With Barcelona set to take on Paris Saint-Germain in an all-important contest that will decide the winner of Group F in the UEFA Champions League group stage, here's a few key storylines and other things to watch for when you watch the game tomorrow:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is finally fit to play 90 minutes, and his latest appearances have been amazing. Since returning from a foot injury, "Ibracadabra" scored four goals in his last three games, and he's back to the usual form that makes him one of the top strikers on the planet. Since Barcelona's biggest point of concern has always been its defense, a special attention is required to keep Ibra away the ball as much as possible. He's most scary with possession of the ball, and his skill set does not include some spectacular off the ball movement. Which makes important for the defense to force PSG into passing the ball elsewhere.
Stop everybody else!
That's the problem with the tactic of keeping Ibrahimovic away from the ball. The rest of the team is really, really good. Lucas Moura is in spectacular form, and he's probably the team's best player so far. Edinson Cavani is also playing well, and should get some type of attention as well. Javier Pastore was the MVP of the first game, and if he plays, he's another cause of concern for the Blaugrana's defense.
Who's replacing Dani Alves?
The Brazilian picked up an automatic one-match ban for yellow card accumulation, and he's missing the big game tomorrow. Coach Luis Enrique has a tricky decision to make. Despite his bad start to the season, Alves has shown a lot of improvement over the last few matches, and his substitute will deal with some pressure. The favorite candidate is Adriano, a left-back capable of playing on the right side without compromising the team's overall performance. He needs to play at the highest level he can reach, because he's probably taking on Cavani or Pastore for the whole game. Adriano also needs to contribute on offense, and help open up a few holes on PSG's defense. And maybe he can unleash one #AdriaGolazo. Who knows?
That's an interesting thing to consider. Since Alves isn't playing and there isn't really a top-level replacement at his slot, Enrique could use the opportunity to experiment something he has thought of for a while: use a three-man backline and put Pedro on as a right wing-back. That would strengthen the defense with either a Mascherano or Marc Bartra along with Gerard Piqué and Jérémy Mathieu; Jordi Alba would focus more on his strongest attribute, attacking, and Pedro has shown some ability to come back and defend and support the offense playing on the wing.
Obviously, performing lab tests in a big game is the kind of stuff that get coaches fired. Luis Enrique has proven to be cautious enough not to try crazy things when the moment doesn't call for it. But perhaps being a little crazy and surprising people and getting something good out of it is what can make a coach great. Right, Pep?
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