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Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain meet again in the last 16 of the Champions League this season, and it is not a match without their history.
This bond will always be synonymous with that night at the Camp Nou in March 2017.
Luis Enrique’s men started the second leg of the tie against PSG at the same stage of the competition four years ago with an absolute mountain to climb.
Goals from Julian Draxler, Edinson Cavani and a double by Angel Di Maria at the Parc des Princes just three weeks earlier had apparently secured the Parisians their way to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Barça would have to produce the biggest comeback in Champions League history to progress, and while Lionel Messi’s 50-minute penalty had local fans dreaming of the aggregate score at 4-3, Cavani’s blow just after the hour he practically extinguished her fine hopes.
But Barcelona just don’t make it boring.
With two minutes remaining in normal time, Neymar struck twice, meaning Enrique’s men only needed one more goal to complete the impossible mission, before Sergi Roberto’s deciding match in the 137th minute (or something like that) unleashed chaos inside the Camp Nou.
The two sides will meet again in the first knockout round of Europe’s top competition on Tuesday night, and it’s fair to say. Quite has changed since their duel in 2017.
Now that might sound like stupid to say, it was four years ago, of course things have changed, although few could have imagined that Barcelona would be in the confusion in which they are now.
The Spanish giants were forced to embark on a direct sale of their most popular properties over the summer in a bid to generate cash, with reports claiming that the club is struggling to pay off 900 million euros (804 million pounds) of debt. .
That sale saw the departure of some stellar players, most of whom were free transfers, including Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suárez, with the latter inexplicably sold to La Liga rival Atlético de Madrid, where he seems destined to take them. to his first Spanish title. since 2014.
Ronald Koeman has threatened to implode every time a mic is shoved in front of him this season, not even the club hierarchy being immune to his criticism, probably not the best idea when you’re eight points behind the league leaders. and they have two games in hand about you.
Meanwhile, PSG have been going strong since their collapse in 2017, with Kylian Mbappé added to their ranks and establishing himself among the global elite, and their Camp Nou tormentor Neymar trading La Liga for Ligue 1.
Not only have PSG added a lot of flair to their squad in recent years, they also look like a much more solid team than the team that collapsed in Catalonia four years ago, and their steady progression has seen them win three consecutive French titles as well. . within 90 minutes of being crowned Champions League champions last summer.
With that said, there are still areas of your squad that need to be addressed, as some high-earners are given little playing time and need to move on.
The departures of Thiago Silva and Cavani have provided the opportunity to add young people to the squad, something that is also very necessary, and the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino may well have been driven by that same need.
All of the above seems to suggest that this last match of 16 will be a step forward for the French side; however, we of course I know that is not the case.
Despite being a team in transition, PSG’s current roster contains several players present for their 2017 collapse, leading to suggestions that they could suffer from something of a four-year hangover when they face Barcelona on Tuesday night. .
However, Pochettino refused to accept that the previous meeting could have any possible impact on the outcome of the next tie, and believes that PSG have come a long way since their disastrous night in Barcelona.
“I am calm and relaxed, as this [PSG] we are a different team, “Pochettino told reporters quoted by Mark.
“What happened cannot be erased, but we want to build another future, and everyone always [want] to build something better than what happened. “
It is not so much about sliding doors with these two sides, as that would imply that Barcelona has slowly receded: the ‘Barcelona door’ has effectively fallen off its hinges.
However, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that the two clubs are heading in totally different directions, one seeking to recruit some of the biggest names in world football and the other asking their rivals to take their best players off their hands. while they cannot pay their salary.
Their round of 16 tie will not only determine which team advances to the quarterfinal stage, but will give an idea of where these two teams meet. One is an emerging powerhouse in European football, the other is looking to earn the label of ‘fallen giant’.