The last time Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) visited Camp Nou, they were completely devastated by Neymar in one of the most charismatic displays in the history of the UEFA Champions League. PSG arrived at Camp Nou with an advantage of four goals, but in the end, they digested an absolute humiliation – Barca went through to the next round.

Since then almost four years have passed and so many things changed.

After that epic comeback in 2017, Neymar did not receive the due credit, and as usual Lionel Messi was hogging the limelight. There was a school of thought back then and which was, the step-motherly-like attitude of the media hurt Neymar and he decided to join PSG for a record transfer fee. Again, there were doubts about the biased attitude towards Barca by the officials. But let’s not pay enough attention to such rumors, rather, it would be ideal to stick to footballing matters.

Barca did advance after that glorious night, but the Champions League glory never came to them and the departure of Neymar disturbed their balance so much that even today, they feel the absence of the Brazilian in the top competitions.

While Barca were digesting eight goals, Neymar took PSG to the finals last season. He was expected to return to Camp Nou for the Round of 16 clash with his former club – sadly, injury cropped up yet again and PSG would face the in-form Catalans without their talisman. Without an iota of doubt – Neymar has been the nucleus of this PSG over the last couple of seasons – the boy played his part as a left-sided forward, center forward, central attacking midfielder, and central midfielder. Such has been his impact that it lifted others to progress.

Thus without Neymar – the possibility of flying the victory flag in Cam Nou looked thin.

Well, have everyone forgotten about the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Marco Verratti, Marquinhos, Moise Kean, and co?

Perhaps, many of the fans did forget.

And, in the end, each and everyone was reminded of the above-mentioned names and their impact on the big stage.

Mbappe produced a breathtaking display of football by scoring a hat-trick to lead PSG to a decisive 4-1 win against Barcelona and made Lionel Messi look pale and out of order.

Barcelona simply had no answer for the pace, dribbling, and guile of Mbappe, who completely dominated the hosts and floored them in a commendable manner.

There was big news in the starting XI of Ronald Koeman, as Gerard Pique returned after being out three months due to injury and slotted in at center-back. Also returning as a starter was right-back Sergino Dest, while Pedri got the nod in midfield with Sergio Busquets and Frankie de Jong.

Barcelona got the first break of the series when Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers whistled for a penalty for Layvin Kurzawa clipping De Jong from behind in the area.

VAR upheld the call and Messi coolly converted the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

PSG quickly responded and did it with a goal dripping with class, with Kurzawa crossing to Marco Verratti, whose exquisite touch pass with the outside of his foot found Mbappe, who took a touch to elude Clement Lenglet before firing past Marc-Andre ter Stegen into the net to equalize.

The score-line may have shown a draw at intermission, but PSG were clearly the superior side with their dominance in midfield and ability to control the tempo – Verratti was having a fantastic game in the center of the pitch and Marquinhos maintained the balance between midfield and defence.

Meanwhile, Barcelona looked timid going forward and could call themselves fortunate to have even gotten on the scoreboard.

There was a sense that PSG could break things open at any moment and in short order, the second Parisian goal came to make it 2-1.

Alessandro Florenzi, held onside by Dest, received a long ball down the right and sent in a cross that was deflected by the retreating Pique and Mbappe reacted first, beating Dest to the ball and hammering a shot home for the goal.

PSG were flying and minutes later it was 3-1 when Kean got in front of De Jong and Jordi Alba on a freekick and easily headed into the net.

Koeman turned to his bench for some sort of answer, and so it was Oscar Mingueza for the ineffective Dest, followed later by Trincao, Riqui Puig, and Miralem Pjanic for Pedri, Pique, and Busquets respectively.

The closest Barcelona came to scoring in the second half was off a near-blooper from Keylor Navas when Griezmann blocked a pass from the Costa Rican and the ball nearly deflected into the goal.

Martin Braithwaite for Griezmann was the final substitution in the final minutes, but it mattered not because the night belonged to Mbappe, who polished off a counter-attack and all let the flag of PSG fly at Camp Nou proudly.

Tactically, Koeman was outweighed by Pochettino.

Pochenttino responded to Koeman’s 4-5-1 midblock with long balls. Numbers suggest Keylor Navas had 16 long balls played towards Mauro Icardi in comparison to Ter Stegen’s 6.

Icardi was astute in the air, which encouraged Navas and with Mbappe lying close to him, supported the interaction when the Barcelona players pushed higher.

Koeman gave Messi full freedom and he was to challenge the two center-backs of PSG – Marquinhos and Kimpembe – the kind of pressing Koeman was expecting from Messi, he could produce, rather, he was outnumbered in a 2 vs 1 situation with Marquinhos leading from the front.

With Messi being made to look ordinary, the PSG full-backs pushed high up and gained control in the center of the park and in turn, allowed Mbappe and Kean to move more centrally. Meanwhile, from the midfield, Verratti continued to pull the strings and exploited the spaces – Barca were at bay.

The victory gives PSG the advantage of heading into the return leg in Paris in three weeks’ time.


PSG would expect that the nightmare of 2017 does not repeat in Paris.

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