Barcelona Confident It Can Make History
With four Champions League titles in the past 12 seasons, Barcelona has been Europe’s predominant club over recent years. On Wednesday, though, the Catalan club will attempt a feat neither it nor any team has ever accomplished. After a disastrous 90 minutes against Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital three weeks ago, it must come back from a 4-0 deficit in the second leg of its Champions League last-16 matchup.
If any team is capable of pulling off such an unlikely achievement, surely it is one that boasts perhaps the deadliest attacking trio ever assembled. And, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in his side, coach Luis Enrique has signaled that he believes the two-legged contest is far from over.
“I am not interested in becoming part of history,” news Enrique said in his pre-match news conference Tuesday.“ But I am convinced we will get chances. We are only halfway through the tie. There are 95 minutes left and lots of things can happen. I go into the game with a positive mood. We have to do everything really well, both in defense and in attack.”
He added: “If a team can score four times against us, we can score six times against them. We have seen that before this season. We have nothing to lose.”
Since the first leg humiliation, Enrique has announced that he will be stepping down from his post after three years at the helm at the end of the current season. His team responded in the best way possible during the weekend, beating Celta Vigo 5-0. The same scoreline on Wednesday at the Camp Nou and Barcelona will be the recipients of a most unlikely quarterfinal place. Indeed, Barcelona won its three home games in this season’s group stage by an average of 5-0.
Barcelona can also draw belief from the fact that, in the past four seasons, it has knocked PSG out of the Champions League twice and also finished ahead of the French champion in the group stage in 2014.
But PSG has not lost any of its last 15 games in all competitions and has conceded just one goal in its last six fixtures. While far from complacent, PSG coach Unai Emery, who won the Europa League for the last three seasons while at Sevilla, insisted he has full belief in his team to finish the job.
“I have the same confidence in my team as before the first leg and the same respect for Barcelona. Our only thought is to play the way we did in the first leg, without thinking about the result.”
He continued: “We need to be ready to do everything: defend, attack, play together, cope when they are dominating, and make them suffer. We need to win our one on ones and on a collective level get the upper hand. That’s why we want to carry on where we left off in Paris.”
Prediction: It is a huge task for Barcelona, but if it can get a goal early on and get the crowd believing in a comeback then it is far from beyond the bounds of possibility. If that does happen, then it will be a test of PSG’s resolve, something that’s been called into question in the latter stages of the Champions League over recent seasons. But with Emery in charge, this looks to be a different PSG, and it should have enough of a cushion to get over the line
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