Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique insists a place in the Champions League last four is not a virtual lock, despite taking a 3-1 lead into the second leg of their quarterfinal with Paris Saint-Germain at the Camp Nou. Only once previously in the 40-year history of the European Cup has a team come back from a two-goal deficit in the first leg at home. But Enrique insists that the fact PSG have nothing to lose traveling to Catalonia means they can be a dangerous proposition.
“The difficulty is in the two-leg nature of the game,” he said, reports Catalan publication Sport. “They are an opponent coming here with a deficit and won’t be holding anything back.
“We’re going to go out and try and win the match, we want to have the ball and we have to be ready if they play against us in a similar way to the first leg, or in a completely different way. We’ll have to evaluate what sort of game it’s going to be.
“[The first leg] was a good result but it was not definitive. We need another big game to put this to bed. Throwing around percentages would be misleading and wrong, in preparation for the match.”
PSG’s remote chances of pulling off a famous comeback have been giving some assistance by the return from suspension of Italian midfielder Marco Verratti and former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But the French champions will still be missing the suspended Serge Aurier as well the injured Thiago Motta and Thiago Silva, who was forced off early on in the first leg.
Silva’s departure led to the introduction of David Luiz into the back line, and the Brazilian was twice crudely exposed by Luis Suarez as Barcelona raced into a 3-0 lead at the Parc des Princes. Although PSG pulled a late goal back when Jeremy Mathieu sent the ball into his own net, head coach Laurent Blanc is not overly enthused about his side’s chances.
“I am pretty realistic -- obviously I think we can do it, but it will be extremely difficult,” he said, according to Paris Saint-Germain’s official website. “We need to score goals and I truly believe we will have opportunities to do that. The biggest difficulty will be to avoid conceding. We have nothing to lose and we want to show we can play better than we did in the first leg.”
For PSG, a failure to overturn their deficit would mean a quarterfinal exit from the Champions League for a third successive season. They remain in a heated title race in Ligue 1, too, despite their 3-1 win at Nice on Saturday. On the same day, goals from Suarez and Lionel Messi gave Barcelona a hard-fought 2-0 win over a strong Valencia side to keep them two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga. After missing that victory, Andres Iniesta has been declared available to take his place in the squad for PSG’s visit.
G: Ter Stegen
D: Alves, Pique, Mathieu, Alba
M: Rakitic, Busquets, Xavi
F: Messi, Suarez, Neymar
D: Van der Wiel, Marquinhos, David Luiz, Maxwell
M: Pastore, Verratti, Matuidi
F: Cavani, Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes