By Greg Robertson
Hello and welcome to Parc des Princes where we have France’s Paris Saint-Germain hosting Spain’s FC Barcelona in first leg UEFA Champions League 2013 quarter-final action. Football, at its finest.
Barcelona has ignited their season and AC Milan felt the brunt of that. PSG will need to be faultless and incredibly accurate throughout 90 minutes to take today’s spoils.
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LIVE COMMENTARY... Paris St-Germain 2 – 2 Barcelona
FULLTIME =- Barcelona draws with PSG 2-2. ALL VIDEO UP.
90+4 MINS: Last kick of the game - GOAL PSG! Matuidi scores with the a blast from the edge of the area, Valdes mjkes a hash of it and it drbbles over. VIDEO UP SOON.
89 MINS: PENALTY to Barcelona! Sirigu brinds down Sanchez. Xavi scores and Barcelona leads 2-1! VIDEO UP SOON. Four additional minutes.
86 MINS: Ibrahimovic wins a header and now gets cautioned.
79 MINS: Ibrahimovic SCORES FIOR PSG! A great header from Silva comes off the post and Ibrahimovic - miles offside - tucks it away. VIDEO UP SOON.
78 MINS: Wow the flag doesn't go up and now Barcelona players are all down. from the corner, Barcelona headed clear, ti was pumped back in and at least four PSG players are offside but it's not called. It falls to Ibrahimovic but he's not in the form to finish and hits it at Valdes. VIDEO UP SOON.
76 MINS: LUCKY FOR PSG the deflection just went over the bar. Barcelona had won a free kick just outside the box, Xavi hitting it and getting the top of the wall, it changes shape and Sirigu is helpless to react. It's just over. VIDEO UP SOON. Macherano over commits in a challenge against Menez, yellow card! That means Mascherano is out of the second leg tie too.
74 MINS: Barcelona now playing the possession game. The objective is simple - keep it.
70 MINS: Beckham replaced by 20-year-old Verratti. Maxwell with a nice turn and gets a bit greedy by shooting from a very acute angle. VIDEO UP SOON.
68 MINS: Dani Alves just about been the best on the park for Barcelona.... Beckham looks like he will be cautioned and he is.... totally took out the legs of Sanchez then. Free kick for Barcelona, 32 metres out to the left of the goal...Alves with a good stance which suggests he will strike... and ohhh he fancied it all right and it flashes just by the post. VIDEO UP SOON.
65 MINS: Fabregas with he delivery for Sanchez and this time does hit it first time but doesn't get a true connection on it and it sort of balloons to Sirigu from eight metres out. VIDEO UP SOON. Matuidi with a yellow now for a tangle with Iniesta. Harsh. Just a foul, he's now out of the second leg tie. Menez comes on for Lavezzi for PSG.
63 MINS: Ibrahimovic is well off his game. Matuidi with a sweeping break from his own half, lays it to the bid Swede and he looks like he doesn't know what to do with it. Action swings to the other end and Alves finds Sanchez who needed to take the shot the first time. By the time he brought it down he was pounced upon. A first time shot would have been just him, Sirigu and perhaps the back of the net.
61 MINS: Barcelona breaks through Fabregas, options left or right, finds Alexis Sanchez and the triggers pulled, into Ale's legs. Jordi Alba into the book for a jersey pull.
58 MINS: Better from the home side as Ibrahimovic just about pulls off the ball of the century with an audacious flick looking for Matuidi. A long stretching foot gets in the way of the PSG endeavor.
55 MINS: Ten minutes gone in the second spell and it's all a bit cagey right now. Barcelona hasn't started as they finished the first half, just a little scrappy.
52 MINS: Mascherano looks like he's impeded by Matuidi but the ref doesn't want a bar of it. Imbrahimovic then with an attack of his own, takes too much time on the ball. He couldn't make a decision and it didn't open up for him like he expected.
49 MINS: second half has started a touch scrappy. Plenty of fighting for the ball in the centre third. The last time Messi was subbed off at halftime was in 2006. It's a thigh muscle injury.
46 MINS: Second half is underway...
Fabregas replaces Messi!
45 MINS: That's HALFTIME. Messi has picked up a limp and he was clutching his calf. He may not be back to start the second half.
42 MINS: Messi with a shot, bends it just over. It took a deflection... he just did Silva and he cvould only manage a touch.
38 MINS: Messi SCORES! Alves with a magic ball over the top with the outside of his right foot and Messi finishes with his left from a fine angle. VIDEO UP SOON
37 MINS: Alba this time with the shot but it's great defending with three bodies going straight at him like a super powered magnet. His shot... wide.!
