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UEFA Champions League: PSG's 4 Biggest Threats to Barcelona

Kieran SobelsFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2013

UEFA Champions League: PSG's 4 Biggest Threats to Barcelona

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    Paris Saint-Germain are not traditionally a force in Europe, but an outlandish spending spree over the past two seasons has bought them an opportunity to surprise Europe's very best, FC Barcelona.

    The Catalans have been reinstated as tournament favourites after Lionel Messi inspired a sensational comeback at the Camp Nou to overcome Italian giants AC Milan.

    While PSG is a favourable draw for Barcelona, the French team have really found a groove of their own in recent months.

    They will be buoyed by the recent news that their talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is now clear to play after having his match ban reduced. The big Swede's colourful history with Barca adds a tantalising sub-plot to this exciting fixture.

    A talent like Ibrahimovic is a threat to any team, but against a side like Barca, he could find himself isolated.

    PSG's biggest threats lie elsewhere.

Thiago Silva's Defensive Class

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    A few eyebrows were raised when the Brazilian chose to join the Parisiens last summer for an incredible €42 million.

    The truth is the 28-year-old is arguably the finest defender in football right now and could virtually have chosen any club, even Barcelona.

    His previous team, AC Milan, are the latest to demonstrate that a tight, organised and cohesive defence is key to restricting Barcelona's flamboyant offensive game. Not only does it take defensive quality, but real teamwork is required to keep out Messi and Co.

    Carlo Ancelotti possesses the tactical nous to organise his defence well, but PSG will not find it as easy to form a tight, defensive block.

    Thus the individual defensive quality of the Brazilian could be key, particularly in minimising the threat of Leo Messi.

    Silva has already proved he is up to the task with previous impressive performances against the Catalans, exhibiting his impeccable positioning and timing of the tackle.

    Do not be surprised to see his name on the scoresheet either.

Blaise Matuidi's Hustle

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    As important as the defensive line is against Barcelona, it all amounts to nothing if you allow the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets space in midfield.

    It takes an enormous amount of hard work off the ball and a cool head in possession to counter Barca's midfield prowess.

    Blaise Matuidi has both those qualities in abundance.

    The 25-year-old French international has had a wonderful season and brings a fierce, physical presence to Ancelotti's midfield.

    Matuidi is a tireless ball-winner. In the Champions League he has averaged 4.1 tackles and 3.5 interceptions per game (via WhoScored.com). Impressive numbers.

    His passing game and quality on the ball, however, is equally as impressive.

    If PSG are to give themselves a break, it is imperative that they make their passes count. Thus the Frenchman's 91.2 percent passing completion rate should stand him in good stead.

    His ability to pass between the lines in a Busquets fashion could also prove key to launching his side's attacking threats.

    He will have learnt plenty from his dress-rehearsal last night, as France lost their World Cup Qualifier to Spain 0-1. 

Attacking Outlets

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    Defence remains Barcelona's obvious weakness.

    The Catalans have struggled to settle upon a centre-back pairing and their attack-minded full-backs continue to leave acres of space in behind.

    The key to PSG's offensive game will be down the channels in the space left by Dani Alves and Jordi Alba.

    In Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez, Ancelotti possesses the perfect attacking weapons to exploit Barca's high defensive line.

    Each player possesses different qualities, and with Ibrahimovic now likely to start through the middle, we will probably only see two of them start.

    Lucas' dribbling would certainly provide a handful for Jordi Alba if employed down the right side.

     

    Lavezzi the key?

    Lavezzi, however, could be the key. 

    While Ibrahimovic has monopolised goalscoring in Ligue 1, the Argentine is PSG's top scorer in the Champions League with 5 goals from 5 starts.

    'El Pocho' could be employed in a way similar to how Stephan El Shaarawy played for Massimiliano Allegri's Milan.

    The sheer pace of PSG's attacking outlets will amount to chances. They must take them.

Set-Pieces

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    There are a number of advantages to having a team of small, technical players, but set-piece defending is certainly not one of them.

    In fact, most Barca fans would probably be ecstatic if corners were removed from the game.

    La Blaugrana have conceded a number of times from set-pieces in recent months, and the goals conceded have proven pivotal in knockout ties before.

    Ancelotti's defensive pairing of Alex and Thiago Silva pose a serious aerial threat.

    There's no need to remind Barca fans of Silva's equaliser for Milan at the Camp Nou last year, but I'll do it anyway—a classy header.

    A similar goal from one of the Brazilian foreheads could be the Parisiens best bet come next week.

     

     

    Who do you think is the biggest threat to Barca on PSG's rosters? Where can Ancelotti hurt Barcelona?

    Leave your comments below and join me on Twitter for more!

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