Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain Injury and Suspension Crisis


Paris Saint-Germain will be without a plethora of players, and will be at a distinct disadvantage against a Barcelona side which looks destined to compete for a continental treble.

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 PSG will miss several starters, including center forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and central midfielder Marco Verrati, both through injury for the first leg, holding midfielder Thiago Motta who is doubtful for the second leg, centerback David Luiz for both legs, and right winger Lucas Moura, who has yet to return from a month-long injury.

They will also miss reserve right-back Serge Aurier through suspension for both legs.

These losses will leave PSG in dire straits and force them to place many second choice players in vital positions that could very well leave them an insurmountable deficit for the second leg at the Camp Nou.

The most problematic losses must be the loss of center-back David Luiz and holding midfielder Thiago Motta who will be replaced by the defensively lax right-back Gregory Van Der Wiel and central midfielder Yohan Cabaye, respectively.

Marquinhos, a natural center-back, was converted to right-back to provide defensive security for a side conceding so many goals that their preordained position at the apex of Ligue 1 was under threat.

He replaced the attack minded Van Der Weil who is as much of a defensive liability as he is an attacking threat — immediately PSG’s defensive performances improved.

Marquinhos’ stellar play will be required, as he will be left on an island to mark the threatening Neymar, Barcelona’s starting left winger who prefers to play close to the left touchline.

Marquinhos can allow PSG the freedom to focus on countering the movement and linking play between Barcelona’s other front-line players Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, along with their attacking midfielders Andreas Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic.

The other crucial piece of this puzzle is the powerful and aggressive holding midfielder Thiago Motta. With both teams set to play a 4-3-3 formation, both with 1-2 central midfields, both teams central midfielders, Ivan Rakitic and Andreas Iniesta against Blaise Matuidi and Javier Pastore, marking each other with both teams holding midfielders, Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets and PSG’s Motta will be left free with no one to directly mark.

This freedom would have allowed Motta to focus his attention on the central runs of Barcelona inside right winger Leo Messi who looks to influence play in central attacking midfield positions. However, the loss of Motta will force the play-making Yohan Cabaye, a markedly inferior defensive player, to undertake the role of stopping the most dangerous attacking player in world football.

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  • The suspension of central midfielder Marco Verratti, Italy’s heir apparent to Andrea Pirlo, will take away PSG’s most creative central midfielder, who had the ability to play PSG’s athletic front line players into attacking positions behind Barcelona’s high attacking defensive line.

    Verratti will be replaced by the technical Javier Pastore, who does not possess his long passing accuracy, or the inexperienced Adrien Rabiot.

    With the athleticism and defensive work rate of Cavani, the loss of Ibrahimovic will be the least felt subtraction for PSG. Cavani will bring a defensive commitment that Ibrahimivic would not have provided. In the defensive phase, Cavani can drop deep to mark the uncovered Busquets and make up the ground to act as a scoring threat on the counter attack.

     The fitness of winger Lucas Moura will determine who will occupy the wing positions for PSG. He is returning from an abductor injury that he suffered in the middle of February.

    During their previous Champions League tie in the 2012-13 Champions league, Moura greatly troubled the defensive efforts of Jordi Alba, current Barcelona left-back, with his quickness, playmaking ability and clever dribbling skills.

    If he is fit Moura will limit the attacking intentions of Alba, who Barcelona depend on to provide width for their attacks, and will allow the athletic winger Ezequial Lavezzi, who is much more dangerous on the left flank, to pressure Martin Montoya, Barcelona’s reserve right-back, who will replace the suspended starting right-back Dani Alves for one match.

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    With a fit Lavezzi and Moura, Pastore would be allowed to play in central midfield, the best completing PSG’s best available midfield triumvirate while giving them two counterattacking threats to exploit the movements of Barcelona’s attacking fullbacks.

    If Moura is deemed unfit, the languid and gawky Pastore will be forced to play on the wing, taking away a vital counter attacking option and bringing the inexperienced Raboit into this vital match.

    Realistically, because of injury and suspension PSG most likely has no chance to advance past Barcelona to the Champions League Quarterfinals but if they can win the battle on the flanks and survive until the second leg of this tie, they could still have a fighting chance.