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Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti will train for Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, which Mauricio Pochettino faces calmly despite the weight of history on his team’s shoulders.
Last season’s finalists will face Barça at the Camp Nou for the first time since their fall in the second leg of the round of 16 between the two teams in 2017.
PSG led 4-0 from the first leg at the Parc des Princes, but surprisingly lost 6-1 in the second when Barça pulled off the best comeback in Champions League history.
The cast of characters has changed significantly for both clubs since then. Neymar scored twice that night, but is now in his fourth season with PSG, although he will miss this match with a groin injury.
Ángel Di María came off the bench for PSG in the 6-1 loss but is also out with a thigh problem.
Verratti also played for a team then coached by Unai Emery and, despite a hip problem, looks ready to play a role in the first leg.
“We are taking it step by step with Marco Verratti,” Pochettino said at a pre-match press conference. “He is going to train today [Tuesday] and it will not be particularly demanding as it is on the eve of the match.
“We have a strategy and a game plan that, depending on who is available, will affect our decision.”
– Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 15, 2021
History suggests that having Verratti available will increase PSG’s chances.
His winning percentage in the 56 Champions League games that he has started since arriving from Pescara in 2012 is 60.7, compared to 56 in the 25 games that he has lost or been named to the bench.
Despite injury concerns and the mystique surrounding the match, Pochettino is confident that his players can write a positive new chapter in the history between PSG and Barça.
“It is an obvious goal for PSG to win the Champions League. That is our responsibility,” said Pochettino.
“I always feel like my team is ready. The conditions are the conditions. The situation is reality and we will try to compete as well as possible tomorrow.
“I am very calm. The story is in the past and now we are in a different reality with different players. Everything that happened in the past is left behind and can be eliminated. “