FC Barcelona will be playing against Paris Saint-Germain after the Champions League draw has been made.
Having finished second in their group with Juventus, they will play the first of the two legs at their stadium on February 16. The return leg will be at Paris stadium (the Parc des Princes) on March 10.
Barcelona and PSG had one of the most famous matches in the history, that of 2017/18 season after a 4-0 defeat in the Paris, the return leg and the biggest comeback in the history, with Barcelona winning 6-1 with Sergio Roberto’s goal at the last seconds.
But this edition is completely different, as Barcelona suffer from clear defensive issues and their level fluctuates in La Liga, and also Paris suffer from the absence of influential players such as Brazilian star Neymar and Argentine De Maria for injury.
Barcelona will start with Ter Stegen as a goalkeeper as soon as he is ready because he is the best goalkeeper in the squad by far; Araujo and Clément Lenglet are the centre backs and the American newcomer Sergiño Dest is the right-back and Spain’s international Jordi Alba left-back. Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong are midfielders, Pedri González, Ousmane Dembélé, being the team’s wingers; Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann are the forwards.
On the other hand, Sergio Rico is the PSG goalkeeper; Marquinhos and Kimpembe are the centre-backs, Florenzi is the right-back, Kurzawa is the left-back: Paredes, Gueye and Verratti are the midfielders. Mbappé, Moise Kean and Icardi are the attackers due to the injury of Neymar and De Maria.
Also See: Our Predicted Barcelona v PSG Lineups.
PSG build-up and their transitions
Tuchel used with PSG a two-man midfield, deploying a 4-2-3-1 or a variant of that shape. By doing so, he could field a four-man attack featuring Neymar, Mbappé, Icardi and Di María. Now and since he arrived at Le Parc des Princes, Pochettino has almost exclusively used a two-man midfield for his team, but he will change it to 4-3-3 due to the injuries that hit the team.
This change that we will likely see in the next match against Barcelona with the use of 3 players in the midfield, may affect their players’ usual movements during the build-up, as during build-up Paredes dropping deep to receive the ball, he has been dropping into this position in general during the build-up regardless of whether or not the opposition player presents an obstacle, as no-ball get out of the PSG defensive zones without Paredes touching it.
So, PSG players try to make use of Paredes’ ability to play quality line-splitting passes to progress out of their defensive zones into the middle third of the pitch as shown below, Paredes dropped to their own third to receive the ball, once he received it, he moved to the left side of the field and then he passed the ball to the other side where the midfielder player dropped to complete the triangle with the right full-back and Verratti.
One of the most important features of PSG players is their tremendous ability to transitions from defence to attack in a very fast way, so In the transitions, PSG players will rely on Mbappe’s speed to exploit the spaces created behind the Barcelona’s defence line.
In these pictures presented below, an example of PSG transition, in their match against Marseille in the 24th round of the French League, when the team was in a state of defence, Di Maria started with the ball and then passed it to Mbappé in the space behind the Marseille players. The French star scored a goal.
PSG players are constantly looking for ways to create gaps in their opponent’s defences, by overloading one side or space of the field and then distributing the ball to the other side until the gaps created and to attack this space to create dangerous opportunities on the opponent goal.
As shown below in their match against Lyon in the fourteenth round of the French League. (they lost 1-0) where PSG players overloading the right half-space to attract the opponent’s defenders to them, which led to the creation of a gap in the left half-space in which Paris players, move freely.
Barcelona defensive issues
Barcelona players have several recurring issues in their defensive structure that will need to be rectified if they are to go the distance and win the title. First and foremost, opposition teams are learning to exploit the gaps behind their defensive line, as shown below, in their match against Valencia in the fourteenth round, which ended in a 2-2 draw, the Valencia players easily pass behind their defensive line.
One of the main problems facing Barcelona’s defence is their inability to deal with balls sent diagonally behind the defence, as shown below, in their match against Athletic Club in the 21st round, Alba scored an own goal from the ball sent behind them.
One of Barcelona’s defensive issues is poor coordination within the box, with opposing attackers being able to infiltrate the final third without enduring too much pressure. This stems mainly from a lack of chemistry between the centre backs, especially after Gerard Pique was injured. Lenglet, Araújo, Mingueza and Umtiti each took turns into this position which led to the lack of the chemistry between the centre-backs; this is exemplified in this shot from their match against Sevilla on February 10
Everyone is counting on Messi and Griezmann duo to give a glimmer of hope to the team to come out with a positive result from the match, the harmony between Messi and Griezmann appears in the close proximity between the players to confuse the opponents, and this harmony appeared strongly in recent matches. Here, for example, in their match against Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey on February 10, in two different shots, we can see that when one of them receives the ball, the other entered the box to prepare to receive the ball.
Everyone is waiting for the Barcelona and PSG match to see the two teams clash again after the 2017 saga and the great remontada that Barcelona players did but this edition is different due to Barcelona suffered from clear defensive issues, and also Paris suffer from the absence of influential players such as Brazilian star Neymar and Argentine De Maria for injury. In any case, it would be a good match if Koeman took into account the defensive problems and tried to solve them to face the offensive strength of Paris.