The dream of the Qatar Group when they took over the reins of PSG in 2011 was to go toe-to-toe against Europe’s football heavyweights; and they achieved that with success against Barcelona on Tuesday. They scored four, but it is no flattery to say they could have scored more.
The French champions wacked the five-time European champions 4-0 to almost render the second leg a mere formality. You could say it was a seismic shift as the Catalans showed no fight at all with their display.
Three goals from birthday boys, Angel di Maria  and Edinson Cavani plus another from Julian Draxler ensured that the Parisians were in dream heaven at the end of the first leg.
But there must be reasons for a team that boasts the dreaded MSN (Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar) to have performed so poorly.
Emery’s hybrid team were balanced
Unai Emery has battled to make this PSG his team and they just clicked into any sort of form in 2017, having played poorly in the first half of the season. But on Tuesday it all came together for the Spanish manager as his team played with a fervent hunger that destroyed all the game plan of Luis Enrique and his players. His midfield trio gave the others the energy they needed to ensure that Barcelona did not have many chances.
Only Neymar tried to run
It looked like the Brazilian was the only player interested in the fight and he tried his very best with good runs from the left flank. All through the 90 minutes, it looked like if anything positive would happen for the Catalans – it would be through the Brazilian but it was all in vain. On this showing he is emphasizing his importance in the post-Messi era.
Veratti’s midfield brain
With classic black boots, the 24-year-old Italian was a brain to the energy of Adrien Rabiot. With 90 per cent pass completion and six tackles, he also assisted with the second goal by Julien Draxler – even though he played his first match back from injury last Friday. It was a classic performance, which would have got every big club wanting the little Italian.
The energy of Matuidi
Blaise Matuidi was denied a move to Juventus at the end of last season and he showed the reason why on Tuesday. He was the leader of Emery’s press that ensured they successfully threw a blanket over the carousel movements of Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. He completed 98 per cent of his passes and he should have scored in the opening 15 minutes as he galloped beyond Gerard Pigue and Samuel Umtiti.
A disinterested Messi
Are we looking at a Lionel Messi, who is no longer interested in the Barcelona project, for which he has been the ultimate lynchpin. With a 5.9 rating by whoscored.com, the Argentine playmaker gave his most abysmal showing since he scored the first of his 93 UEFA Champions League goals. Did his hanging contract issue play a part in this lackadaisical showing?
Should we wave bye to Barcelona in this year’s Champions League? On this evidence – YES!
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