Paris Saint-Germain face the ultimate test as they host Barcelona in the first leg of a highly anticipated quarter-final tie on Tuesday.
The Qatari-backed French giants have had a slight dip in form, only winning two of their past five games, but got over the line 1-0 against last season’s champions Montpellier on Friday.
PSG’s progression to the quarter-finals was made easier by the 2-1 away triumph in the first leg of their round-of-16 clash against Valencia and despite conceding first in the return match at home, Carlo Ancelotti’s side sealed progression with a 1-1 draw.
Barcelona could only manage a 2-2 draw in La Liga against Celta Vigo on Saturday but were able to rest key players such as Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano.
The Spanish powerhouses’ passage to the last eight was anything but straightforward when they travelled to AC Milan for the first leg and were comfortably beaten 2-0 by a superb counter-attacking performance.
But just as true champions do, Barca answered the challenge with a 4-0 win at Camp Nou to seal their place in the quarter-finals and earn the right to be competition favourites.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on PSG’s mercurial talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who spent two seasons at Barcelona from 2009-2011 and played with most of the current players.
Ibrahimovic has been in deadly form in Ligue 1, smashing in 25 goals in 27 goals, and is capable of producing that moment of brilliance that will be required to give PSG a chance in the tie.
With the Barca defenders keeping a close eye on the Swedish maestro, their PSG counterparts will have their hands full with arguably the world’s best player – Lionel Messi.
Messi has again scored at an astronomical rate, netting an unbelievable 43 goals in 29 league games and also contributing seven goals in eight Champions League encounters.
Limiting Messi’s output will go a long way to giving PSG a chance of getting off to a great start in front of their home fans.
The two sides have never met before in a competitive match but played out a 2-2 friendly draw back in August 2012.
Barcelona’s away form has been patchy of late and with PSG’s firepower up front, it is highly possible that this game could end in a draw.
It is important that PSG limit the away goal damage done by Barcelona as the Spaniards are very difficult to beat at Camp Nou.