Barca boosted by win at PSG ahead of biggest week of the season

Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

PARIS: Barcelona got a statement 3-2 win at Paris St Germain in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg clash on Wednesday that left them brimming with confidence ahead of what is expected to be biggest week of their season so far.

They will travel to southern Spain to face relegation-threatened Cadiz in LaLiga on Saturday before hosting PSG in the return leg on Tuesday with a Clasico at Real Madrid on the horizon that could be a turning point for the Catalan giants.

Winning LaLiga seems like a long shot as they stand a distant second, eight points behind Real with eight games left, but they could spice up the last few weeks of the season if they beat their bitter rivals at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 21. Their coming challenges seem to have presented themselves at the perfect time with Barca enjoying a great vein of form after five consecutive wins in all competitions.

They are unbeaten since enduring a traumatic 5-3 loss at home to Villarreal in late January that led to Xavi Hernandez announcing he was stepping down as manager at the end of what then looked like a difficult season.

Xavi said then that his decision was “for the good of the team” and that the players would “be freed up” moving forward. His words were heavily criticised by pundits but today they arguably make him look like a genius. Among the nine wins and three draws in Barcelona’s last 12 competitive matches, they knocked out Italian champions Napoli in the Champions League last 16 and handed out a 3-0 thrashing at raucous Atletico Madrid’s Metropolitano in the capital.

Those results have helped boost confidence for the final stretch of the season and culminated in a commanding performance in the French capital to end PSG’s 27-game unbeaten run. “There is still a lot ahead of us this season, but we should be proud to say that Barca is alive,” Xavi told reporters in Paris on Wednesday.

Suddenly, his side is a draw away from reaching the Champions League semis after failing to get past the last 16 in three consecutive seasons. Real visit Copa del Rey runners-up Mallorca on Saturday before their Champions League quarter-final return leg at Manchester City after being held at home 2-2. They top the standings on 75 points ahead of Barca with 67 and surprise package Girona (65), who on Saturday travel to an Atletico Madrid (58) side standing in fourth spot.

After Atleti’s 2-1 win in their Champions League quarter-final, first-leg at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, they host Girona knowing Copa del Rey winners Athletic Bilbao, who welcome Villarreal on Sunday, are two points off them in fifth.