No Ibra vendetta as PSG welcome Barca

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

"If I had my time there again, I would do everything the same as I did before," Zlatan Ibrahimovic said on the eve of Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes.

While the dominant Swede is hogging the headlines ahead of the match, his duel with his former employers is only one aspect of a fascinating first-leg tie. The bigger story is that Ibrahimovic is even available after his two-match suspension was overturned by UEFA less than a week ago.

- Tomas: Trip to France en route to Wembley dream
- PSG's Silva: Barca always favourites
- Ibra: Beckham's experience key
- Two views on Silva: Hunter / Brassell


But Carlo Ancelotti has also reportedly been receiving a helping hand from Jose Mourinho, who kindly offered the Italian advice regarding how to beat the Spanish giants.

"If Mourinho wants to give me tips on how to stop Barca then he is welcome to. But I have not received any videos from him yet," was Ancelotti's terse reply when quizzed on the story.

Yet there is a belief that if any coach can stop Tito Vilanova's side this season in Europe, it is the two-time title-winning former AC Milan manager who can mastermind it. PSG's style appears to set them up well to punish the Blaugrana with their frightening pace on the counterattack, and the return to fitness of Brazilian superstar Lucas Moura is arguably as big a boost for the Italian as Ibrahimovic's availability.

Perhaps disappointingly for Barcelona fans - and certainly frustrating for Les Parisiens' - is the continued absence of Italian international and former Barca midfielder Thiago Motta, who misses out again.

Tellingly, PSG register an average of 2.4 points in the league with him in the side and only 1.85 without, illustrating how much the side miss his presence. That said, Ancelotti's men are all too accustomed to being without the 30-year-old this term and the first-choice midfield pairing of Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti should be reprised from Friday's victory over Montpellier.

Motta's absence does, however, open the door to a possible appearance for David Beckham, though it is highly unlikely he will start.

PSG are also boosted by the news that they start the week seven points clear of now-second-placed Marseille and eight clear of Lyon, who put in another dismal performance, this time at home to struggling Sochaux, to hand Les Rouge-et-Bleu further advantage in the Ligue 1 title race.

With domestic duties firmly off their minds for now, Ancelotti can demand that his team give everything to secure a first-leg advantage without worrying too much ahead of Saturday's match at Rennes. The Breton side are woefully out of form without a win in the best part of two months, and PSG can for once allow themselves to let their minds wander, provided they return to earth ahead of the weekend.

Kevin Gameiro gave Ancelotti plenty of food for thought on Friday, coming off the bench to score the winning goal against last season's champions and put in another impressive cameo despite limited time.

Although it would be foolish to suggest that he starts based on those match-winning exploits, the 25-year-old demonstrated Ancelotti has the talent to change a game and the team's style available to him. Carletto is extremely headstrong when it comes to his team selections, rarely making changes unless forced.

He was fortunate to get away with a late string of substitutions against La Paillade, but he may need to consider a change in style earlier with Lionel Messi & Co. in town.

The city is buzzing with excitement ahead of the clash and rightly so; the club was inundated with demand for tickets. The Parc des Princes saw queues at least halfway around the stadium three times in the days following the draw, and even the press box is oversubscribed, with 960 applications for a press area that holds 340 people.

The last time the sides met in this competition, PSG ousted Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate thanks a now-famous Vincent Guerin strike at the Parc des Princes in 1995. The fans and the club are preparing for what could be another glorious night. Barcelona will be accompanied in the French capital by German referee Wolfgang Stark, who is something of a lucky charm for the Cules.

Nicknamed "Barca Brain" by the Madrid-based press, he famously oversaw their 2-0 victory over bitter rival Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the 2011's semifinal first leg. The controversial Stark has a history of supposedly favouring the Catalans.

Either way, I wrote before the quarterfinal draw that PSG needed a big draw to test themselves. Now they have it -- the time has arrived to prove how far they have come in just under two years.

ESPN Conversations