PSG vs. Barcelona: Kylian Mbappe, Warren Zaire-Emery and the players Xavi must watch out for

Written by on April 8, 2024

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Paris Saint-Germain host Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals first leg this coming Wednesday at Parc des Princes in the pair’s first continental meeting since early 2021 when the French giants ran out 4-1 winners in leg one. Much has changed since then and not least the fact that Barca’s scorer that night, none other than Lionel Messi, went on to play in Paris for two seasons while Ousmane Dembele has swapped sides and now plays for Luis Enrique’s men — also a former Barca man. It promises to be a spectacular tie over two legs with the winner going up against Atletico Madrid or Borussia Dortmund in the semifinals which could make any potential PSG run against exclusively La Liga opponents in the knockout phase.

But who are the players Barca must be most concerned with?

Kylian Mbappe

Unsurprisingly, Barcelona’s biggest threat could be a player that they are about to see a lot more of with Kylian Mbappe expected to join bitter rivals Real Madrid as a free agent this summer. The 25-year-old has six UCL goals from eight outings and scored twice in the 2-1 win away at Real Sociedad last time out to take his overall club haul to 38 goals and five assists across all competitions. Mbappe is PSG’s talisman despite an on-off relationship with Luis Enrique at present given his desire to leave Parc des Princes this summer. A shot at Champions League glory before departing will absolutely appeal to Mbappe and for that reason alone, he will be the main threat for Barcelona to handle next week given his ability to hurt any team in world soccer.

Ousmane Dembele

The next major threat is an extremely familiar face in Dembele who only swapped Barcelona for Paris last summer and is already making himself at home in the French capital providing Mbappe with much of his ammunition. Although the France international is still lacking the finished product on occasions — which will surprise none of his former teammates and staff — he is absolutely capable of turning it on for the biggest games and this certainly qualifies. Coming up against former clubs can often be motivating and that seems likely to be the case for Dembele who had a generally mixed relationship with Barca before his exit.

Bradley Barcola

An injury concern coming into this one although he is back in training, Bradley Barcola is unlikely to start against Barca so comes in behind Dembele and Mbappe. However, the French talent is capable of giving any defense twisted blood and the Catalans will be no different when they visit Paris. If Luis Enrique can align the 21-year-old, he will need to show greater consistency in front of goal than he has for most of this season although he did score in the first-leg win over Sociedad which hints at an uptick in clinical finishing. Versatile across the attack but likely to feature wide on the left with the ability to cut in, Barcola will stretch Barcelona’s defense if he is able to get onto the field and involved.

Warren Zaire-Emery

Only just 18 yet one of the most exciting talents in world soccer, Warren Zaire-Emery is a France international and expected to feature at this summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 as well as the Olympic Games. Thanks to a string of mature and composed showings, the homegrown Parisien star is emerging as one of the stars in this PSG team and his battle for midfield supremacy with the likes of Frenkie de Jong will be fascinating to watch as it unfolds as it will likely go a long way towards deciding the game. Xavi, as a former midfield maestro himself, will no doubt have urged his troops to be extra attentive to Zaire-Emery.

The post PSG vs. Barcelona: Kylian Mbappe, Warren Zaire-Emery and the players Xavi must watch out for first appeared on CBS Sports.

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