Emery faces biggest test of PSG careeer
Under-pressure Emery faces biggest test of his PSG tenure
ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG
PARIS ST GERMAIN v BARCELONA
(Tomorrow, 3.45am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Unai Emery faces the biggest test of his credentials in his eight-month tenure at Paris Saint-Germain.
Neither he nor his current employers are strangers to falling afoul of Barcelona in recent times, particularly where the Champions League is concerned.
Experiences in Europe's elite club competition have been equally bruising for both parties.
Emery found himself on the wrong side of successive group-stage humiliations in 2012, the second coming just five days before he was relieved of his duties at Spartak Moscow.
Meetings with Barca have also accounted for half of Les Parisiens' quarter-final exits in the Champions League over the past four seasons, as the club's Qatari owners turned to the former Sevilla coach in a bid to break through a previously impenetrable barrier.
Their plan, however, has become somewhat lost in translation.
On the home front, PSG sit three points adrift of Monaco at the summit of Ligue 1.
Legally? For me, it's impossible to stop him. You have to tie him up. The tactic is preventing the ball getting to him. You must be very, very organised.PSG winger Lucas Moura on how to stop Barcelona's Lionel Messi
It is hardly unfamiliar territory despite being a departure from last season's runaway success, which saw them crowned champions in mid-March and finish an unprecedented 31 points clear.
But it is on the continental stage where Emery faces greater scrutiny.
His track record in the Europa League (leading Sevilla to three consecutive titles) served as the 45-year-old's unique selling point for being parachuted in as Laurent Blanc's surprise replacement at the Parc des Princes last summer.
His pedigree in knock-out competitions is undisputed but less formidable when examined solely at the top tier of European football.
With Spartak, he finished bottom of Group G in 2012/13, while Sevilla found themselves back in the Europa League after lagging behind Manchester City and Juventus in last season's group standings by six and five points respectively.
Unai Emery has coached a lot of teams against Barcelona, notably with Sevilla. He will be able to point out their weaknesses to usPSG defender Thiago Silva says coach Unai Emery knows how to stop Barcelona
That pattern continued this season as PSG surrendered top spot to Arsenal after a 2-2 draw with Ludogorets Razgrad in a final group encounter.
Shifting those perceptions has been made all the more onerous by the meeting with the Catalan giants tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Luis Enrique's side have lost just once in their past 22 games and boast the full-strength trident of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Lucas Moura suggested that the best way to stifle the mercurial Argentinian would be "to tie him up".
Half-jokingly or not, the Brazil international's suggestion may appear the only logical option in successfully stifling Messi's brilliance from a defensive standpoint for PSG.
Emery has never tasted victory in the presence of Barcelona's talisman; he was sidelined as Sevilla ended a seven-year itch over their La Liga rivals earlier in the previous campaign.
Yet one thing the PSG chief does boast is a knowledge of their weaknesses, coupled with an ability to fight fire with fire.
The imposing figures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz may have disappeared at opposing ends of the field, but Emery boasts a far greater armoury.
Edinson Cavani has taken the place of the Manchester United frontman with goals in six consecutive games and the Uruguayan has 33 for the overall campaign, just five shy of a previous career best.
Not for the first time in the past 12 months, Juergen Klopp's loss has also been Emery's gain in the form of Julian Draxler's flying start to life in the French capital, with the one-time Liverpool target scoring four times across his first eight matches in all competitions.
Add a stellar supporting cast of Moura, Angel di Maria, Marco Veratti and Blaise Matuidi, among others, to the mix and Emery has more than enough ammunition to down Barca.
Downing his former La Liga foes would be a perfect statement of intent to prove that he is capable of leading PSG beyond their limits.
So far, the evidence has been far from compelling.