PSG get the big draw but Ibrahimovic's presence not certain

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Paris Saint-Germain's draw against Spanish giants Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals is exactly what Carlo Ancelotti's side needed. A glamour tie against a massive team, arguably the best in Europe, and certainly the team to beat at this stage of the competition is the test PSG needed from the draw. As I mentioned in my previous post, only by facing a team like Barcelona will the players truly know the taste of such important matches and now they have that opportunity.

- Champions League quarter-final draw
- Delaney: Draw blows tournament wide open

Also with the draw the capital club's Spanish theme continues, following on from Valencia in the previous round which, it appears, will have great ramifications on this last eight matchup. There are so many stories connected to the clash, but first and foremost the obvious one is Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Barcelona past. With that, Ibra's suspension comes into focus.

As it stands, he misses the first leg against his former employers. Crucially, that first leg is at the Parc des Princes, putting the hosts at a massive disadvantage currently. The extended ban is due to be reviewed at the end of the month so it is not set in stone that the towering Swede will actually miss the first showdown. Of course there is a chance that it won't matter and that Ibra could be set to play a key part in the second leg if the score is tied or close in the first. But there is also a chance that PSG could be out of tie by the time it reaches the Camp Nou thanks to his absence.

Sixteen goals in 29 games in his solitary season in Catalonia is often referred to as a failure when Ibrahimovic's time at the club is mentioned, largely because of his fractious relationship with Barca's then coach and footballing messiah Pep Guardiola. Since when did a goal in every two games become something to be frowned on? For those who suggest the Swede was a failure in Spain the figures don't add up, the 31-year-old now has the chance to show his former club exactly what they are missing. In doing so he would also answer his astounding number of critics across Europe and even on his own doorstop.

Two other former Cules in Maxwell and Thiago Motta are also currently at the club so it will be an emotional occasion for more than just one member of the PSG team. The Brazilian spent three highly decorated seasons in Barcelona, whilst Italian international Motta spent eight, having signed for the club as a 17-year-old. But it won't just be a highly charged encounter for the players; some fans too will recall the capital club's clashes with the Spanish giants, a few of which have gone down in PSG folklore.

The history of this clash is rich, although not obvious. In 1995, at the same stage of the competition, PSG faced the Catalans but played the first leg at the Camp Nou. A 1-1 draw secured by Liberian striker George Weah cancelled out Igor Korneev's fortuitous opener in the space of six crazy second half minutes. That was bettered though by a 2-1 win on home soil a fortnight later. Having fallen behind to Jose Mari Bakero's opening strike after 50 minutes, legendary Brazilian striker Rai equalised with 18 remaining to raise the prospect of extra-time. Vincent Guerin then entered PSG history by hitting a long-range winner seven minutes from time. The Blaugrana exacted revenge in 1997 though, defeating holders PSG 1-0 thanks to a Ronaldo penalty to lift the Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam. That was the fourth and final time the Spaniards won the trophy.

More recently, the pair met in a prestigious pre-season friendly that finished 2-2. Although Barcelona won the match 4-1 on penalties, the fight back from two goals down was encouraging from a PSG perspective and showed signs of potential following a raft of summer signings. Those signings have now gelled and will relish the challenge of facing a team they have decent prior knowledge of.

Potentially the biggest disadvantage is that the first leg will be played at home. However, much of that is down to the provisional absence of Ibrahimovic rather than witnessing AC Milan's recent mauling despite holding a two-goal lead from the first leg. It must also be noted that the match comes at a crucial point in PSG's season. With Saint-Etienne away in Ligue 1 on Sunday followed by Montpellier at home, Barcelona at home, Rennes away and finally Barcelona away, the next five fixtures could define the capital club's season. It will almost certainly have a say in the title race too.

PSG needed a big draw though and now they have it. It is advantageous for two reasons. Firstly, because it makes two-time winner Ancelotti's side the underdogs, a tag that they will relish. Secondly, the eyes of Europe will be fixed on the match. So with an opportunity to not only announce themselves on the European stage in their current form, they can also mark a spectacular return to the PSG of old, as the fans will once again turn the Parc des Princes into a festival of colour and sound.

So much hinges on Ibrahimovic though. Without him, the first leg will not be the same for either PSG or Barcelona.

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