorer charts with six to his name - level with Juventus' Alvaro Morata, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford - but the goalscoring burden will now weigh heavily on the shoulders of Kylian Mbappe, who struck the other two against Baseksehir last time out.

Despite their mounting injury problems, PSG will not be dethroned without a fight in Ligue 1 and victory over Nice represented their eighth win from nine matches across all competitions, but they were made to work for the three points as Julian Draxler and Moise Kean - the latter hitting double figures for the season - struck either side of a Rony Lopes leveller at the Parc des Princes.

PSG will feel that there is no reason why they cannot go one better this season after losing to Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 final - Pochettino is relatively young, hungry and has already guided Tottenham Hotspur to the showpiece event - and the visitors travel to Camp Nou having kept three clean sheets in their last four away matches, but they have not beaten a Spanish side in a Champions League knockout game since 2013.

By advancing to the knockout stages of Europe's premier competition for a ninth season on the trot, PSG have matched the previous record for a French club - with Lyon doing so between the 2003-04 and 2011-12 campaigns - but they are now coming up against a Barcelona side who have lost just one of their last 33 knockout games on home soil, winning 25 of them.

A behind-closed-doors Champions League is something that players are unlikely to ever get used to, especially considering what the atmosphere in Catalonia would normally be like for a tie like this, but there is much more than just a spot in the quarter-finals at stake between Barcelona and PSG, as Messi could potentially be swayed one way or the other depending on which European giant makes the last eight.

Barcelona Champions League form: WWWWWL
Barcelona form (all competitions): WWWWLW

Paris Saint-Germain Champions League form: LWLWWW
Paris Saint-Germain form (all competitions): WLWWWW


Team News

Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar reacts after sustaining an injury against Lyon in Ligue 1 on December 13, 2020© Reuters

As well as long-term absentees Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho, Sergi Roberto - who sent a 90,000-strong Camp Nou into delirium by scoring the crucial sixth goal of La Remontada - has suffered yet another muscle injury and is unlikely to play a part this week.

However, Sergino Dest is back in the fold, so Koeman will have at least one recognised right-back available to try to keep Mbappe quiet, and the Barca man is expected to demote Oscar Mingueza to the bench on Tuesday.

Ronald Araujo will also watch this one from the sidelines as he recuperates from a sprained ankle, but there should be an alteration at centre-back regardless, with a possible return for Gerard Pique or Samuel Umtiti allowing Frenkie de Jong to reprise his regular midfield role.

Eighteen-year-old Pedri could also return to the engine room in place of fellow teenager Ilaix Moriba - who made his debut for the club on Saturday - while Ousmane Dembele should return to support Messi and Antoine Griezmann in attack despite Trincao's brace on Saturday.

Neymar's adductor injury has ruled him out of this game and potentially the second leg at the Parc des Princes too, and Pochettino's options out wide were further depleted by Angel Di Maria's thigh injury he sustained in Le Classique.

However, Kean demonstrated his qualities on the right-hand side against Nice and should keep Pablo Sarabia out of the team once again, with Draxler, Mbappe and Mauro Icardi all likely to retain their places in Pochettino's attack.

Doubts remain over the involvement of Marco Verratti - who took a kick to the hip from Marseille's Dimitri Payet in the derby victory - while the possibility of Rafinha returning to Camp Nou is also up in the air due to a muscular problem.

The defensive trio of Colin Dagba, Timothee Pembele and Juan Bernat are also unavailable here, and apart from Alessandro Florenzi potentially replacing Thilo Kehrer at right-back, Pochettino will name a largely unchanged side for this battle.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Dest, Umtiti, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, De Jong, Pedri; Dembele, Messi, Griezmann

Paris Saint-Germain possible starting lineup:
Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Gueye, Paredes; Kean, Draxler, Mbappe; Icardi


Head To Head

Tuesday's game represents the 12th meeting between Barcelona and PSG, and the Catalans boast five victories compared to PSG's three, with the other ties ending with the spoils shared.

Messi's Barcelona have knocked PSG out of the Champions League in the 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, with the 1994-95 campaign representing the only time that the French champions have sent Barca packing in the quarter-finals.

Neymar leads the way in terms of goals in this fixture with seven, but Messi - who sits on four - can attempt to catch up to his former Blaugrana teammate in a tie that has historically had goals in abundance, with 32 shared between the sides in their last eight meetings.


SM words green background

We say: Barcelona 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain

The absences of Neymar and Di Maria are sure to harm PSG's prospects of claiming a memorable victory on Barcelona's turf, and the hosts are likely to shuffle the pack - as opposed to a fatigued Parisiens outfit, who are having to deal with injuries in all areas of the pitch.

That is not to say that Pochettino's men cannot trouble the hosts this week - they should find the back of the net - but Barcelona are almost unplayable at the moment and Messi will certainly be fired up ahead of this meeting, so we expect Barca to take a narrow advantage into March's second leg.


Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data


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Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman pictured in February 2021
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina32211669
United StatesUnited States24282173
JapanJapan1961136
AustraliaAustralia1441634
Olympics flagRussian Olympic Committee13211852
Great BritainGreat Britain13171343
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events


SKATEBOARDING
· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

SAILING
· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

CYCLING
· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
Todays Game Header Right
Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Athletic Bilbao00000000
2Atletico MadridAtletico00000000
3Barcelona00000000
4CadizCadiz00000000
5Celta Vigo00000000
6AlavesAlaves00000000
7ElcheElche00000000
8Espanyol00000000
9Getafe00000000
10Granada00000000
11Levante00000000
12Mallorca00000000
13Osasuna00000000
14Rayo Vallecano00000000
15Real Betis00000000
16Real Madrid00000000
17Real Sociedad00000000
18Sevilla00000000
19Valencia00000000
20Villarreal00000000

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