MX23RW : Wednesday, December 12 05:51:02
Feb 14, 2017 at 7.45pm UK at ​Parc des Princes
PSGParis Saint-Germain
di Maria (18', 55'), Draxler (40'), Cavani (72')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Preview: Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona

Sports Mole previews the first leg of the Champions League last-16 clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

Paris Saint-Germain head into their Champions League clash with Barcelona having not suffered defeat in 11 matches in all competitions, while they are yet to lose at the Parc des Princes since the start of the season.

Barcelona make the trip to France having only suffered one defeat since November 6, while it has been 20 games since any team stopped them from finding the back of the net.

Paris Saint-Germain

Unai Emery watches on during the Champions League game between Arsenal and PSG on November 23, 2016© SilverHub

In recent seasons, Paris Saint-Germain have been able to prepare for the last 16 of the Champions League with one hand already on the Ligue 1 trophy, but this time around they face the conundrum of having to balance their efforts at home and on the continent.

However, that could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Unai Emery's team, with the players overcoming a slow start to the campaign to move themselves into contention for yet another league title.

They have benefited from Nice dropping off the pace but in their last seven Ligue 1 contests, they have registered six wins and a draw with 17 goals being scored and just three being conceded.

Emery had come under pressure earlier in the campaign, but he is now starting to put the kind of results together which were expected of him when he arrived in France and they are starting to perform with an efficiency which should make them hard to beat, especially on the domestic scene.

Barcelona will provide the sternest of tests on Tuesday evening but the visitors will face the task of stopping an in-form Edinson Cavani, who has netted in each of his last five games in Ligue 1, and a team who have not lost at their home ground all season.

The club's wealthy owners are waiting for the team to crack the last four of this competition for the first time since 1995, and although there will be an understanding that it will take some performance to see off Barcelona over two legs, the expectancy levels remain high ahead of this tie and it will be demanded that Emery uses his knowledge of Barcelona from his Sevilla days to find a way past one of the tournament favourites.

Recent form: DWWWDD
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWWW


Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique shouts from the sidelines during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 25, 2015© Getty Images

With Real Madrid holding a clear advantage in the race for the La Liga title there is extra pressure on Luis Enrique to deliver on the European front, and he will be aware that his team have landed one of the toughest draws available in the last 16 of the competition.

That said, facing a fellow competition rival will only sharpen the focus of the squad, and they head into the tie having made light work of PSG in the quarter-finals in 2015.

Barcelona ran out 3-1 winners at the Parc des Princes - with PSG only getting on the scoresheet through a late own goal - and while their hosts may not have lost on home territory all season, it is a challenge which Enrique will accept with both hands.

Neymar continues to struggle to contribute goals on a regular basis, with just one coming in his last five outings, but Lionel Messi has netted in 12 of his last 15 appearances, with strike partner Luis Suarez scoring 10 from nine matches.

From a team perspective, they have suffered just one defeat in their last 22 matches - which came against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey - but that setback has been long forgotten and Barcelona are getting back into their stride ahead of an important part of the campaign.

The games come thick and fast before and after the second leg at Camp Nou so Enrique will be eager to try to get the job done over the first 90 minutes, and if they produce their 'A' game in France's capital like they did less than two years ago, they may be able to do just that.

Recent form: WWWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWDW

Team News

Arda Turan of Barcelona in action during his side's Champions League clash with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on November 1, 2016© SilverHub

Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan has been ruled out of the trip to Paris with a groin injury, while Aleix Vidal will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a broken ankle at the weekend.

Javier Mascherano continues to be sidelined with a hamstring problem, but Gerard Pique is fit after being rested against Alaves.

Enrique has also been boosted by the return of Rafinha, who will wear a face mask after suffering a broken nose earlier in the month.

Emery could hand a first Champions League start for PSG to Julian Draxler, who has been added to their European squad after his January switch from Wolfsburg.

He is competing with Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura for the two wide positions either side of Cavani.

Paris Saint-Germain possible starting lineup:
Trapp, Meunier, Kurzawa, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Matuidi, Di Maria, Verratti, Lucas Moura, Rabiot, Cavani

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Mathieu, Pique, Umtiti, Digne; Iniesta, Rakitic, Busquets; Neymar, Suarez, Messi

Head To Head

Since 2013, the two teams have become increasingly familiar with one another with as many as six matches being contested in the competition.

PSG were unbeaten in the first three of those matches, with a 3-2 victory at the Parc Des Princes their best effort, but they have fallen to defeat in each of the last three meetings.

In the two-legged quarter-final tie during the 2014-15 campaign, Barcelona ran out 5-1 victors on aggregate, with a 3-1 success in Paris being followed by a 2-0 triumph at Camp Nou.

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We say: Paris Saint-Germain 1-3 Barcelona

Both teams have been largely dominant on the domestic scene either side of Christmas but while PSG usually relish the opportunity to play in front of their own fans on a high-profile European evening, we cannot look past Barcelona and are backing the visitors to establish a significant first-leg advantage.

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Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain
Rafinha celebrates scoring for Barcelona during their La Liga clash with Granada at the Camp Nou on October 29, 2016
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