Barcelona enjoy easy win over PSG

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PARIS – It has been 20 years now. Two decades since PSG have played in a Champions League semifinal. Back in 1995, they beat Barcelona in the quarterfinals to face AC Milan.

They were hoping that history would repeat itself this year, call it an anniversary present if you will. Alas, it doesn’t look like Barcelona will be gifting PSG to mark the occasion. It is almost mission impossible now to be in the pot for the last four. Paris would have to score at least three goals away at the Camp Nou next week.

Barcelona were just a level above on Wednesday night, for a few reasons.

Only PSG with a full squad could have competed against a full-strength Barcelona. Not a PSG without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta. Three key players out, arguably the three most important men in the team, for a game of this intensity and of this importance. Things got even worse with Thiago Silva’s injury just 15 minutes in. That was simply too much. Paris were neither able to compete technically nor tactically.

To that point, PSG manager Laurent Blanc announced on Tuesday that his team would be a bit more defensive, would play deeper and would be more pragmatic in its approach. Even if he chose this style of play due to the absentees, these tactics were a mistake. Paris didn’t play their game. They had only 38 percent possession with just an 83 percent pass completion rate. They lost the battle in the midfield. Take Yohan Cabaye. As a holding midfielder, he touched the ball only 44 times. He was never involved defensively or offensively.

PSG didn’t press enough and gave far too much freedom to their opponents. Edinson Cavani and his teammates were too naive in the first half. At this level, even a little mistake is punished immediately. Twenty-year-old Adrien Rabiot lost a ball in his own half. Marquinhos, also 20 years old, got caught out with some silly positioning. And very quickly Barca led 1-0.

Too often, Blanc’s men made the wrong choices, especially Cavani. Psychologically, as well, there was too much of a gap. PSG gave too much against Chelsea. Even a month ago, it took everything they had to knock out Chelsea. They were brilliant. They almost came back from the dead, at 10 vs. 11 for 90 minutes. And it was their achievement of the season. The way Chelsea play also suited the way PSG play. Barcelona are a different ball game.

How do you stop them scoring? It is almost impossible but not impossible. Malaga (twice), Celta, Getafe and Real Sociedad have done it this season. Neymar – Lionel Messi – Luis Suarez never really looked like they were even playing at 100 percent. But Messi set up Neymar on the first goal and Suarez did the rest of the damage with two great solo efforts. How PSG must wish they had this Uruguayan rather than Cavani.

Back in September when PSG beat Barcelona (3-2) in the group stages, everything went their way. Two seasons ago, when they drew (2-2) at this stage of the competition, everything went their way again. But at the third time of asking, they were unlucky; everything went Barcelona’s way on Wednesday night.

PSG could not have done much better on the day. It was difficult from start to finish. 2015 could have been the year of revenge. After knocking out Chelsea, who beat them last season, it was Barça’s time to pay for their qualification in 2013.

But it looks unlikely and even the late goal by Gregory Van der Wiel won’t give much hope to PSG. They can perhaps lament the great save by Marc-Andre ter Stegen on Cavani’s shot, or rue the other chance missed by the Uruguayan, both in the second half. But overall, it was not enough.

Blanc admitted after the game: “The step was high. When your philosophy is about possession and you don’t have the ball, you are not used to playing that way. We gave everything. It was not enough. Technically and physically, they were stronger than us in every department. The result is not a surprise.”

Barcelona's front three after dismantling PSG in Paris.
Barcelona’s front three after dismantling PSG in Paris.

They now need almost a miracle to qualify for the semifinal. On Tuesday, in his news conference, the PSG manager said this Barcelona team was “like playing on Playstation.”

On Wednesday night, just one team had everything under control. Game over. -ESPNFC