Revenge there will be. Four years after being eliminated following a historic “comeback”, PSG finds FC Barcelona in the knockout stages of the Champions League, the draw of which took place this Monday at noon.
A golden opportunity to wash away the affront suffered at the time by the team led by Unai Emery. A 6-1 sinking at Camp Nou in the return leg, when the Parisians had outclassed Lionel Messi’s teammates 4-0 at the Parc after the first leg. Without doubt the darker episode of the QSI (Qatar Sports Investments) era, which began in 2011.
Suffice to say that the opportunity to redeem itself today is trotting in some heads. Those of Marquinhos, Draxler, Kimpembe, Kurzawa, Verratti and Di Maria, the five survivors of the 2017 workforce, more than the others. At the time, Neymar was in the opposite camp. His free kick in the top corner of Trapp (88e) and his converted penalty three minutes later had also revived Barça, allowing him to believe in the miracle.
Barring injury, as is frequently the case this season – the latest example on Sunday in the very last moments of the defeat against OL (0-1) – he should be aligned in two months against his former teammates.
Neymar-Messi, linked destinies?
His duel with Lionel Messi risks being extensively scrutinized, especially since the future of the two superstars within their respective clubs is not fixed. Lately, the “Ney” has hinted that he absolutely wanted to play again with Messi, no doubt nostalgic for the hours when Barça hugged Juve in the Champions League final (3-1). “What I want the most is to play again with Lionel Messi. Still enjoying it with him in the field. I will play it anywhere, even in my place. We should try next season “, slipped the Brazilian after the success in Manchester at the end of November. In essence, either a return to Barcelona, or PSG are putting the package to attract Messi, whose departure this summer had finally had to be canceled for contractual reasons.
The Brazilian, however, qualified his speech last Wednesday after the game won (5-1) against Istanbul Basaksehir: “I am very happy here in Paris. I am very happy at the club, with my teammates. The idea of leaving does not cross my mind. We need to talk. We have a very good relationship, to see what happens in the future ”, he assured then.
Nevertheless: with such a poster from the eighth, the stakes go beyond the simple framework of the competition. Either way, an elimination at this stage of the competition would be a huge slap. Even more for PSG, finalist in Lisbon last summer, and whose workforce has changed little. On the Barça side, the revolution was notably made internally after several years of fiasco in the European Cup. As if, from the improbable success of 2017, a curse was born that does not let go of the Catalans. The successive comebacks of AS Roma in the quarter in 2018, then of Liverpool in the semifinals in 2019, before the equally historic slap (8-2) against Bayern Munich in the quarter of the 2020 edition, were therefore right part of the club’s reputation.
The reconstruction, which began in September, may be longer than expected, judging from Barça’s place in La Liga (only 8th, but two games less). Suffice to say that with FC Barcelona as insecure of itself, weakened by Messi’s moods and internal trifles, even this PSG – the one who toiled so as not to squirt from the podium in L1, while coming out first of his group of C1 in a rather miraculous way – is able to overcome it. As long as you ignore the old demons, that’s okay. Small change compared to 2017, anything but insignificant: it is Barça who will receive first (February 16) before a return match on March 9 at the Park which promises to be hot.