Champions League preview: Sharp rise has taken Paris Saint-Germain to Barcelona

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Paris Saint-Germain’s project is as much about brand as it is their soccer, and in both respects, Qatari Investment Authority’s plans seem to be ahead of schedule. After disappointingly giving up last season’s Ligue 1 title to Montpellier, PSG’s running away from France’s top division, while in Champions League, the team’s made it as far as anybody could reasonably expect: A quarterfinal matchup with Barcelona, currently the world’s marqueé club, where the teams sit tied at two after 90 minutes.

Before we pull over the changes of PSG pulling off an upset Wednesday at the Nou Camp, consider how far the club has come since QIA took over in June 2011. Of course they’ve had nearly unlimited cash to fund their progress, but money hasn’t been enough for Manchester City to make a dent in Europe. Málaga’s economic might turned out to be a rouse, while clubs like Anzhi Makhachkala and Zenit St. Petersburg have yet to see their European impact parallel their expenditures. PSG’s rise is more reminiscent of Chelsea’s, a club that’s firmly established themselves as one of the world’s premier brands while winning almost every trophy imaginable.

Yet there’s a star power PSG’s already established that Chelsea has never been able to achieve, a quality that’s sure to create a celebrity-fueled buzz as the Parisians descent on Camp Nou. Only Real Madrid has stars to rival the likes of David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – players whose gravities are comparable to the Blaugrana’s own Lionel Messi. And of course there’s Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi – players whose celebrity doesn’t match their talent, no matter how dangerous they are on the field. Paris Saint-Germain may not be seen as top-level contenders for this year’s title, but when Cataluyna hums with the arrival of their star-laden squad, there’ll be little doubting the power of what’s destined to be one of the world’s sexiest soccer brands.

In that vein, PSG’s already accomplished what it set out to do when it began this year’s competition. Now that they’re here, of course they want to beat Barcelona, but at the onset of the tournament, nobody expected them to challenge for the title. Carlo Ancelotti and squad may have given lip service to their potential, but nobody at the Parc de Princes was reserving seats at Wembley. This first year back in Champions League was as much about establishing a presence as it was challenging for a trophy. Now with a chance to eliminate Barcelona at the halfway point of their quarterfinal, PSG’s established their European credibility – one of the things QIA set out to do two years ago.

Whether they can transcend those modest goals and stay alive in Champions League will depend in large part on Messi’s health. The Barcelona focal point left last week’s game at halftime with a right thigh injury, an ailment that kept him out of Saturday’s win over Mallorca. With interim coach Jordi Roura describing him as akin to a game time decision, there’s a chance Messi won’t play in Wednesday’s match. Same does for Pedro Rodríguez and Adriano, while Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol are definitely out.

Roura’s team is set to be a makeshift one. If that includes the absence of Lionel Messi, a PSG team that was already competing with Barcelona could become favorites to claim an unlikely semifinal spot.

As much of a long-shot as it seemed a week ago, there’s a decent chance Paris Saint-Germain can pull and upset that would allow their results to keep pace with their brand. Regardless, both are far ahead of schedule.

Notes

  • Without Messi this weekend, Barcelona beat Mallorca 5-0 thanks to a hat trick from Cesc Fábregas and two goals from Alexis Sanchez.
  • Get past Paris Saint-Germain, and Barcelona will qualify for their sixth straight Champions League semifinal.
  • Barcelona sought recourse with UEFA after a sequence of disputed calls led to PSG’s first goal last Tuesday. Not surprisingly, UEFA’s stayed quiet.
  • Eric Abidal, who underwent a liver transplant last year, made his return on Saturday, playing the last 20 minutes against Mallorca.
  • Despite his comeback, Abidal’s unlikely to get the start in Mascherano’s spot. Roura will choose between natural midfielder Alex Song and 22-year-old Marc Bartra.
  • For PSG, midfielder Blaise Matuidi, scorer of last Tuesday’s stoppage time equalizer, will be suspended for yellow card accumulation.
  • If Thiago Motta isn’t healthy enough to return, Ancelotti will be scrambling to replace Matuidi. Clement Chantome is a possibility, but so is Thiago Silva, with the defender used in midfield earlier this season.
  • Silva, however, has a knee problem which may keep him out. He’ll need to pass a late fitness test, as will central defense partner Alex, who was able to train with the full team on Tuesday.
  • With a team that only kept four starters from last week’s Champions League match, PSG won at Rennes on Saturday, getting goals from Jeremy Menez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on their way to a 2-0 result.

