FC Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
Competition/Round: 2020-21 UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, Leg 1
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Sergi Roberto, Ronald Araujo (out), Gerard Piqué, Martin Braithwaite (doubt)
PSG Outs & Doubts: Neymar, Ángel Di María, Colin Dagba, Juan Bernat, Timothée Pembélé (out), Marco Verratti (doubt)
Date/Time: Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Wednesday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
VAR: Pol van Boekel (NED)
How to watch on TV: TUDN (USA), BT Sport 3 (UK), SONY TEN 2 (India), Canal+ Sport 3 (Nigeria), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), others
Following a very good win against Alavés to extend their unbeaten streak in La Liga, Barcelona are back in action for the biggest game of the season so far: the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
Because of a terrible loss to Juventus in the group stage finale last December, Barça finished second in their group and are facing a group winner with the second leg being played away from home, and the draw with PSG isn’t easy at all.
But as is often the case, you can’t judge the Round of 16 draw when it’s made in December since the matches only happen in February, and teams can change a lot in those two months. And both teams have: PSG went to Champions League finalists to changing their coach to not looking like a world-beater anymore, and Barça have improved tremendously and come into this one in their best form of the season.
Ronald Koeman still has to prove himself in big games, and it’s hard to get any bigger than this one. Given their away record in Europe over the last three years, Barça MUST get a result in the first leg, especially since there’s a good chance that the injured Neymar will be back for the return match in Paris.
With Neymar and Ángel Di María missing this one, PSG’s creative burden will fall on the shoulders of Kylian Mbappé, who struggled at the start of the season but is — almost literally — flying right now. Defending him well is the key to Barça getting a result, and if Gerard Piqué confirms the rumors and plays on Tuesday, the Blaugrana’s chances improve.
The league form is amazing, and Barça are slightly healthier coming into this one, but they are yet to win a truly big game this season. In fact, they haven’t even played well in a truly big game. If they don’t on Tuesday and get beaten badly, it’s really hard to see them pulling off another 6-1 in the second leg. After all, Sergi Roberto is injured.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Mingueza, Lenglet, Alba; De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Messi, Griezmann
PSG (4-2-3-1): Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Paredes, Gueye; Sarabia, Verratti, Mbappé; Icardi
I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this match. It could be an embarrassing night for Barça in Europe again or they could come out and stun PSG with a couple of early goals and then protect their lead for the rest of the game. Because I’m an optimist, I’ll bet on the second outcome: 2-1 to the good guys.