Luis Enrique vows Barcelona and Messi will ‘rise to the occasion’ against Ibra and PSG
Barcelona’s hopes of beating Paris Saint-Germain and leapfrogging them to finish top of their Champions League group rests on troubling the French champions’ defence more than they did in the 3-2 defeat in Paris, claimed coach Luis Enrique.
PSG – who came from behind to beat Nantes 2-1 on Saturday, ensuring they remained the only unbeaten team in the major European leagues – top the table by a point and a draw will suffice to see them win their Champions League group for the third successive season.
Barcelona, who prevailed in a tightly-fought quarter-final between the teams in the 2012/13 campaign, progressing on away goals, will be compelled to go for goals but enter the game on the back of a crushing 5-1 derby win over Espanyol, in which Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick.
However, Enrique, who played with PSG coach Laurent Blanc at Barcelona, said that his forward line would have to be more clinical than they were in the entertaining defeat in Paris.
“I hope that their defence will suffer a little more at the Camp Nou than was the case in the first game,” said the 44-year-old, who took over after Gerardo Martino was sacked following a trophyless season last term.
“I hope that we will deserve the victory, and the only way to do that is by showing our superiority on the pitch.”
For Enrique, who played for both great Spanish clubs Real Madrid and Barca in his career, the match with PSG is the type of challenge he relishes and gives his players a test of their ability to beat the best.
“For us, the match against Paris Saint-Germain is a marvellous match, indeed it is perfect for us,” he said.
“It presents us with an opportunity to beat the team that is the leader in the group, and who beat us in the first meeting. We know whatever the score is, a win is enough for us and we are going to rise to the occasion as we have done since the beginning of the season.”
Enrique, who began his coaching career with the Barcelona B team before spells with Serie A side AS Roma and then Spaniards Celta Vigo, warned that his team would not be able to throw caution to the wind, though, especially with former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic facing them and in sparkling form.
“They have got Ibrahimovic back (he was injured for the game in Paris) and several other important players were rested ahead of this game.
“I am expecting a side not unlike the the one we played in Paris and with lots of attacking possibilities.”
Enrique is likely to keep faith in Dutch goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, as he has done throughout the Champions League campaign, but will hope he is more on his game than he was in Paris.
Blanc will have virtually a full pack of cards to choose from in terms of personnel but the former France national coach is praying his players are not as dopey as they have been at times in Ligue 1 this season, and was the case against Nantes.
“We will have to be much more aggressive and determined in Barcelona,” said Blanc.
“I managed this match (against Nantes) with one eye on the next game. It’s ok because we won but sometimes we are playing with fire.”
The good news for Blanc is that despite his long lay-off Ibrahimovic has not lost his sharpness in front of goal, as illustrated by his double against Nantes.
“Even an Ibra at 90 per cent is a handful for most teams,” said the club’s Brazilian captain Thiago Silva.
PSG will certainly hope that is the case on Wednesday.
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Published: December 9, 2014 04:00 AM