PSG vs Barcelona | Wednesday 10th March 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
No side has ever progressed from a knockout tie over two legs having lost the first leg at home by a margin of three goals in the history of the Champions League or its predecessor the European Cup.
However ,those of a Barcelona persuasion will cling to the fact that nearly four years ago to the day these same two sides met in what was dubbed La Remontada, as the Catalans recovered a 4-0 first leg loss in France with an astonishing 6-1 victory at the Nou Camp to secure progress to the quarter-finals.
Given the 2021 vintage available to Ronald Koeman – I am surprised to see best odds of only 25/1 on Barca qualifying for the next round – I can’t see them turning this one round in the same fashion – however if they were to do so it would have to go down as one of the all-time greatest performances in UCL history.
The manner in which hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe ripped Barca apart in that first leg doesn’t give much hope for them to extend their impressive run in this season’s competition of not yet conceding a goal on the road but more likely to instead complete an unwanted trio of successive defeats in Europe’s top club competition for the first time in their proud history.
Koemen’s side are on a run of four successive victories scoring 10 goals without reply across those games with PSG bouncing back from defeat to Monaco in the game immediately following the first leg to register three consecutive wins-to-nil of their own.
In my opinion Barcelona have been a pale imitation of themselves for much of the season and although I appreciate the game situation, I was very surprised to see a home win in this second leg tie at odds against.
This is the perfect situation for Mauricio Pochettino and his men to issue a signal of intent – rather than sit back and potentially hobble over the line, qualify with another victory and therefore the 7/5 on offer with Betfair looks like a price worth taking.
Any side with Lionel Messi in it has a chance – although this could be the last UCL game in which Barcelona have that luxury – and it isn’t beyond reason to think the visitors may give themselves hope at some stage, they have after all scored first in each of their last seven competitive matches including in this first leg.
Where I see PSG coming in to their own is hitting Barcelona on the counter and if the Spanish side start to throw bodies forward in search of goals in the second half that could really play to the home sides strengths and allow them to pick them off.
Barcelona have had a few capitulations in this competition in recent times with their exit last year as a result of conceding eight to Bayern Munich and only faced PSG at this stage of the competition due to a 3-0 surrender at the hands of Juventus in their final group game. For me this has the potential to be another humbling.
The first leg saw the Parisians hit three goals in a 20-minute second half salvo and I am expecting a similar pattern here at the Parc des Princes and with odds of 9/4 for two or more PSG goals in the second period it’s a bet I am happy to take.
If, and it really is a BIG if, Barcelona are to give themselves a fighting chance of another great escape then they will need to make a quick start.
It appears Koeman has been gearing up for this do or die mission for a couple of weeks now, knowing a front foot aggressive philosophy could be his only hope and this has seen a formation tweak in the last two games.
A switch to a 3-1-4-2 system entrusts defensive responsibility to the three centre backs and defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets with full backs Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba deployed higher up the pitch as a wing-backs.
It is left sided Alba that has particularly caught my eye in the attack minded markets.
The 31-year-old has had 17 shots with nine on target in La Liga this season, predominantly from left back but with 15 attempts from his last 15 games he has really upped his output.
The shift to a more advanced role helped the Spain international score for the second time in three matches, with his goal in the weekend defeat of Osasuna coming from one of his two shots on target.
His side’s desire – or more to the necessity – to make a quick start and ensure they get the game’s first goal could see an even more adventurous streak from the Barca mainstay and odds of 11/4 for an Alba shot on target with Betfair really appeal to me.