36 MINS: Messi's ball to Alves on his outside right is a little heavy but Alves wins the corner nonetheless. First of the game. Ibrahimovic heads strongly away.
34 MINS: 211 passes from Barcelona compared to 84 from PSG. Some 68% of the possession has been with the visiting side, but the best chances have come from the home side.
33 MINS: Ibrahimovic with a great touch to bring a long ball down from the back. He's a big target and was picked out. Lays it off, then gets it back and a dink with the outside of the right boot puts Lavezzi through again, the flag from the linesman being the enemy - again.
30 MINS: It seems to be a familiar story for Barcelona time after time. Playing it with great precision from feet to feet to work into the area but just too many numbers from PSG. Every time they are about to work the shot there seems to be a dark blue shirt arriving, and at pace, to interrupt.
28 MINS: Messi with half a yard of space and then suddenly there are four PSG players close by... he cuts and checks away from three but the fourth was a bridge to far.
26 MINS: Moura away... leaves Alba in his wake, finds Ibrahimovic and ohhh, just wide of the right-hand upright. He dragged that one. The break came after Barcelona tried to work it into the area... PSG just watched and waited, no one jumping in until they think they will win it. VIDEO UP SOON
22 MINS: Wow, Silva challenges Messi and win the ball just inside the area just as it looked like Messi was about to strike and find the back of the net. Messi dancing but Silva cut the dance short. Iniesta then with a shot but it's harmless and Sirigu with a comfortable save.
18 MINS: Pique brings down Ibrahimovic in a dangerous area, just outside the penalty area. Ibrahimovic hits it low and hard and a good save by Valdes, down at full stretch to his right. VIDEO UP SOON.
16 MINS: Iniesta BENDS IT CLOSE. He nearly picked his spot in the corner. Just wide. VIDEO UP SOON.
14 MINS: PSG wins a free kick and it's in perfect Beckham range to cross... Moura with a partial header, Ibrahimovic cleans it up and then lays it off and it's PASTORE WHO CRACKS IT, ohhh Valdes down fast and spills then regathers. VIDEO UP SOON
12 MINS: Barcelona tackle a little time to get settled. Good tackle by Mascherano ad David Beckham sens Matuidi away. Corner... and it's Alex who is head and shoulders above everyone else. He gets a glancing header to it. But the ease he won that and the leap... a second warning to Barcelona.
10 MINS: Ibrahimovic lays off and Pastore plays it through, Lavezzi not quite timing his run and caught offside. He was through and heading toward Valdes.
9 MINS: Nice combination between Alves and Messi ends with a shot sailing high wide and handsome. First real effort on goal. That early chance from PSG just may have been a reminder that Barcelona can't sit back and cake walk this one.
6 MINS: PSG so nearly the dream start! OFF THE POST. Pigue has sold himself down the river, a nice one-two and Lavezzi gets a foot in onto the post. VIDEO UP SOON.
4 MINS: Jallet with some solid defence for PSG on Sanchez. Sanchez was dazzling with some footwork and turned back into Jallet who had anticipated the turn and made a strong tackle to win the ball and clear.
2 MINS: St Germain have struggled to get a touch so far as Mesie just goes for a one-two and takes it to the by-line. The ball's in the back of the net but the whistle had well gone by the time Alves slotted it home. He was penalised for a push in the back as he contested the ball in the penalty area.
Here we go... we have the off and Barcelona kicks off... looks like Ibrahimovic up front by himself for PSG with Matuidi in behind him.
The big news... David Beckham starts for PSG. Is that a gamble? Time will tell.
Both teams are in tunnel and they're coming out onto Parc des Princes. Packed house, they could have sold this one out five times over according to commentators. It's a stunning sight...
The teams are as follows...
PSG: Sirigu, Jallet, Alex, Silva, Maxwell; Moura, Beckham, Matuidi, Pastore; Lavezzi, Ibrahimovic. Subs: Douchez, Sakho, Menez, Gameiro, Chantome, Van Der Wiel, Verratti.
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi; Villa, Messi, Sanchez. Subs: Pinto, Fabregas, Thiago, Bartra, Montoya, Song, Tello.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark
Kick off is not far away and we will have video up after the match, so in the meantime watch highlights of Barcelona’s amazing 4-0 win at Camp Nou against AC Milan.
