Feb 3, 2017

Lionel Mess, Luis Saurez and Neymar with Champions League Trophy

T he first knockout stage of the Champions League is less than a fortnight away, and once again, Barcelona are heavy favourites to lift the “big ears” at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff come June.However, Luis Enrique’s side haven’t been at their best this season. Their performances have fluctuated from brilliant one day to abysmal the other, hence pinning hopes on Barça winning their fourth Champions League in nine seasons might be a bit premature at this stage. If you are going to place your bets now, it would be prudent to opt to signup via Betting Expert to William Hill or any other bookmaker and take advantage of the best betting bonuses available.

Round of 16 preview
Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are Barça’s opponents in the round of 16, and given the considerable resources of Les Parisiens, there is very little to choose between the two sides.
Low-down on PSG
Unai Emery hasn’t had the perfect start to life at PSG, but his team are slowly getting into top gear. As it stands, PSG are third in Ligue 1 and have a battle on their hands to defend their league title. The Red and Blues had an unbeaten group stage campaign, but their failure to beat Arsenal home and away makes them the underdogs for the Barça tie.PSG spent heavily in the January transfer window, bringing in Julian Draxler and Gonçalo Guedes to bolster their ranks. However, Guedes is cup-tied for the Champions League, having already played in the competition for Benfica this season.

Recent record
Barça’s recent record against Paris has been nothing short of phenomenal. The two sides have met each other six times in the last four seasons, Barça winning thrice and losing only once. In the latest meeting between Barça and PSG in the 2014/15 quarter-finals, the Spaniards ran out 5-1 winners on aggregate. The Blaugrana went on to lift the treble that season.

Keys and stats
Barça scored the second highest number of goals in the group stages, while they conceded only four times. Lionel Messi is the competition’s top scorer with ten goals so far, and Neymar has the most number of Champions League assists this season.Behind Messi in the scoring charts is PSG’s star striker Edinson Cavani. Cavani has scored almost half of PSG’s goals this season; the Parisian’s over-reliance on the Uruguayan is a blessing as well as a cause for concern. Furthermore, Emery’s record against Barça is among the worst of his managerial career. He has won only once against the Blaugrana in 23 attempts, losing 16 times. However, this is the first time he will face Barça on a level playing field.

Expectations
Barça are the favourites to progress to the latter stages if they avoid a heavy loss at the Parc des Princes in the first leg. Injuries to Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets are concerning for Enrique, but Barça should have enough in them to get past an underperforming PSG side.

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