Ibrahimovic return a huge boost for PSG v Barcelona

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Paris Saint-Germain were boosted on Tuesday by the news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic's two-match Champions League ban, of which he had served one against Valencia already, has been reduced to one game by UEFA on appeal. The decision means that the Swede has already completed his suspension and is, of course, available to play against one of his former teams next Tuesday when Barcelona come to town. The news is a massive boost for PSG who head into the quarter-final first leg at the Parc des Princes as underdogs against the Spanish side who humbled AC Milan 4-0 at the Camp Nou in the last round.

- Ibra delighted with ban reduction

"Zlatan is very happy with this decision," revealed Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola to Le Parisien. "It means a lot to him to play in a Champions League quarter-final. Not because it's a match against Barca, but because it's a unique moment in PSG's season."

Indeed it is perhaps the defining moment of the current campaign and a watershed moment in recent club history as the result will give owners Qatar Sports Investments tangible proof of the capital club's progress since their arrival. Although many will no doubt suggest that UEFA have made the decision so that the biggest teams will have the biggest players available for a highly appetising match in the latter stages of the competition, the decision is justified. The extension of the ban was harsh in the first place. Ibra receiving two matches when similar incidents, such as Nani's red card for Manchester United against Real Madrid, only warranted one (as PSG lawyer Francois Klein pointed out) and prove inconsistencies in the competition's decision-making, so justice has been served.

The 31-year-old's return is a boon for coach Carlo Ancelotti too after the Italian had watched his side struggle past Valencia in the last round, when Ibrahimovic was absent. Now though, PSG can embark on a tough run of matches, starting with Montpellier at home on Friday, knowing that they won't be deprived of their talismanic striker. The Swede already left the Swedish national team early after being excused of duty in a friendly against Slovakia. Now, Ibra has to prove that his potential absence warranted the fuss that was made over it.

If France's 1-0 defeat to Spain at the Stade de France was a taste of things to come when the Catalans arrive on Tuesday, then Ibrahimovic needs to be at his cold-blooded best as his goals will be the only way that PSG can eliminate Tito Vilanova's side. The France-Spain clash was one of few clear chances for either side and one that Spain dominated possession in over the 90 minutes. That is what Ancelotti's side need to be prepared for. Franck Ribery, Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema didn't see too much of the ball in the attacking third for Les Bleus, but they showed how important it is that chances are taken when they arise. With PSG's strength in breaking at speed against teams that are dictating the pace of the game, the capital club will create some chances against Barca. It will however, fall on Ibrahimovic to be the sharp end of the sword, as always. Given what is at stake for the club and for him personally, there is no better time to put in a performance of the highest calibre.

Ibrahimovic's presence against Barcelona in front of an electric crowd at the Parc des Princes will be vital for Ancelotti's side. The Swede thrives on the sort of pressure that an occasion like the Barcelona match will create and alongside Thiago Silva, and possibly Thiago Motta and David Beckham, Ibra is one of PSG's most experienced players at this level, not to mention a reassuring presence for his teammates. His familiarity with Barcelona will be hugely important for Les Parisiens and he will be expected to keep some of the side's younger stars focused in front of arguably the greatest club side in the history of the game.

Whether he is scoring goals or creating them in the Champions League, as has been his preference this season, the towering striker will be the focal point of PSG's play next Tuesday. As we saw against Valencia, the team are just not the same without him and don't function as efficiently if he is not conducting proceedings on the pitch. The former Inter and AC Milan star has attracted criticism of late for below-par performances in big games against the likes of Marseille and Valencia before his suspension. A dominant performance against Barcelona next week would silence those critics and vindicate the decision to overturn his ban, however contentious the aftermath of the verdict may yet prove to be.

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