Big test for Emery as Barcelona travel to Paris
Madrid, Feb 13 (IANS) FC Barcelona headed to Paris on Monday ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint Germain.
It is a vital game for both sides as one of the reasons that Paris’ Spanish coach Unai Emery signed by the French side was to help them get over the hurdle of the last-16 to establish themselves among the Champions League elite, reports Xinhua news agency.
Paris are currently second in Ligue 1 behind an impressive Monaco and enjoyed a confident 3-0 win away to Bordeaux on Friday night, but it is in Europe where Emery will eventually be judged.
The Spaniard moved to France after taking Sevilla to an impressive three Europa League crowns, but has one major problem in his career: as a coach he has managed just one victory against FC Barcelona in 23 meetings and has seen how Leo Messi has scored 25 goals against his respective sides in those games.
Messi will lead the Barcelona attack in Paris on Tuesday night alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar, while fit-again Sergio Busquets will be the lynchpin in the Barcelona central midfield.
Luis Enrique will field his strongest defence with Gerard Pique back after being rested in Barca’s 6-0 win away to Alaves on Saturday along with Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti.
Javier Mascherano will miss the trip through injury along with Aleix Vidal, who suffered a badly dislocated ankle on Saturday and needed an operation which will sideline him for five or six months, and Rafinha, who broke his nose a week earlier against Athletic Club.
The Barca boss will have to decide whether Andres Iniesta, who reappeared as a substitute in Vitoria, is fit to start or whether he will again bring him on from the bench, in which case Ivan Rakitic or Denis Suarez will start alongside Andre Gomes.