A staggering display from the French champions blew away their opponents at the Parc des Princes and sets them up as real challengers for the title
It was the type of performance that Unai Emery was brought to PSG for - yet, even in president Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s wildest dreams, could he have expected to see his side annihilate Barcelona 4-0 this season? It might just be the Parisians' greatest European display ever.
Di Maria on fire as PSG crush Barcelona
Laurent Blanc left the club last summer after achieving successive domestic trebles, but his inability to negotiate the quarter-finals of the Champions League consigned the former France boss to unemployment.
After the Ligue 1 side started the season in a thoroughly unconvincing manner, it seemed former Sevilla boss Emery might be heading in the same direction, but the rousing 4-0 win over Barcelona at Parc des Princes means his stock has never been higher.
And it was no fluke result. PSG were quicker, stronger and smarter. This was a win every bit as easy as the final score would suggest.
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The iconic moment of the game was when young home centre-back Presnel Kimpembe stopped a threatening Lionel Messi raid with a fine challenge before winning the second ball by using his muscle to leave the multiple Ballon d’Or winner eating the turf. It was the 21-year-old’s debut at this level, but he played like a seasoned professional.
It was a victory achieved by the persistent bullying of Barcelona’s right side, but it was conceived in the midfield, where the Catalans, normally so strong, were obliterated.
Angel Di Maria was outstanding. Not only did he catch the eye with two fine finishes, he was imaginative in possession and turned in a thrilling performance that reprised the level he showed when he won man of the match in the 2014 final.
Marco Verratti, only back from injury on Friday after a lengthy period on the sidelines, showed no signs of rustiness, dictating the play until he was forced off with an apparent calf problem midway through the second half.
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Meanwhile, Blaise Matuidi, who has had a tricky season, returned to his energetic best and, alongside him, Adrien Rabiot stood in for the suspended Thiago Motta and showed the utmost discipline after receiving an early booking.
It was this area of the field that helped the defence have a relatively comfortable evening. After the weekend’s 3-0 win over Bordeaux, several players spoke of the importance of starving Messi of possession. Such was the quality of tactical play in the heart of the field, the Argentine had a veritable famine.
‘MSN’ simply were not a factor in this encounter and, on the rare occasions they saw the ball, PSG’s defence stood up well. In particular, youngster Kimpembe shone, while both full-backs raided forward astutely to support the forwards.
In attack, Edinson Cavani was insatiable as ever. Earlier in the season he had a frustrating habit of missing multiple chances in games, yet his finish to add PSG’s fourth of the match was simply a continuation of the blistering domestic form he has displayed.
The hosts’ other scorer was debutant Julian Draxler, who started on the left of midfield and was the player who landed the early punches that winded Barca. Since he arrived in the French capital, he has looked the star presence that he was expected to be in Germany, and not the phantom who played for Wolfsburg for 18 months. His goal was an announcement to the world that he really is back.
But this was not a night about individuals, this was about a team – and a coaching staff – that did not make a single misstep. In obliterating Barca by four clear goals, they have not only put one foot in the quarter-finals, they have sent a very definite message to the whole of Europe.