Opinion

PSG have point to prove in grudge match with Barcelona

Sergi Roberto scores the winning goal in the 2017 epic. Source: Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain have all the motivation they need to overcome their bogey team Barcelona for the first time when the two mega-teams clash in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

It's called revenge and it won't matter one bit how they serve it.

The French champions must be still seething from an extraordinary and unjust defeat suffered in Barcelona at the same stage of the 2016-2017 competition.

After beating Barca 4-0 in the first leg at the Parc des Princes, PSG crashed 6-1 in an incredible return match that produced one the most dramatic finishes in the tournament's history.

Yet it was the manner of the defeat that must still give the French club nightmares.

Apart from the diabolical refereeing of German Deniz Aytekin who has since been described by UEFA as having "failed in the performance of his duties" and the incessant diving from striker Luis Suarez, PSG lost their nerve in the Camp Nou cauldron.

Barca were leading 3-0 on the hour when Edinson Cavani pulled one back for the visitors with what looked like a crucial away goal that should have settled the tie.

At that point Barca needed three goals to go through but they never gave up and amazingly scored three times in the last six minutes of the game in football's version of The Great Escape.

Both teams are rather different in personnel now and PSG will be buoyed by the fact that the main architect of Barca's epic comeback - Brazilian superstar Neymar - will be on their side this time if, as expected, the flamboyant striker recovers from a nasty ankle injury he suffered at the weekend.

PSG will be quietly confident of finally turning the tables on Lionel Messi's Barca after three failed attempts.

Troubled Barca are a poor imitation of the brilliant side that ruled Europe not that long ago and the Argentine master is clearly showing signs of discontent or disenchantment. Who knows? He might end up teaming up with Neymar once again. 

My tip: PSG

Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City

The ‘Gladbacher’ surprised many fans after emerging from a tough group comprising Real Madrid, Internazionale and Shahktar Donetsk but they will face their stiffest test yet against City.

Pep Guardiola's men generally have yet to hit their straps this season but they won their group comfortably and with dreaded striker Sergio Aguero on his way back after injury, City should have too much class and know-how.

The Champions League is the only trophy that has eluded City and they are hellbent on capturing it.

My tip: Man City

Lazio v Bayern Munich

It is hard to see the holders come a cropper against a relatively inexperienced side, despite the remarkable achievements of prolific scorer Ciro Immobile.

Bayern however have their own 'Immobile' and more in Robert Lewandowski, who is arguably the world's second best goal scorer after you-know-who.

Bayern are not merely Lewandowski, though. Coach Hans-Dieter Flick has a true machine with top quality players like Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller all over the park.

My tip: Bayern

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea

This will be a massive test of the credentials of Frank Lampard who will be up against old fox Diego Simeone.

Atletico are not the sort of team you'd like to meet in a knockout tie. Simeone's team are a more attack-minded unit these days and have recovered well from a 4-0 car crash they suffered against Bayern in the group stage.

Oddly enough, Atleti's weakness this season is in defence where they lack their usual efficiency and organisation, despite goalkeeper Jan Oblak's consistency.

Chelsea, who have 'reinvented' veteran striker Olivier Giroud, will fancy their chances of exploiting Atleti's weakness to the full.

My tip: Chelsea

Red Bull Leipzig v Liverpool

After eliminating Manchester United, the Germans will be hoping to do the same to English champions Liverpool.

Under normal circumstances the Reds would have been favourites to go through but these are not normal times for Jurgen Klopp, who is showing signs of frustration after a series of unremarkable displays from his side that has been hit by several injuries, some of them serious.

Many would believe Liverpool should have the wherewithal to withstand Leipzig's challenge that again will be based on team work but if there is one tie that is bound to produce a shock result this is it.

My tip: Leipzig

Porto v Juventus

A tight contest that could well be decided by the man who should be the difference between the two teams: Cristiano Ronaldo, who is showing no signs of relenting at the age of 35.

The 'Bianconeri' are in better shape now than they were in the first weeks of the season when questions were asked about the merits of appointing rookie Andrea Pirlo as head coach.

To his credit Pirlo has brought the best out of Alvaro Morata and his partnership with CR7 is beginning to bear fruit. Porto are in for a tough tussle.

My tip: Juventus

Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

The 'Dortmunder' will have a new coach for this tie after the sacking of Lucien Favre, who amongst other things was deemed to be too nice with some of his under-performing players.

Dortmund did well to win a tough group featuring Lazio, FC Brugge and Zenit St Petersburg but they are running only fifth in the Bundesliga.

Europa League serial winners Sevilla, who do not have the financial might of Spain's big three, have yet to leave their mark on Europe's biggest competition and one feels they might find Dortmund's attack centred on big man Erling Braut Haaland too hot too handle.

My tip: Dortmund

Atalanta v Real Madrid

The 'Madrilenos' have finally come good when it mattered most to save coach Zinedine Zidane's job.

With incredibly consistent Karim Benzema leading the line and playmaker Luka Modric running into top form, Madrid should kick on from here and subdue modest Atalanta.

Atalanta's ability to impose their attacking mentality on any match - they beat Liverpool and Ajax in away matches to clinch qualification - is not to be underestimated and ‘La Dea’ will not go down without a fight.

But this might just be a bridge too far for them.

My tip: Real Madrid

Source SBS The World Game