Arguably the biggest clash in this week’s UEFA Champions League comes at the Parc des Princes where Paris Saint-Germain host Barcelona. Arguments can be made for Manchester City versus Roma and Spanish champions Atlético Madrid versus Italian champions Juventus but we won’t go into that.
Paris Saint-Germain have made an inauspicious start to their domestic season as defending French Ligue 1 champions, drawing five of their opening eight matches, while winning the other three. This includes three of their last four league games being a 1-1 draw. During that spell, they also drew 1-1 at Ajax in their Champions League opener.
Laurent Blanc’s side aren’t yet up and running for the 2014-15 season and his side face a massive test against a Barcelona side who have scored 11 goals in their last three games combined.
Luis Enrique’s side have hit the ground running in his first season in charge, already with a four-point lead over pre-season La Liga favourites Real Madrid, after six games.
Neymar has started the season in good form and Lionel Messi is looking sharp also. They have not conceded a goal in their seven competitive games this season. Barcelona will be favourites for this game with Betfair in the betting stakes, especially with PSG missing Ibra up front and Thiago Silva at the back.
There are three massive injury blows to the home side who are without strikers Zlatan Ibrahimović, Ezequiel Lavezzi and centre-back Thiago Silva.
Luis Suárez’s long-term suspension is the only player unavailable to Luis Enrique. With the Uruguayan yet to make his debut for Barcelona, the head coach essentially has the full squad he’s been working with this season for their trip to the French capital.
Paris Saint-Germain remain with two Brazilian centre-backs, but without Thiago Silva it is the young Marquinhos alongside the risky David Luiz. Barcelona were actually linked to Marquinhos over the summer. Blanc has his favourite central midfield three available which includes former Barcelona player Thiago Motta. Marco Verratti is vulnerable at conceding possession and free kicks inside his own half. Up front, the young striker Jean-Christophe Bahebeck scored PSG’s equaliser at the weekend and has started their last two.
Claudio Bravo remains in goal for Barcelona despite Marc-André ter Stegen fit and awaiting to take over the number one role. The German’s debut and only game for Barcelona so far was in their opening Champions League group game but we’d expect Luis Enrique to stick with Bravo who has had most of the action this season. Xavi could start in midfield and Munir could start on the wing but we’re going with Pedro ahead of the youngster.
Lionel Messi vs David Luiz
Lionel Messi scored two and assisted two of Barcelona’s goals at the weekend, taking him up to 401 in competitive games for Barcelona at the mere age of 27. He has been involved in 11 goals (6 goals, 5 assists) in his first six league games this season. We know how mistake-prone David Luiz is and if he lets slip just once in 90 minutes he can expected to be punished by one of the best footballers of all-time on Tuesday.
Neymar vs Gregory van der Wiel
Neymar has six goals in his first five La Liga games of 2014-15 and he’s only started three of those. Early signs are that Luis Enrique is getting the best out of the 22-year old who was widely criticised during the second half of last season. Gregory van der Wiel will be in for a tough match versus the exciting Brazilian who consistently runs at defenders and is deadly when cutting in from the wing. The PSG defence on the whole is in for a tough test against one of the best attacking units in football.
Javier Pastore vs Sergio Busquets
Paris Saint-Germain’s expensive Argentine playmaker has not really lived up to his heights yet following his move from Palermo in 2011. Javier Pastore has made a good start to this season though as the side’s playmaker in the team. He’ll have Edinson Cavani to feed and we know the Uruguayan is a potent goal threat. Whilst Zlatan Ibrahimović is a big loss they still have goal threats and Pastore on his day is capable of pulling the strings.
Prediction Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Barcelona
A massive loss in defence with Thiago Silva out, Paris Saint-Germain are going to have to sit back and defend for long periods of this game if they want to get anything out of it. Barcelona’s attack simply looks too powerful for Laurent Blanc’s side and we think the Spaniard’s will pick up three points on the road.