Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) have been uncharacteristically vulnerable in domestic football this season. They’ve already lost four times in Ligue 1 and while they remain within touching distance of the top, they are not yet firing on all cylinders, as demonstrated by a spell just before Christmas in which they picked up just one point from three games. They finished second in their Champions League group with an undefeated record, although they made heavy weather of it, drawing three of their six games. Over at Bovada soccer betting you can gets odds of +110 on a Barcelona win, which for many soccer bettors in the US will be too good a bet to resist.
Beaten four times already this season, and lagging behind in the perennial two-horse La Liga race, this has not been a vintage campaign for Barcelona so far. A string of disappointing draws, against the likes of Malaga, Real Betis and Villarreal have added to the sense of frustration at Camp Nou. They fared a little better in the Champions League group stages, racking up twenty goals, although they suffered a notable defeat at Manchester City.
PSG could be missing some key players for this game. Star midfielder Marco Verratti suffered a calf injury in training at the end of January, and although he is expected to recover in time, he may not be risked, and winger Angel Di Maria and attacking midfielder Javier Pastore are also struggling with muscle problems sustained in the last ten days. Their collective absence will significantly weaken the PSG midfield.
Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta are fit again, so Barcelona have only one significant injury problem to worry about. Javier Mascherano suffered a hamstring strain during the Copa del Rey semi-final against Atletico Madrid and will miss the game in Paris.
PSG and Barcelona have met nine times overall, and the Spanish side have had the best of their encounters, winning four to their opponents’ two.
These two sides are certainly familiar with each other. They played four times during the 2014-15 season, meeting twice in the group stages and then again in the quarter-finals. PSG won the first of those games, 3-2 at Parc des Princes, but Barcelona ran out as comfortable winners in the reverse fixture, and were convincing victors during the knock-out stages, winning 3-1 in Paris and 2-0 at home.
Domestic dominance has not been translated into European success for PSG and this year’s last sixteen draw has not been particularly kind. Barcelona are having a mediocre season by their standards, and are beatable, but can a weakened PSG side worry their illustrious opponents?
It’s a tall order. The visitors are clearly not at their best and struggling, both for fluency and consistency, but the same could be said for PSG, and its hard to see a midfield missing the class and experience of Pastore, Verratti and Di Maria causing their visitors too many problems. This may be a cagey affair, but Barcelona’s trio of superstar forwards will probably conjure up another win in Paris.