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Though the Ligue 1 outfit bowed out of the competition, Ancelotti shall take the plaudits for his team’s top performance…

When the quarterfinal draw was announced, not many gave PSG much of a chance against arguably the best team on the planet – Barcelona. However, come the end of the second leg, the Catalan giants were made to sweat until the last kick of the ball to ensure their progression into the semi-finals for the seventh time in eight years.

Not many sides can boast of not being defeated over the course of two legs by Barcelona. Real Madrid did so this season in the Copa Del Rey, Chelsea did it twice – last season and back in 2008-09 under Guud Hiddink, so did Manchester United in 2007-08 season.

Messi changed the game - Ancelotti
The two ties saw PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti’s tactical nous come to the fore as he never allowed Barcelona to feel assured of making it into the final four. He has been one of the best managers over the last two decades and the performance by his team certainly highlighted his intelligence in moulding his side to the best effect.

In the first leg, he chose to deploy two strikers against Barcelona, hoping to cash in on their defensive woes by launching quick counterattacks. He fielded a 37-year old David Beckham in a quarter-back role where he excelled in the first half by sending in precise balls to the likes of Lucas Moura and Christophe Jallet on the break.

PSG could have easily taken a two-or three goal lead had their forwards, namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi not being wasteful upfront.

They pressed Barcelona high up the field and eventually managed to snatch a point off Barcelona’s nose thus giving them a chance in the second leg.

On Wednesday evening, Ancelotti, keeping in mind the size of the pitch at Camp Nou, chose not to start with Beckham and instead handed the talented Marco Verratti a chance to showcase his skills. And indeed he did!

ATTACKS
BARCELONA
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

23 TOTAL SHOTS
16
2 SHOTS ON TARGET
8
12 BLOCKED SHOTS
3
11 SHOTS FROM OUTSIDE THE BOX
7
12 SHOTS FROM INSIDE THE BOX 9
18% SHOT ACCURACY (%)
62%

Apart from playing a part in Javier Pastore’s goal in the second half, he was exceptional when in possession and did well to track back to win the ball for his side. He shielded the ball well from Sergio Busquets and never allowed the Spaniard to settle into the game.

Blaise Matuidi’s energy was missing because of his suspension but Thiago Motta did ever so well in stifling his former colleagues in the middle of the park. It wasn’t a surprising performance from the Italian as he has done so previously with Italy against Spain in Euro 2012 and against the Blaugrana for Inter.

In fact Barcelona couldn’t manage a single shot on goal from their 13 attempts in the first half while the visitors had five to their credit from nine shots.

The Parisians created the better openings and looked far more threatening than Tito Vilanova’s side who hadn’t been defeated at Camp Nou in the Champions League for the last 20 matches.

Once again, PSG didn’t take their chances in the first half and on the balance of play, should have gone 1-0 up at half-time.

Ancelotti must certainly be credited for choosing to attack Barcelona instead of sitting back and absorbing the pressure, something which his former side Milan failed to do in the round of 16. The Italian tactician attacked the space behind the Barcelona full-backs, who tend to join the attack often, and made life difficult for the home side. He realized that attack is the best form of defence when playing against Tito Vilanova’s side as it is difficult to stop them from not finding the back of the net. By focusing on his team’s strengths, his strategy paid dividends and shall have the Barcelona think-tank to scratch their heads in the business end of the season.

DUELS
BARCELONA
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
38% DUELS WON (%)
62%
23% AERIAL DUELS WON (%)
77%

TACKLES
BARCELONA
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
4 TACKLES
23
75% TACKLES WON (%)
74%

Even after the mercurial Lionel Messi came on the pitch for the final half hour, Barcelona did look purposeful when going forward but could manage just 2 shots on target till the end of the game. PSG won 77% of their aerial duels, made twice the number of interceptions than Barcelona. The fact that Barcelona had to make more clearances than the visitors only reflects the threat PSG possessed. When was the last time this happened?

In the end, it was the profligacy of his forward line which turned out to be the deciding factor as Ancelotti acknowledged by saying, “We were a little timid in the first leg and the result [2-2] was not good.”

Ancelotti’s reputation has been further enhanced despite PSG’s exit and their record in Europe this season only accentuates that further.

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