PSG have stunned Barcelona 4-1 in the first leg Champions League round of 16 at the Nou Camp. Kylian Mbappe ran the show as he bagged a hat-trick to leave Barca defenders behind his trail. Although the Catalans were deemed the favourites, they slipped up their early lead ( courtesy of Lionel Messi) and allowed Paris Saint-Germain to smother them. Here are the major takeaways from the contest.
Different year same old Barcelona
This catchphrase looks to continue for many more years as Barcelona have failed once again massively in their nemesis Champions League. Barca had earned the reputation for not holding up their nerves in big games over the last few years and it has been proved once again. Everything looked optimistic prior to the game as the Catalans were expected to win the game but eventually, they ended on the losing side.
Mbappe grab the centre-stage in the absence of Neymar
Neymar’s injury came at a very difficult time especially when they were about to play against his former club. His absence was magnified a lot even though Les Parisiens had Mbappe at their disposal. Perhaps, Barca have been labelled the favourites by many owing to the absence of Neymar but Mbappe proved his naysayers wrong with an exquisite display, which has been Champions League’s best individualistic performance in this season yet. Now, PSG wouldn’t be having any problems over the recovery of Neymar.
Pochettino returns to the Champions League
The last time Mauricio Pochettino was in the Champions League was during his time at Tottenham. He had reached the finals of the competition a season and the achievement was widely celebrated among the club. However, Spurs soon parted ways with the Argentine gaffer after a string of poor results. After a year-long hiatus, Pochettino joined his former club PSG and the expectations were high. Whilst the opening few games didn’t give the best impression, last night’s display against Barca showed what he is all about. The Argentine seemed to have planned beforehand as his side stifled Barca in every aspect of the game.
Messi dependence hasn’t gone for good
It’s 2021 and Barca haven’t stopped relying on their talisman Lionel Messi whenever they are in trouble. Last night was one instance where the Argentine was held up by PSG, which collectively led to Barca’s downfall. Even though there were individual stalwarts like Griezmann and Dembele, none could have the same effect as Messi and indeed Ronald Koeman, like all of his predecessors, have failed to get the best out of them.
Moise Kean steps up
Moise Kean has really grabbed the opportunities at French capital as he was included in starting eleven due to injury issues. Icardi and Neymar have been injured in the past few months, and young Italian got the opportunity to be part of star-studded line-ups.
Despite setbacks in Juventus and Everton, Kean has finally found someplace to showcase his talent. It happened to be against Barcelona in UEFA Champions League.
End of Road for Pique and Busquets
This may be the end of the road for Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets. As the new Barcelona academy players, Pedri and Puig are ready to sneak in, and Koeman is looking into future, former World Cup and Champions League winners may find it increasingly difficult to manage playtime.
Pique came after a long lay-off since November, 2020. This proved to be a bad decision against young and aggressive PSG.
Barca are mentality disasters
Koeman was appreciated for instilling a fighting spirit in every player’s mind, which reflected in their domestic success in recent weeks. However, last night, Barca looked as if they were playing under a new manager from the scratch – completely clueless. Barca continue to slump in the European competitions for the third straight season and they clearly lack the mental strength to leave the past behind and instead re-establish their dominance.