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Barca defends 3-1 lead in UCL 2nd leg against PSG

20 April 2015, 14:07

Barcelona — Luis Enrique will celebrate his 50th match in charge of Barcelona as the club welcomes Paris Saint-Germain for the second leg of its Champions League quarterfinal.

In that time, the relatively undemonstrative Spaniard has steered his team to 41 wins, three draws and five losses, with 141 goals scored and just 31 conceded — better statistics than any predecessor, including Pep Guardiola, Johan Cruyff and even the locally revered Helenio Herrera.

Among the keys to Enrique's success have been his gritty determination to brush aside criticism or disputes and concentrate on the game ahead, steely patience and an ability to imbue his squad with self-belief.

These assets have helped the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and — most recently — Luis Suarez all recover from dips in form.

Barcelona, which has won 24 of its last 31 Champions League matches and lost just one, needs to defend a 3-1 away lead.

PSG will need to be at its strongest if it hopes to dent the host's run of nine home games undefeated in this competition.

Also read: Iniesta to face PSG

Messi's goalscoring rate keeps breaking new ground, and at just 27-years-old it's tantalizing to consider how far it could go.

After scoring in Saturday's hard-fought 2-0 league win against Valencia, Messi thanked teammates' and fans' support on his Facebook page.

"400 goals for FC Barcelona, and I hope to score many more! However the most important part is that we got 3 points from a really tough game."

Of those goals, 317 were struck with his left foot, 65 with his right, 17 were headers, one was chested in and one — not unlike his hero Diego Maradona — was scored with his hand.


Pressure will be on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti, both back from one-match suspensions, to prove that it was their absence that PSG felt most keenly in its 3-1 first-leg loss and to make the difference in the return leg at the Camp Nou.

Verratti should slot in alongside the indefatigable Blaise Matuidi to strengthen PSG's midfield.

The Italy international's feisty creativity, assured ball possession and low center of gravity on darting runs should pose a far greater puzzle for Sergio Busquets than Adrien Rabiot, the 20-year-old stand-in for PSG last week, whose loss of the ball to Busquets started the movement that led to Neymar's opening goal for Barcelona.

Rabiot remains in Laurent Blanc's 20-man squad for the return leg and could again see action, as ex-Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta — who normally would be first-choice to play in front of the PSG defense — is making his way back from injury and is not in the squad.

Blanc can also try again with Yohan Cabaye in that deep-lying midfield position, although the France international appeared overwhelmed at times in the first leg by the complexity of the attacking combination of Neymar, Suarez and Messi.

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- AP


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