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Barcelona must stand firm against PSG

By Reuters - Apr 20,2015 - Last updated at Apr 20,2015

BARCELONA/BERLIN — Barcelona’s lethal attack has put them on course for a seventh Champions League semifinal place in eight years but their shaky defence gives Paris Saint Germain a glimmer of hope on Tuesday.

The Catalan side are renowned for the quick passing possession game that brought them so much success under Pep Guardiola, but now coach Luis Enrique is looking to triumph with a more direct approach.

Luis Enrique remains on track to emulate his predecessor and win the treble in his first season in charge, using a style of play based around the quality of his forwards.

The Barca coach had to endure plenty of criticism during the first half of the campaign and there were even question marks over whether he would last the season as he tinkered with his side’s formation.

Luis Enrique has now finally settled on a game plan, one that often involves longer balls. It’s a ploy which has greatly benefited Luis Suarez who’s been deployed as a central striker.

Lionel Messi, converted into the central figure of Barca’s attacking trident by Guardiola, himself suggested it would be better for Suarez to play through the middle.

After a slow start following his post-world cup biting ban Suarez has now scored crucial goals for Barca including a double in their 3-1 first leg victory over PSG in Paris.

Atletico Madrid, last season, are the only team to have stopped Barca getting to the semifinals of the Champions League since 2007 and it would take something special from PSG to deny them.

However, for all Barca’s flair going forward they are prone to making mistakes defensively and PSG’s only goal in the first leg came from Jeremy Mathieu, who put the ball in his own net.

They also struggled defensively in their 2-0 win over Valencia at the weekend and it is an area that PSG can look to exploit.

“We were not organised and lacked control in the first half [against Valencia] and they put us under pressure,” Barca midfielder, Javier Mascherano, told reporters.

“These are the types of things that we have to overcome and we will analyse it.”

PSG warmed up for the Camp Nou showdown with a 3-1 victory over Nice and have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti back after missing the first leg through suspension.

There are fitness worries, though, with Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva and David Luiz all doubtful.


Bayern Munich are on a mission with coach Pep Guardiola firing up his injury-hit team as they seek to reverse a 3-1 deficit against Porto in the Champions League quarter-final second leg on Tuesday.

The five-times European champions, who have reached the final three times since 2010, find themselves in the unusual position of having to come from behind.

Guardiola, who has only ever recorded wins as player and coach against Porto, will also be forced to try to turn things around without several of his leading lights.

“People do not know how difficult our situation is,” he told reporters after Bayern’s 2-0 victory over Hoffenheim on Saturday that kept them on course for the Bundesliga title.

“I will never in my life forget these months and I am proud of the team. Now we have on Tuesday the most important Champions League game. It will of course be difficult but this a is our big goal.”

Bayern players need all the pep talk they can get with Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Medhi Benatia and Javi Martinez certain to miss the game at the Allianz Arena.

Winger Franck Ribery is also highly unlikely to be fit for the German champions after being sidelined for five weeks with an ankle injury.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had been out for two weeks with an ankle knock, did not play on Saturday due to a virus but should be fit along with captain Philipp Lahm.

However, the Bavarians, chasing a treble of titles, have also been rocked by the sudden departure of long-time team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt this week, saying he had been blamed for the defeat in Porto.

“The coach was very emotional [in Hoffenheim],” Bayern midfielder Sebastian Rode said. “He wanted to weld us together. He said we need to remain calm and focused in this situation and if we believe in ourselves and the team then we can overcome obstacles.”

Porto are in fine form, having yet to lose in the Champions League this season and showing superb focus in the first leg to contain Bayern.

The Portuguese edged past Academica Coimbra 1-0 in the league, with coach Julen Lopotegui making nine changes to the squad that beat Bayern.

“We were coming from a tremendously demanding game, both physically and psychologically, and we felt this was our best team at the moment,” said the Spaniard of their narrow win. “We had to make some changes, we needed a fresh team to win this match.” With Danilo and Alex Sandro suspended they will need another fresh team if they are to deny Bayern — who have yet to concede a goal at home in this competition this season — a fourth straight semi-final spot.

The last time the Porto went through to the last four was when they won the trophy in 2004.

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