Barcelona take on Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday with manager Ronald Koeman all too aware of the threat posed by striker Kylian Mbappe.
The World Cup winner is the top scorer in the French top flight this season with 16 goals, has two goals and three assists in five Champions League outings in 2020-21, and may just be relishing taking on an injury-hit Barca defense.
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Koeman’s Talks Stopping Mbappe
Koeman spoke about the threat posed by the PSG striker at a news conference on Monday and explained how his team will try to handle the prolific 22-year-old at the Camp Nou.
Generally speaking, I’m not in favor of man-to-man marking these types of players. We know where we can play, we know where we have players who can play between the lines. We have to to be prepared to control Mbappe’s speed. It’s important for us when we have the ball to be defensively ready for when we lose the ball. I think that’s an important aspect for us tomorrow.
It’s a knockout match over two games. When you play the first leg away you have to get the best possible result, try to score, so I think they’ll be thinking along those lines. They are also a team that wants to dominate, we like to have the ball and play and create opportunities with the ball. For us to keep the scoresheet to nil for our opponents is very important.
Mbappe has gone two games without scoring for PSG, against Caen and Nice, but will know an away goal at the Camp Nou could prove crucial in the tie.
Barca have plenty of defensive injuries ahead of the match. Center-back Ronald Araujo will miss out and joins Sergi Roberto on the sidelines, while Gerard Pique has not featured since November but may make a shock return to the starting XI.
Koeman Talks Messi vs Mbappe
There’s no doubt that Mbappe will pose a huge threat to Barca, particularly with Neymar missing the first leg through injury, but the Catalan giants also have plenty of quality in attack too in the shape of captain Lionel Messi.
The 33-year-old warmed up for the game by scoring a brilliant brace against Alaves on Saturday, and Koeman says the Argentine will need to be at his very best if the Catalans are to progress to the quarter-finals.
I don’t think it’s a direct matchup between Messi and Mbappe. It’s a battle between two teams. Messi is the best player in the world and we’ll need him in his best form to win. For PSG, it’s Mbappe who is a very fast player, a player who can make things very complicated for any defense. We are going to have a beautiful game because you have to enjoy these players.
Messi is in a rich vein of goalscoring form going into the match. The Argentine has 19 for the season in all competitions and nine in his last nine matches.