There’s no test like the Champions League.
The pressure is on, and fans around the world are about to find out whether Lionel Messi and company are still giants of world football.
It’s a chance to prove the doubters wrong.
The fixture could not have come at a better time.
PSG is without Neymar, and Barcelona have looked unbeatable domestically.
Will Barca be humbled, or is this just the beginning of an unexpected run to become kings of Europe?
Balance tactics with the right amount of aggression
Barca has been on both sides of Champions League comebacks.
As fans we live and die for those moments.
One major criticism of the Ernesto Valverde era was the lack of discernible tactical vision in knockout games.
How will Ronald Koeman approach the game?
Barca could play risk-averse. This would mean intentionally looking to dominate possession. If the game stays low scoring, then it’s anyone’s game in the second leg.
Or, especially seeing an opportunity with Neymar’s absence, Koeman could see this as an opportunity to green light his side in the attack.
We know that PSG will look to take advantage of the speed of Kylian Mbappe.
Barca could counter that by taking advantage of Ousmane Dembele’s pace on the wing, and Messi who will be lingering up top ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.
If they go this route, Frenkie de Jong will need to continue making driving runs into the box. It would also help to have Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest being as aggressive as possible on the overlap.
If they go this route the danger will be whether Sergio Busquets and the defensive line are prepared to be counter attack killers on the other end.
Concentration above all else
We know this is an area that desperately needs to be cleaned up.
In the Champions League, a lack of concentration will put an end to your chances as much as anything else.
It’s needed on both the offensive and defensive end.
Will Antoine Griezmann smash his first opportunity home?
Will Barcelona mark tight and strong on defensive set pieces?
How much risk is this team, given their recent track record, willing to take while playing out of the back?
In the end, being mentally ready to play has much to do with confidence and desire to win.
Barca has been winning of late and overcoming adversity. They are at peak confidence.
But how badly these players want to win will be on full display. When you’re fully focused and committed to the mission you get into the zone of a true competitor.
Making mistakes becomes less likely. Taking advantage of your opponent’s mistakes on the other hand is where you win the game.
Don’t depend on Messi to do it all
Messi is at his best when the team is playing well as a whole.
Lucky for Barca, La Pulga has found his touch again in just about every area of his game. That means at any moment magic is a possibility.
But it’s nothing to count on.
Ousmane Dembele’s very presence is a fear factor for PSG. If Barca can establish him early, the game opens up.
Having Pedri and Frenkie in advanced and aggressive positions adds another dimension for the Parisians to contend with.
If the ball is moving fast, and Barca plays unpredictably over, around and through as needed, the talent on the field will take care of the rest.
Whoever it is when the big moment presents itself needs to make it count.
We’re in for a good one! Visca Barca.