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Football

Direct Barca must stand firm against PSG

Paris St Germain v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg

By Tim Hanlon

Barcelona’s lethal attack has put them on course for a seventh Champions League semi-final place in eight years but their shaky defence gives Paris Saint Germain a glimmer of hope on Tuesday.

The Catalan side are renowned for the quick passing possession game that brought them so much success under Pep Guardiola, but now coach Luis Enrique is looking to triumph with a more direct approach.

Luis Enrique remains on track to emulate his predecessor and win the treble in his first season in charge, using a style of play based around the quality of his forwards.

The Barca coach had to endure plenty of criticism during the first half of the campaign and there were even question marks over whether he would last the season as he tinkered with his side’s formation.

Luis Enrique has now finally settled on a game plan, one that often involves longer balls. It’s a ploy which has greatly benefited Luis Suarez who’s been deployed as a central striker.

Lionel Messi, converted into the central figure of Barca’s attacking trident by Guardiola, himself suggested it would be better for Suarez to play through the middle.

After a slow start following his post-world cup biting ban Suarez has now scored crucial goals for Barca including a double in their 3-1 first leg victory over PSG in Paris.

Atletico Madrid, last season, are the only team to have stopped Barca getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League since 2007 and it would take something special from PSG to deny them.

However, for all Barca’s flair going forward they are prone to making mistakes defensively and PSG’s only goal in the first leg came from Jeremy Mathieu, who put the ball in his own net.

They also struggled defensively in their 2-0 win over Valencia at the weekend and it is an area that PSG can look to exploit.

“We were not organised and lacked control in the first half (against Valencia) and they put us under pressure,” Barca midfielder, Javier Mascherano, told reporters.

“These are the types of things that we have to overcome and we will analyse it.”

PSG warmed up for the Camp Nou showdown with a 3-1 victory over Nice and have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti back after missing the first leg through suspension.

There are fitness worries, though, with Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva and David Luiz all doubtful.

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