Xavi and Jordi Alba are both fit for the trip to Paris for the first leg of Barcelona’s Champions League quarterfinal, while coach Tito Vilanova will be back on the bench for the first time since going to New York for cancer treatment.
Barcelona rested several players for the 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo on Saturday, while Xavi and Alba missed out with hamstring injuries. The first leg against Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain has come too early for defenders Carles Puyol and Adriano, who miss out through a knee injury and hamstring injury, respectively.
Having survived a major scare by overcoming a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Milan in the last round, Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura is adamant that his side are taking nothing for granted despite being strong favorites to make the last four.
“They are quick on the break and strong in the air, especially with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, but those are just two of their options: they have a lot more tricks in their bag,” Roura said, according to UEFA’s official website. “We'll have to adapt a bit, of course, but we won't change the way we play, although we have studied their game carefully.”
PSG have received a major boost with Ibrahimovic’s ban for a sending off against Valencia being reduced to just one game, meaning that the Swede can play in both games against his former club. Another former Barcelona player, Thiago Motta, has yet to recover from a groin problem, however. Lucas Moura is also set to play having overcome an injury that ruled him out of the 1-0 win over Montpellier last Friday.
PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti has said that he is not making special plans to try and combat Barcelona.
“We can't focus on the opposition's players, but rather on our own assets,” he revealed. “Our tactical approach will not change because of their lineup. Recently, we have defended well, played well on the break and played well when having only some possession.”
Ancelotti’s comments imply that he will not look to pack the midfield potentially with the addition of Clement Chantome at the expense of one of the more attack-minded Lucas Moura or Javier Pastore.
Barcelona are likely to stick to a similar lineup that beat Milan 4-0, with Andres Iniesta in midfield and David Villa stretching the opposition defense up front.
Paris Saint-Germain (probable)
D: Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell
M: Matuidi, Verratti
Lucas Moura, Pastore, Lavezzi
D: Daniel Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Villa, Messi, Pedro
Betting Odds: Paris Saint-Germain are 15/4 with Bet 365 to get the first-leg win at the Parc des Princes. A draw is available at 14/5, with Barcelona 4/5 to take a lead back to Camp Nou.
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.