Match in a sentence
Pedro Rodriguez’ second half goal was enough to see Barcelona eliminate PSG on away goals, and advance to the Champions League semi-finals for the sixth consecutive season.
- Tito Vilanova aligned his side in a 4-3-3, introducing Cesc Fabregas and Pedro to join David Villa in an attacking three. Adriano slotted into defence in place of the injured Javier Mascherano, while Lionel Messi started on the bench.
- Carlo Ancelotti opted to play in a 4-4-2, which saw Marco Verratti start ahead of David Beckham. Thiago Motta returned to the starting line up to replace suspended Blaise Matuidi in midfield. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi started upfront, while Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura played in wide positions.
- Although Messi started on the bench, Barcelona has a terrific record without him since 2010 in all competitions, recording 14 wins and 1 draw. PSG’s shape was similar to the first leg; they played a high line, and the two wide men played narrow, to create two banks of four. Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi pressed the defenders when they had the ball and the PSG fullbacks got close to Pedro and Villa in the opening minutes. Barcelona on the other hand, didn’t press high to win back the ball like they did against Milan. There was a bit more freedom for PSG to play passes to one another, and many have tipped this as a main reason why Barcelona has conceded more goals this season. Vilanova hasn’t adopted Pep Guardiola’s pressing, and it has left Barcelona vulnerable many times this season at the back.
- The major difference was that Dani Alves was the main outlet for Barcelona, seeing as he had the same amount of space to surge forward in, as he did in Paris a week ago. Lavezzi often dropped into the midfield when he needed too, to press Sergio Busquets, and then pushed forward as a second striker when PSG won the ball back. Motta and Verratti moved closer to Xavi and Andres Iniesta when they received the ball, as both had good games taking turns pressing the ball carrier, despite Xavi completing all of his passes.
- Barcelona’s best chance was Xavi’s free-kick in the opening minutes. Despite having majority of the possession, they failed to trouble Salvatore Sirigu. Several of their shots came from distance, and they were unable to get in behind Alex and Thiago Silva. They were unable to find the final ball, and their finishing was woeful, as they didn’t record one shot on target in the first half.
- PSG was the better side in the first half, and several of their players had a significant impact on the game. Ibrahimovic dropped into deep positions and played in advancing runners, which created a few chances for the French side. His ability to win long balls and hold up the play was also vital, as Ancelotti’s men didn’t see much of the ball. Ultimately it was this same move that resulted in Pastore’s opening goal. Ibrahimovic dropped deep, while Pastore ran forward, and Lavezzi’s diagonal run dragged a defender and opened up an outlet for Ibrahimovic to play the ball into. Although he didn’t score, his ability to create was key throughout most of the game, which has been a main feature in PSG’s run thus far.
- Lucas Moura also gave the Barcelona defence a few problems, his runs from the midfield troubled Vilanova’s backline who lacked pace, and it was also his final delivery that let his side down. He skipped by several players but the final ball was never there to give PSG the lead prior to Pastore’s goal. Moura was PSG’s main outlet going forward, and his devastating pace was probably why Ancelotti wanted the Brazilian to target Adriano and Jordi Alba.
- Verratti, who came on as a sub in the first leg, had himself quite the night. The 20-year-old Italian, along with Motta, did a great job preventing Barcelona from penetrating the midfield. Verratti made a few key tackles and interceptions on the night, making a case for why he should’ve started in the first leg. The Italian was composed on the ball, and played multiple forward passes when PSG won the ball, in hopes of lodging a successful counter attack.
- Messi replaced the ineffective Fabregas and Marc Batra replaced the injured Adriano midway through the second half. Messi played play a part in the Pedro goal, which leveled the tie, but it’s key to note that Barcelona gradually improved once the Argentine came on the field. Vilanova’s men were able to hold onto possession, and they were better in front of goal. Prior to Messi’s introduction, you can see PSG was able to create more chances, while Barcelona had problems troubling Sirigu.
- Meanwhile once Messi came onto the field, Barcelona did better in front of goal, while PSG weren’t as effective because they struggled to retain possession. This could be down to fitness levels, or merely a coincidence, but Messi’s introduction changed the tide of the match. Messi dropped deeper than Fabregas and was the main link between midfield and attack. Barcelona struggled to create chances when Fabregas was on as the Spanish midfielder played higher up the pitch.
- PSG’s European campaign comes to an end, but Ancelotti can take many positives from this run. They crashed out of the competition on away goals against a superior side, and it was down to poor finishing and some great saves from Victor Valdes. Ancelotti got his tactics spot on and his side frustrated Barcelona, but they struggled to find that second away goal. With the experience gained this year, and probable summer signings, this PSG side will only get stronger in the future.
- Barcelona sneak into the semi-finals on away goals, as Messi’s second half appearance inspired the Catalan side to nick an away goal. There are still questions to be asked about this Barcelona side, in terms of their Messi dependence, pressing, and possession/penetration. With La Liga all but wrapped up, Vilanova will hope that he’ll have a full strength squad for the semis, but they’ll need to improve if they intend on playing at Wembley this season.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
2. Marco Verratti