Best Odds: 23/20
An electric atmosphere is expected at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night as home side Paris Saint-Germain look to beat the odds and upset the more fancied Barcelona side in the first leg of one of the most prominent UEFA Champions League last 16 ties.
Unai Emery is given a proper test in the knockout stages of the competition he has come to Paris to conquer. The trophy-laden tactician has had successive successes with Sevilla in the Europa League and will use all of his experience and knowledge to push PSG forward in a competition which remains their biggest dream. Les Parisiens have been unable to reach the final stages of the competition for several seasons now despite heavy investments and big aspirations, and it is now up to the Spanish manager to make a step forward in PSG’s European escapades. It was never going to be easy as Paris Saint-Germain are a work in progress, but Emery’s side has been boosted by Julian Draxler among other names, which are expected to bring new impetus in the Champions league. French Ligue 1 champions are on a wonderful 12-matchj unbeaten run and head into the Tuesday’s duel on the back of a four-match winning streak which offers plenty of optimism.
January signing Goncalo Cuedes is ineligible after playing for Benfica in the group stage of the competition and Thiago Motta is suspended, but Unai Emery will nevertheless have plenty of great options.
Di Maria has hit fine form recently and is expected to start against the team he fought on many occasions in a Real shirt, whereas Thiago Silva is getting back in the squad after being rested against Bordeaux.
The Catalans have recovered from their underwhelming 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid with a goal glut 6-0 rout over Alaves at the weekend. Suarez, Neymar and Messi all got their names on the scoresheet to warm up nicely for their trip to Paris and Luis Enrique will be happy to see his trident up in great shape ahead of this extremely important match. With their La Liga campaign as good as over with Real Madrid having two games in hand and a one-point lead, Barcelona will focus greatly on winning the European crown to salvage the season. Paris Saint-Germain is the first major obstacle, but the one have overcome for the three successive times already in 2014 and 2015 respectively, which will see the Catalans travel to Parc des Princes in high spirits. On their way to the European trophy back in 2014/15, Barcelona pulled off a classy performance with Luis Suarez bagging a brace in a 3-1 win in Paris, and the visitors will surely hope to repeat the same scenario this time around. It will be easier said than done as Unai Emery is well acquainted with his Tuesday’s rivals. Nevertheless, Barcelona will be keen to get in front in the first leg of this tie and we should expect to see an openly-contested match.
Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have given Luis Enrique quite a boost as they will be fit to feature following injury problems.
Ivan Rakitic is expected to return to the midfield as well, while Sergi Roberto is ready to replace the injured Aleix Vidal. Arda Turan, Javier Mascherano and Rafinha are the definite absentees as well.
Key Factors to Consider
- PSG are unbeaten in 12 successive matches in all competitions
- Barcelona’s unbeaten run stretches to 11 consecutive games
- The Catalans won last three meetings between the two sides
- Barca scored 12 goals in their last three games
- PSG kept only two clean sheets in last six matches
There hardly are any secrets between two European heavyweights which have set their sights on the trophy this year. Paris Saint-Germain are expected to go strong from the start in order to make most of the first leg at home, which could potentially leave them vulnerable for quick breaks from the guests. Betting on Barcelona is out preferred choice for the match.
Best Odds: 23/20
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