Teams – possible
Paris Saint-Germain (4-3-2-1): Salvatore Sirigu; Maxwell, Thiago Silva, Alex, Gregory van der Wiel; Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, Clément Chantôme; Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi; Zlatan Ibrahimović
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Victor Valdes; Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves; Sergio Busquests, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta; David Villa, Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez
As far as Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is concerned, today he is facing the “best team ever on this plant” in FC Barcelona.
Ibrahimovic, the scorer of quite possibly the best goal of 2012 with an overhead kick for Sweden against England from 30 metres, says that if he wants to beat the best then PSG must do the basics of football right, and minimise mistakes.
Do that, then they’ve taken a large step to winning the 2013 Champions League Leg 1 quarter final.
Do that, and the Parc des Princes faithful will go nuts. Paris will go nuts. France will be a football frenzy.
Of course, with the stage set by the occasion, the stars will come out to shine.
And in this match up they are aplenty.
Former England international David Beckham may not start, but he’s got himself a fan in Ibrahimovic. He described Beckham as a “fighter” and a man with a “big heart”.
“I think he has a big impact on the team, he has a big experience,” said Ibrahimovic, “He has big qualities. On the pitch, with the ball, he is fantastic. He has good crosses, a good touch with the ball, and he's a fighter, he has a big heart. He is a winner also, especially now in this moment.”
And then there’s a certain Lionel Messi, who Ibrohimovic didn’t describe as the best, ever.
“Messi has to quit football and then you can see if he is the best or not,” he said.
“For an active player to say that he is the best in the whole history, I mean we can talk about it, but once he quits football I will be able to answer the question more easily.”
Ibrohimovic says his side will also be out to disturb Barcelona as much as possible for them to come away with a result. With that in mind, Barcelona is expected to be hustled and given as little time on the ball as possible by the French side.
“I think, for the possession - everybody knows Barcelona, they like to keep the ball. Of course we want to have the possession also because we are playing at home. I think at the same time it will be very exciting to find a solution how to play and to try to disturb them as much as possible. But it's easy to talk before but we have to do it also during the game which is the difficult part so..."
Difficult has gotten more so, with the return of two important figures to the Barcelona fold.
Head coach Tito Vilanova and defender Eric Abidal have been through surgery after diagnosed with cancer, and the emotional return will no doubt do wonders to pump up the side.
“It's a big source of joy for everybody,” said striker David Villa
Assistant coach Jordi Roura says that Vilanova “should be on the bench with us tomorrow”.
“Tito is our coach, he is the boss, our leader, so his return within the team is extremely important from a professional point of view. After a complicated situation, things are getting back to normal. And from a personal point of view, everyone is very happy, beginning with me. Everyone is happy because Tito is someone loved by everyone within the club. So this is a great news for us and everybody.”
Roura knows that this one is no easier than their last 16 tie against AC Milan. And to get past Milan, Barcelona had to mount a comeback that ranks right up there with great Champions League comebacks.
After the first leg, Barcelona trailed 2-0 but blew Milan off the park in the second match, winning 4-0 to advance to this match against PSG.
“AC Milan is one Europe's greatest clubs, and this coming game with PSG won't be very different. It's a team with players such as Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura, Pastore, Lavezzi, and so on and so forth, so if you think it will be an easy game, you are wrong, PSG is a great team. The difficulty will be maximum. We need to do our best, and be as focused as possible to do our best, but it will be very difficult,” says Roura.
And Barcelona aren’t about to make the same mistake twice, and produce a poor first leg showing that would require a footballing miracle to repeat in the second leg.
“We cannot make the same mistakes all over again. We need to put all our strengths and remember that it's not easy coming back the way we did against AC Milan.”
For Barcelona, centre back Carles Puyol is out with injury but Barca will be glad to have goalkeeper Victor Valdes back following his impressive performance for Spain in the 1-0 win at France last week. Xavi and left back Jordi Alba have shaken off niggles.
And in the home side’s camp, Ancelotti welcomes back Lavezzi and Lucas has recovered from an ankle injury. But holding midfielder Thiago Motta failed a fitness test, increasing Beckham's chances of being involved.
It is a meeting of one of Europe’s most dominant clubs over recent years against a real contender.
PSG' 23-match unbeaten run at home in European competitions will be tested by Messi, who has scored in a record 19 straight Spanish league games and netted a double to lead Barcelona to an historic comeback win over AC Milan in the last 16.
“We are very motivated to play this game," Messi said. "We need to rest up so we can arrive in the best physical condition and try to get a good result and, if it is possible, to win - even though we know that it will be an evenly fought match from the looks of it.”