Barcelona, April 9 (IANS) Barcelona are looking for another magical night at the Camp Nou Stadium Wednesday when they try to secure a place in the Champions League by beating Paris Saint Germain.
Barca are favourites after a 2-2 draw in Paris last week, leaving them needing just a 0-0 draw to reach the last four — but the game is more complicated than that, Xinhua reports.
Paris showed a week ago that they are a side that is not willing to lay down and accept defeat after twice coming back from behind to assure a draw in virtually the last kick of the game. Meanwhile, Barca have injury problems to contend with.
The most important is to Lionel Messi, who opened the scoring a week ago, but was forced off at halftime with a muscle injury. The Argentinean striker is working hard to be able to play some part in the game if needed, but everything points to coach Tito Vilanova, who may use Messi only in case of a last resort so as to not risk forcing a relapse.
Barca’s main problems are in defence where Javier Mascherano is out after damaging knee ligaments last week. He will be out for around a month, as will Carles Puyol, who is recovering from a knee operation and that leaves Mark Bartra as the only specialised central defender to partner Gerard Pique.
Saturday saw Eric Abidal make an emotional return to football 402 days after undergoing a liver transplant, but the Frenchman only played 20 minutes of football and although Vilanova would certainly like to give Abidal more game time as he could be very useful in the coming weeks, it is hard to imagine him starting Wednesday night.
The good news for Barca is that full backs Jordi Alba and Dani Alves are fit with Adriano able to provide cover on either flank, while Xavi Hernandez, who rested his troublesome hamstring as Barca beat Mallorca 5-0 in the weekend, will partner Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta in midfield.
Messi’s injury opens up options in attack and both Cesc Fabregas, who scored his first ever hat-trick Saturday and Alexis Sanchez, who scored twice made a good case for starting with David Villa and perhaps Christian Tello, who provides pace and width in attack.
The Camp Nou provided a spectacular atmosphere in the last round as Barca fought back from 0-2 down to defeat AC Milan 4-2.
It will be interesting to see the fans’ reaction to two former Barca players in the PSG ranks and while left back Maxwell will get a good reception, the controversial Zlatan Ibrahimovich is less likely to get the same.
That, however, should just add to the spectacle as the best teams in Spain and France go head to head with a place in the last four and then a Wembley final to play for.