Paris Saint-Germain are “ready” to face Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Last 16 first leg despite the injury-enforced absences of Neymar and Angel Di Maria, according to the French champions’ midfielder, Leandro Paredes.
While Neymar suffered an adductor injury in last week’s Coupe de France win over Caen, Angel Di Maria had sustained a thigh strain early in the Classique victory against Marseille the week earlier to rule both out of PSG’s return to European competition.
Paredes is expected to partner Idrissa Gueye in front of the Parisian back four at the Camp Nou and will have a key role in keeping Barca superstar Lionel Messi in check, with Marco Verratti returning after missing the last two games to provide some of the creative spark the absent duo would have given.
Pablo Sarabia should feature in Di Maria’s habitual right-wing role with Kylian Mbappé moved from the middle to the left to fill in for Neymar while Mauro Icardi leads the line as PSG seek to get a positive result to bring back with them to the Parc des Princes for next month’s second leg.
“Having Lionel Messi up against us will require us to take on our responsibilities and to be solid in defence. We will do all we can to put in a good performance, to keep the ball and pick up a good result,” explained Paredes.
“The absence of several teammates is a shame but we have a squad with excellent quality who will take on their responsibility. There is no favourite in this match. We are a big team, just as FC Barcelona are. It will be very difficult, but we are ready to play this match. The best team will win it.”
“The team is still ready, despite the current difficulties,” insisted PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino, who returns to the city where he played for and coached Espanyol. “That’s the reality and we will be ready to play to the best of our ability. I have come in to find a fantastic team, with incredible spirit.
“The players follow our instructions so that we can create an identity together. Our idea is to create an identity which shows exactly what it means to be Paris Saint-Germain. We have come in to a marvellous team. They are all friends and enjoy being together. We are very happy on a human level.”
Barcelona: Ter Stegen – Dest, Lenglet, Umtiti, Alba – De Jong, Busquets, Pedri – Dembélé, Messi (c), Griezmann
PSG: Navas – Florenzi, Marquinhos (c), Kimpembé, Kurzawa – Gueye, Paredes – Verratti – Sarabia, Icardi, Mbappé