This week sees the return of the Champions League, with Europe’s biggest competition moving into the last 16. And tonight, two of Europe’s biggest giants clash.
Barcelona play host to Paris St. Germain at the Nou Camp in the first leg of their meeting, and both of these sides will probably be confident of a win.
With that in mind, here are five key battles that could decide the match when Barcelona face PSG.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) vs. Marquinhos (Paris St. Germain)
At 33 years old, the idea that Lionel Messi would begin to slow down soon has been floating around for years now.
PSG's Marquinhos has enjoyed an excellent season, scoring highly in all defensive statistics since moving to center-back permanently after Thiago Silva’s departure.
But Marquinhos has certainly not faced an opponent like Messi this season. And with the erratic Presnel Kimpembe alongside him, he’ll need to be at his absolute best to handle the Argentine.
With this in mind, if Messi can get the better of PSG’s defensive duo, Barcelona will be hopeful of a win.
In the current campaign, Messi has already delivered a total of 19 goals for Barcelona, as well as five assists. Three of those goals have come in the four Champions League games that the Argentine has appeared in.
Kylian Mbappe (Paris St. Germain) vs. Sergino Dest (Barcelona)
Still just 22 years old, it’s hard to argue with the idea that Kylian Mbappe is the world’s most exciting young attacker.
Now into his fourth season at the Parc des Princes, Mbappe’s goal rate is astonishing. He’s already scored 87 goals in just 108 appearances for Paris St. Germain. And this season has seen him score 19 and register nine assists, with two of those goals coming in the Champions League.
Today, he will be up against Dest, who has already made 23 appearances for Barca this season and returned from a minor injury to make an appearance from the bench at the weekend.
On paper, at least, you’d have to favor Mbappe to have success against the largely inexperienced American. But Dest is remarkably quick, meaning the rapid French forward could find things trickier than one might expect.
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) vs. Marco Verratti (Paris St. Germain)
Considering the attacking riches that both Barcelona and Paris St. Germain boast, it’s easy to overlook the idea that this game might be won in midfield.
Barcelona are still hugely reliant on the metronomic passing of veteran Sergio Busquets at the base of their midfield. Now 32 years old, Busquets still doesn’t appear to be slowing down. And with 29 appearances under his belt this season already, he can still control the tempo of a game like no other.
Both Verratti and Busquets share some similarities, with their games being based around excellent passing skills. In fact, Verratti actually averages more passes per game (94.8) than Busquets (70.3), with both men’s accuracy being above 90%.