Barcelona’s below average backline. Is Aleix Vidal’s injury the root cause?
One look at the squads and it’s crystal clear that cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain have a far superior attacking line-up compared to Luis Enrique’s defence. Of course, Javier Mascherano was a huge miss, but even with him at the back, Barcelona’s back line no more retains the quality and rigidity to handle heavy, pressing movement.
Enrique had Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto taking care of the likes of Angel di Maria and Julian Draxler. The Spanish boss could never replace Dani Alves and whatever quality he had close to the Brazilian in Vidal, is now unavailable until May at least. Unai Emery did his homework and PSG kept exploiting Barcelona’s full backs over and over again. Di Maria was clearly on a different level and each and every PSG threat was engineered through him.
Barcelona’s pathetic work rate
Not only did Paris Saint-Germain have the better squad, they were also up for the occasion. Whether it was their previously perfect record with the French side or the uncomplicated domestic league matches, the Catalans looked very complacent and were duly punished.
The game’s stats speak for themselves: PSG had 10 shots on target against just one from Barca, with the French team also collectively covering far more ground (112.1km against 104km) and working harder to win back the ball (46 recoveries against Barca’s 36). The second goal came when Messi gave away the ball in a dangerous position in a way which is uncharacteristic of him. Emery’s men worked hard and won almost all fifty-fifties in the midfield that hardly gave Barcelona chances in the attacking third.
Even PSG missed the likes of Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta, who give them their stability at the back, but Emery’s tactics meant the team outpaced and outplayed Barcelona in every department.
Marco Verratti’s impact
Despite naming a star-studded team to play with, Unai Emery seems lost with his favoured Italian in the middle of the park. And the 24-year-old exhibited exactly why he is in such demand. Although it was di Maria and Draxler who did the real damage, Verratti’s grit in the middle of the mark did the real trick.
Despite his young age, the Italian midfielder’s game reading abilities exceed many and his incessant work rate helped PSG to break every Barcelona attack before it snowballed into a threat. Often compared to the likes of Xavi, Verratti had also returned to the squad from an injury and didn’t waste any time getting into the groove. Emery can only hope that the second half knock he incurred isn’t too serious.