Messi, during training this Monday. THE PAÍS
Barça really wants to play against PSG. A tie that was practically impossible in December, when the Catalans were paired in the round of 16 with PSG, two months later it is much more open due to the improvement of Leo Messi's team and the absence of Neymar (21.00, Movistar Champions League). That scattered Barcelona squad that gave up the leadership of the group due to its defeat against Juve (0-3), has stabilized offensively and competes well at the start of 2021. Although it is still very fragile (it has conceded 35 goals in 34 games) and defeats against the great rivals (Real Madrid, Atlético, Sevilla in the Cup or Athletic in the Super Cup), Barcelona is especially encouraged to now face a rival with whom they have always fought in the market and on the field and also share lately the frustration of winning the European Cup.
“We need to be well organized defensively when we lose the ball”, Koeman synthesized, always direct, aware of the limitations of his team and, at the same time, leader of the club awaiting the elections presidential elections on March 7. The coach has won over the squad, has managed to involve the captain and the game flows from 4-3-3 with five good attacking players: insiders Pedri and De Jong and forwards Dembélé , Messi and Griezmann. The balance still depends on Busquets and the doubts are located in the rear: he cannot find a reliable right back and the pair of centrals constantly varies due to injuries (Araujo, Lenglet and Piqué). The versatile Mingueza remains, because Araujo is out, Lenglet plays with discomfort and Piqué has been working with the group for four days after spending three months in the Camp Nou infirmary. It is not ruled out that he could be summoned today by Koeman.
Barcelona – PSG, a decade of
tensions The center-back can be excited by the opposition and a tournament that has become a way of the cross, topped by 2-8 of the last summer in Lisbon. Messi's disagreement with Barça became official after that bloody defeat against Bayern. The man from Rosario hurts because he aspires to win at least one more Champions League than the four he has won, the last one in Berlin 2015, prior to the elections won by Josep Maria Bartomeu . Koeman has rejuvenated a squad that was the most veteran of those who played in the last phase of last season (28.3 years on average) and Barça no longer counted among a group of favorites in which PSG appears on the contrary, finalist in Portugal after playing a very good tournament due to Neymar's determination. The Brazilian is injured, like Di María, and Barça warns of the possibility of beating PSG.
The memory of the 6-1
French team aspires, precisely, to take the revenge of the 6-1 that they conceded in 2017 in a party led by Neymar before his escape to Paris after paying the buyout clause of 222 million. The Brazilian has not won the Champions League again and Barça has not found his replacement while waiting for the resurgence of Dembélé to be confirmed and Griezmann consolidated.
At 34, Messi continues as the watchword of Barcelona and the PSG is entrusted to Mbappé , the 22-year-old striker who aspires to win the Ballon d'Or while deciding whether to renew or change teams – his preferred option would be Real Madrid. "A very fast footballer who can make things very difficult for us in a very tactical game," Koeman stressed about Mbappé. The coach insists that Barça's luck is to be forceful in the areas and, therefore, it is entrusted above all to Ter Stegen and Messi.
The Argentine has eight goals in the last five days, excellent last Saturday against Alavés , in the same way that he was left without scoring in the Cup against Sevilla. "I have great hopes that Leo continues to be a Barça player," Koeman replied to a question from a French journalist who asked him about the future of 10, which he associated with Pochettino's PSG. The Argentine coach aspires to give a collective identity to the team, which goes "calm and clean" to the Camp Nou: "What happened is there, it cannot be erased, but we will build a better future."
Pochettino does not want to talk about reckoning or irreconcilable enemies between the two teams, both tormented in Europe, knowing, in any case, that PSG is obsessed with the Champions League . His is a global look unlike Barça's, focused on today's game, although Koeman invites optimism: “I don't see many other teams better than us; we can win anyone ”. The Catalans need to prove themselves against a candidate to find out about their chances and there is no rival more expected than PSG.