Possible Lineups

Barcelona (4-3-3): Víctor Valdes; Jordi Alba, Alex Song, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves; Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández; David Villa, Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez

Paris Saint-Germain (4-4-2): Salvatore Sirigu; Maxwell, Thiago Silva, Alex, Christophe Jallet; Javier Pastore, David Beckham, Thiago Motta, Lucas Moura; Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

UCL AT HALF: Bale scores; Spurs lead, Man City and Reds level (video)

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Two Premier League sides are level, Spurs lead, and Real Madrid has luckily kept a Gareth Bale-authored lead thanks to some goofy officiating on the second match day of group stage play at the UEFA Champions League.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 


Sevilla 2-0 Maribor

Wissam Ben Yedder has goals in both of Sevilla’s UCL qualifiers and now both group stage matches after netting a 27th minute marker in Spain. He’s added another before the break.

Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool

Loris Karius will not enjoy the replay of a 23rd minute free kick given away by Philippe Coutinho, and he especially won’t enjoy his slow reaction to a free kick from Fernando (not that Fernando) which was not hit too near a post.

Coutinho made amends with a solidly struck equalizer just after the half-hour mark, working a 1-2 with Mane and lacing a shot beyond the hopes of Rebrov.

Besiktas 2-0 RB Leipzig

A man with a Liverpool connection is on the board in the form of Ryan Babel, and Anderson Talisca added a marker before halftime to double the Turkish side’s lead.

Manchester City 0-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

Fairly even at the Etihad Stadium, with Kevin De Bruyne missing a solid chance and Ederson denying Marlos at the other end.

Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Real Madrid

Gareth Bale’s 18th minute goal has the double-defending champions up at the Westfalenstadion.

By the way, this was somehow not a penalty:

 

Napoli 1-0 Feyenoord

A sneaky side to watch in the tournament, Napoli leads through Lorenzo Insigne.

Monaco 0-1 Porto

Cameroon star Vincent Aboubakar scores against Ligue 1 opposition.

APOEL Nicosia 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Harry Kane, guys and girls. The English striker beat an offside trap to a Toby Alderweireld pass and bested the keeper in the 39th minute.

LIVE – UCL: Liverpool, Tottenham, Man City all in action

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Three Premier League teams are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday in their second games of the 2017-18 group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Tottenham Hotspur head to Cyprus to face APOEL in Nicosia hoping to make it two wins from two, while Manchester City host Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk aiming to keep their 100 percent record and Liverpool are in Moscow to play Spartak hoping for a first win of the group stage.

Elsewhere Real Madrid head to Borussia Dortmund (Christian Pulisic alert) in a mouth-watering clash at the Westfalenstadion and Napoli host Feyenoord in another eye-catching tie.

Click on the link above to follow commentary on all the action, while below is the full schedule as we will have reaction and analysis on all the UCL action on Tuesday.

All games kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET.


Tuesday’s UCL schedule

Group E
Spartak Moscow vs. Liverpool
Sevilla vs. Maribor

Group F
Manchester City vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli vs. Feyenoord

Group G
Monaco vs. FC Porto
Besiktas vs. RB Leipzig

Group H
APOEL vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid

VIDEO: Top Premier League goals – Week 6

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From Fabian Delph‘s curler to Alvaro Morata’s surging run and dink and from Philippe Coutinho‘s perfect free kick to Leroy Sane’s delicate touches.

Boy, did we have some fine strikes in the Premier League in Week 6.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

Click play on the video above to see the best of the bunch and let us know your favorite in the comments section below.

“What is your favorite?” I hear you cry. Settle down, settle down. I love a good curler which clips off the bar and in so I’m going with Delphy’s goal against Crystal Palace. Sublime.

PHOTO: New USMNT jersey for 2018 World Cup leaked?

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Now, of course, they have to qualify first.

But if Bruce Arena’s men do make the 2018 World Cup in Russia they could be wearing this beauty in the photo below.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

With all leaked jerseys there is a real possibility it could turn out to look completely different but information from Conrad Burry of Sportslogos over the weekend suggested something along these lines.

Take a look at the photo below of the home jersey (the away jersey is said to be “Midnight Navy with a second color of Blue Nebula”) and let us know what you think.