PSG vs. Barcelona: Zlatan Ibrahimovic Will Star in Lionel Messi's Absence

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IIApril 3, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG celebrates scoring his teams first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi scored in the UEFA Champions League this week as PSG and Barcelona played out a 2-2 draw on Tuesday.

Playing against his former club, Ibrahimovic was the go-to player in attack all night for the home side, with a dominant performance in the air and on the ground. Likewise, Messi was his usual brilliant self—finishing beautifully in the first half to give Barcelona a deserved 1-0 lead.

Both players, in their respective roles, were world-class.

However, after sustaining a hamstring injury in the fixture that saw him miss the final 45 minutes of the match, Messi may not be able to do the same in the second leg.

Barcelona's official Twitter account posted that Messi will be getting scans on his injured leg Wednesday, and that information will be known soon then. But given the immediate reaction from the Spanish club and those associated with Messi, the outlook doesn't appear good.

When Messi went down against Benfica in late 2012 and was subsequently stretchered off the field, news was quick to break that everything was okay.

Barcelona themselves were incredibly quick to get news out that he was okay.

Not so much this time, which hints that their star striker will be spending some serious time on the sidelines, as Sky Sports suggests.

The ramifications of Messi's injury and probable absence from the return leg at the Nou Camp next week are complicated and varied. However, the biggest ramification of them all is the fact that Paris Saint Germain will definitely back their chances to get a result.

Without Messi, Barcelona will not dominate possession as much and PSG's midfield—which caused plenty of problems for the Catalan club in the opening leg—will find more room to operate. Which, in turn, should see more chances for Ibrahimovic and company at the top of the attack.

In Camp Nou, it will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic that will shine the brightest.

The Swedish international showed in the first leg that he has the technical skill and physical presence to truly dominate La Blaugrana's defence—something that will only increase if PSG have more possession.

Standing at 6'5", Ibrahimovic was simply too strong in the air for the 6'3" Gerard Pique, and especially for the 5'10" Carlos Puyol. On the ground, he was even more dominant again, with his vision and skill making for a very troublesome night at the back for Barca.

He was instrumental in both goals, and the only reason that the French club will head into the Nou Camp this week tied at 2-2 and not down 2-0.

And back at his former home ground, Ibrahimovic will shine again.

Ibrahimovic scored 16 goals in 29 appearances for Barcelona, but left the Nou Camp to go on loan to Milan after not receiving enough game time at the club. From there, he eventually left the Catalan giants in 2011 to permanently play for the Italian heavyweights.

The enigmatic striker blamed Messi's arrival as the reason for his departure (per The Daily Mail), and simply couldn't cope with being second-string.

And yet now, in an incredibly ironic scene of events, Ibrahimovic's return to the Nou Camp will see him as the No. 1 striker once more. Not Messi—for he won't even play in this one.

Just Ibrahimovic.

We've already seen how well players have fared in the Champions League this year upon returning to their former locations. Manchester United's David de Gea was immense in his return to the city of Madrid, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored on his return to Old Trafford .

And now Ibra, returning back to Spain, could do the same.

He'll once again be the French club's go-to player in attack, and will no doubt cause havoc for La Blaugrana. Especially if—as mentioned before—the away side can manage to take some of the possession and attacking chances away from Barcelona.

It could well be a night to remember for the prodigal striker and one where he'll definitely shine brighter than the Nou Camp's faithful son, Lionel Messi.


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