PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) host Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday with their Spanish coach Unai Emery desperate to improve his awful personal record against the Catalans.
Emery was brought to the French capital last year as the successor of Laurent Blanc in order to help take PSG to the next level in Europe after four consecutive quarter-final exits in the Champions League.
But finishing second in their group behind Arsenal exposed PSG to a tougher draw in the first knockout round and now they must beat the Spanish champions, just to make it to the last eight again.
Emery, the former Sevilla boss, has come up against Barcelona 23 times in his coaching career and won just once, in La Liga last season.
Paris, meanwhile, have been knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona twice in recent campaigns, losing in the quarter-finals in 2013 and again in 2015 to Lionel Messi and co.
“For me this is a good opportunity,” Emery told reporters at the Parc des Princes on Monday. “It is an important moment in the season because it is the Champions League which is a very clear objective for the club and it is against Barcelona.
“We want to be playing against the best teams in Europe and the world. I carry the responsibility, but we need to be positive, have confidence in the team, and confidence in our own ability.”
Barcelona travel to France buoyed by a crushing 6-0 win at Alaves in La Liga at the weekend. That result means Luis Enrique’s side have now lost just once in 22 games although it was overshadowed by an awful ankle injury suffered by right-back Aleix Vidal, which rules him out for the rest of the season.
Javier Mascherano and Arda Turan are sidelined too, although one man who could feature is Rafinha, who was named in the squad but will need a mask to protect a broken nose.
Barcelona are still fighting on three fronts, keeping alive the prospect of another La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble to match those achieved in 2009 and 2015.
“It’s not really something we talk about amongst ourselves but all the players have it in mind,” the club’s defender Lucas Digne told AFP. “As long as we are still in every competition, it is very important. This club is born to win trophies.”