Barcelona took a huge stride towards the Champions League semifinals after Luis Suarez scored twice in France to give the Catalan club a 3-1 win over home team Paris St. Germain on a big night of quarter final action.
Brazilian Neymar had given Barcelona a first half lead at a packed Parc des Princes, before the Uruguayan struck twice after the break to give Barcelona a two goal lead ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou next week.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique had to do without the suspended Dani Alvez, but still named a strong team, with the marquee trio of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar in attack; Iniesta, Rakitic, and Busquets in midfield; and Pique partnering Javier Mascherano in defense.
The home side had more challenges. With star striker Ibrahimovic suspended, along with Italian midfielder Veratti, and injuries to David Luiz and Barcelona old-boy Thiago Motta, PSG boss Laurent Blanc had to reshuffle his pack. In came Cabaye and Rabiot in midfield, Lavezzi upfront, and Marquinhos — who played right back against Chelsea in the last round — stepped into central defence alongside captain Thiago Silva.
Barcelona bossed possession from the off, and almost took the lead after 13 minutes, when Messi’s curled effort bounced back of Sirigu’s right hand post. It didn’t take too long after that, though.
Busquets won possession on the halfway line and fed Messi. The Argentine picked out Neymar in the PSG box, and he beat Sirigu to give Barcelona the lead.
PSG’s troubles mounted after 20 minutes, when Thiago Silva had to leave the field injured, replaced by the barely fit David Luiz. The French champions spent most of the first half penned back in their own half as Barcelona dominated the play, but they looked for opportunities on the break, and nearly crafted a good chance for Cavani after a Barcelona corner kick in the 27th minute. Matuidi and Lavezzi worked the ball quickly down the left flank, but Mascherano was well placed to deny Cavani and preserve Barcelona’s lead.
Cavani flicked another effort goalward from Maxwell’s 34th minute cross, but Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen was on hand to save.
The second half kicked off with PSG looking to take the initiative and force Barcelona back. Pastore tested Ter Stegen with a well struck effort from 20 yards after just three minutes, but the Barcelona keeper was up to the task. He also stopped another daisy cutter from Rabiot a couple of minutes later.
But, with Busquets dictating the tempo in midfield, Barcelona wrested back control of the game. Captain Iniesta was stretchered off injured shortly afterwards — replaced by the veteran Xavi — but Barcelona weren’t really threatening the PSG goal until Suarez settled the game with two moments of sheer genius.
With 25 minutes left on the clock, the Barcelona striker — a 75 million pound acquisition from Liverpool last summer — chased a ball down the right flank. David Luiz seemed to have him covered, but Suarez deftly slipped the ball between his legs and skipped into the PSG box. Two more touches took him past Marquinhos and Maxwell, before he placed a shot past Sirigu to double Barcelona’s advantage.
David Luiz was again on the receiving end 12 minutes later, when Suarez swapped passes with Mascherano, put the ball through the Brazilian’s legs again, and curled perfectly past Sirigu and into the top corner to give Barcelona a three-goal lead.
Barcelona’s French defender, Mathieu, deflected van der Wiel’s low shot past his own keeper to get PSG on the scoresheet in the closing stages, but the French club face an uphill task to overturn Barcelona’s two goal lead when the two clubs meet again in Spain on Tuesday.
Luis Enrique isn’t taking anything for granted, though. According to the club website, the Barcelona manager told reporters as much after the match.
“PSG will have their suspended players back for the return leg, so I’m sure it’ll be a difficult match. The tie is not decided. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all over, because it isn’t.”
Still, it’s advantage Barcelona.