Match Preview: Injury Blow Derails PSG Ahead of Barcelona

The stars will be out on Tuesday as Paris Saint-Germain welcome Barcelona to the Parc des Princes for the first match of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. It’s easily the biggest match of PSG’s season but if Unai Emery doesn’t get his tactics spot on, it could turn into a Valentine’s Day massacre and yet another early exit from the competition.

Perhaps more than the players, Emery will be under intense pressure to produce a result and advance past the reigning Spanish champions. The former Sevilla FC manager was brought in to replace Laurent Blanc after a string of quarter-final exits in the Champions League and anything less will be considered a failure by the board. Unfortunately for Emery, he doesn’t have the best record against Barcelona to lean on (one win in 23 tries as a manager). Nonetheless, captain Thiago Silva believes the Basque manager is the right manager to guide them past Lionel Messi and co.

He [Unai Emery] has coached a lot of matches against Barcelona, notably with Sevilla. I think he will be able to point out their weaknesses to us. With his mentality and knowledge of the game, I think we’re better equipped than we have been in our recent matches against Barcelona.—Thiago Silva,

Working in Emery’s favor is the form of his team the last few matches. Edinson Cavani in particular has been on fire and his brace last Friday against FC Girondins de Bordeaux should remind the Barcelona defense how lethal he can be in front of goal. Joining Cavani in attack will likely be Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria, who have combined for 8 goals since the start of the new year. While no one will confuse them with Barca’s Messi, Luis Suárez, and Neymar, PSG’s attacking trio—combined with in-form Lucas Moura off the bench—should give supporters plenty of reason to believe Les Parisiens can pull off the upset.

Barcelona have had an up-and-down season by their standards and like PSG, sit second in their respective league. Luis Enrique’s men are coming off a 0-6 win over Deportivo Alavés but they only have three wins in their last five matches. The Champions League is a different beast and they have too much talent to not to be up for this one as Maxwell eluded to in a recent interview.

We know they [Barcelona] have had some difficulties in the league this season, but we mustn’t let that knowledge lead to any degree of complacency.—Maxwell,

The visitors will be without several key players due to injury—including Arda Turan, Javier Mascherano, and Aleix Vidal. On the plus side, Rafinha is available for selection after a collision with Marc-Andre ter Stegen during a match recently left him with a broken nose and Gerard Pique is fit once again after resting during Barcelona’s previous match.

The injury news isn’t so good for Paris Saint-Germain. Captain Thiago Silva was left out of the squad due to a muscle issue. This is no doubt a huge blow for Emery and with arguably the best attacking trio in Europe coming to town, it will take a miracle for PSG to keep a much-needed clean sheet. Also missing for Paris is Grzegorz Krychowiak and Thiago Motta due to suspension. One bit of good news for supporters is the addition of Javier Pastore who has missed most of the season due to injury.

Starting XI Prediction

(4-2-3-1) Trapp; Aurier, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Matuidi, Verratti; Draxler, Pastore, Di Maria; Cavani

Note: Aurier may be moved to center-back to pair with Marquinhos and Thomas Meunier would slot in at right-back. It’s a risky move but one that may pay off.

Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi will need to sit back more than usual to help protect what will be a vulnerable defense. Pastore, Draxler, and Di Maria will be tasked with maintaining possession and launching counter-attacks when given the opportunity. Cavani will need to be clinical in front of goal and not waste any chances, too. PSG had zero room for error prior to Silva’s injury and now they will need to be perfect and lucky if they hope to get a positive result.

Score Prediction

PSG 1-2 Barcelona

I hope I’m wrong with this one but I don’t see how PSG can overcome the loss of Silva. Unfortunately for Emery, his first trip into the Champions League with Paris will end sooner than anyone expected and questions about his future with the club will grow louder. With all the great signings in January, you have to wonder if the board should have signed a suitable backup for Silva given the lack of depth at center-back and the Brazilian’s age.

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Tags Angel Di Maria Barcelona Blaise Matuidi Champions League Edinson Cavani Grzegorz Krychowiak Javier Pastore Julian Draxler Layvin Kurzawa Lucas Moura Marco Verratti Marquinhos Presnel Kimpembe Serge Aurier Thiago Motta Thiago Silva Thomas Meunier Unai Emery


  1. The one time we beat Barça in recent memory was sans O Monstro. I’m going glass half full, in that the Catalan club doesn’t look the beast it once was, although still very dangerous. The Alaves match had 7 changes from the Copa semi earlier last week, so that puts the 6-0 thrashing into perspective. Plus Vidal is out and he was finally finding his feet under Lucho.

  2. Pastore can’t start the game. There is no guarantee he could play 60 mns, and his last two games, 6 weeks apart, he played for a grand total of about 15 mns before getting injured again. Emery is not going to give the keys of the team to HBA, who’s shown he can be a very decent 9.5 but not a 10. Draxler can play 10, but has never done it with PSG and it would be very surprising Emery decides to use him that way (but not impossible).

    4-3-3 with Maxwell and Aurier, 3 very defending midfielders, ultra pressing Lucas and Cavani and Draxler playing between the lines. Switch to a 4-2-3-1 with Pastore when Neymar and Rakitic start becoming a bit lose in defending their zones.

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