Di Maria inspires PSG to 4-0 rout of Barcelona

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Paris Saint-Germain will face Barcelona's mighty strike force without its best defender and talismanic captain, after Thiago Silva was ruled out of the first leg of their Champions League knockout match on Tuesday.

Former Sevilla coach Unai Emery, a three-time Europa League victor, was appointed to improve upon PSG's record in the Champions League and the Spaniard has them on course for the quarterfinals courtesy of two goals in each half from a side playing without the influence and experience of Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta.

Barcelona's first chance of the game came on 27 minutes when Neymar picked up the ball on the half-way line and drove at PSG.

Even with the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar on the field the Catalans really struggled to grab a foothold on proceedings and were eventually made to pay.

The Barca boss will have to decide whether Andres Iniesta, who reappeared as a substitute in Vitoria, is fit to start or whether he will again bring him on from the bench, in which case Ivan Rakitic or Denis Suarez will start alongside Andre Gomes.

Marco Verratti's return from injury in Bordeaux was most welcome given Thiago Motta's European absence. They remain, as they have done all season, favourites for the Champions League. We'll just have to play better than them and win.

Barcelona are without three first-team players in Javier Mascherano, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan.

PSG have never kept a clean sheet against Barcelona (9 games, all competitions).

Cristiano Ronaldo has won three of the past four, drawing within one of Messi; you wonder if there's at least one household in suburban Madrid where you'll hear the sound of champagne being uncorked if PSG upend Barcelona.

The last time these two sides faced each other in 2015, Barcelona eliminated PSG after registering a 5-1 aggregate win.

Presnel Kimpembe is the natural choice but the 21-year-old is yet to make an appearance in the Champions League and Emery could consider to use instead a more experienced option to stop Messi and co in the shape of right-back Serge Aurier.

The Ligue 1 champions refused to allow Barcelona a moment to rest and the hosts scored their third in the 55th minute when Di Maria found space on the edge of the box before curling a sensational left-footed effort past Ter Stegen.

But the current season has been one when Marquinhos has been able to finally nail down a spot for himself in the PSG first team, becoming an ever present in the heart of the defence.


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