Five things PSG must do to beat Barcelona
PSG can turn the tables on Barca, but Blanc must get his tactics spot-on
QUARTER-FINAL, SECOND LEG
BARCELONA v PARIS ST GERMAIN
(Tomorrow, 2.40am, Singtel TV Ch 111)
- Barcelona lead 3-1 from first leg)
There are few assignments in football tougher than overcoming a two-goal deficit against Barcelona, especially with the second leg to be played at the Nou Camp.
Paris Saint-Germain need nothing less than a perfect performance to get the minimum 2-0 away victory they need to reach the Champions League's last four.
Here are five things PSG must do to stand a chance of turning the tables on mighty Barca.
1 Defend as a team
Only one team have stayed unbeaten against Barca over at least two games this season - Malaga. And they did it mostly with a solid defensive ethic.
No team stand a chance against arguably the world's best attack simply by relying on their backline to hold out. It takes a collective effort and a concerted one at that.
PSG's chances of maintaining control of the game lie not through possession, but through how well their defence can keep a lid on Barca's attacking forays.
To achieve that, they need all the bodies on the field, from defence to attack, to stay compact and keep its defensive shape throughout the match.
The backline and, especially the midfield, must stay extremely close together to limit the space accorded to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and pressure them whenever they have the ball to limit the damage they can do.
At the same time, David Luiz and Co. need to minimise the number of fouls in the areas within shooting range, given the many set-piece specialists Barca have at their disposal.
This was how Malaga picked four points off Barca this season.
2 PSG must play smart
Malaga's strategy against Barca extended beyond defensive work. But they didn't over-complicate things. They went for football's primitive route of getting the ball up the field as soon as possible.
And it worked a treat.
Barca's defensive strength is often under-rated. In fact, their ability to press their opponents almost the entire length of the field is one of their most formidable qualities.
PSG must attempt to play the ball forward the moment they regain possession, before Barca's players have the chance to put pressure on them.
It's essentially a counter-attacking game, but with speed its only emphasis.
3 Return of Ibrahimovic and Verratti
PSG welcome back Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti, two key offensive players in Laurent Blanc's plans.
In their absence in the first leg, the French club clearly lacked a cutting edge in the opponents' half.
At 33, Ibrahimovic remains one of the best strikers in the world, with an ability to turn a match around with his individual brilliance.
Verratti, on the other hand, was one of his side's best players during the 2-2 away draw with Chelsea, a result which put PSG into the last eight on the away-goals rule.
His impressive performances have already drawn interest from the EPL, with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United reportedly keen on luring him away from Paris.
If Ibrahimovic and Verratti rise to the occasion, PSG certainly have the firepower to hurt Barca's rearguard.
4 PSG must convert their chances
Despite the 3-1 home loss to Barcelona last week, PSG were not as hopeless as the scoreline suggested. During the game, they mustered eight shots on goal, only three fewer than Barcelona, and four of them were on target, as compared to Barca's six.
In fact, they had plenty of decent chances.
Edinson Cavani was the biggest culprit. On another day, he could have notched a hat-trick.
Javier Pastore twice spurned excellent opportunities, while Adrien Rabiot had his moment, too.
With Ibrahimovic back in the line-up, Blanc can expect more sharpness in the penalty box.
5 Blanc's men must believe
The form Barca have been in this season gives the impression that they are invincible. But the Catalan club have been beaten five times in all competitions this season.
One of those defeats was in fact inflicted by PSG, during a group match last September. That 3-2 victory should give the players some confidence.
Barca have also lost two matches at home - 1-0 to Celta Vigo and Malaga.
Anyone who has completely written off PSG should perhaps think again.
In the previous round, a 10-man PSG came from behind twice at Stamford Bridge to boot Jose Mourinho's Chelsea out of the competition.
Believe, and PSG may actually turn the tables on Barcelona.
"We have to go to the nou Camp without an inferiority complex and try everything to achieve the feat... we will also have to defend very well, something that we failed to do in the first leg."
- PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi