- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Luis Enrique will celebrate his 50th match in charge of Barcelona as the club welcomes Paris Saint-Germain for the second leg of its Champions League quarterfinal.

In that time, the relatively undemonstrative Spaniard has steered his team to 41 wins, three draws and five losses, with 141 goals scored and just 31 conceded - better statistics than any predecessor, including Pep Guardiola, Johan Cruyff and even the locally revered Helenio Herrera.

Among the keys to Enrique’s success have been his gritty determination to brush aside criticism or disputes and concentrate on the game ahead, steely patience and an ability to imbue his squad with self-belief.

These assets have helped the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and - most recently - Luis Suarez all recover from dips in form.

Barcelona, which has won 24 of its last 31 Champions League matches and lost just one, needs to defend a 3-1 away lead.

PSG will need to be at its strongest if it hopes to dent the host’s run of nine home games undefeated in this competition.

Here are some things to know about Tuesday’s game:


400 UP

Messi’s goalscoring rate keeps breaking new ground, and at just 27-years-old it’s tantalizing to consider how far it could go.

After scoring in Saturday’s hard-fought 2-0 league win against Valencia, Messi thanked teammates’ and fans’ support on his Facebook page.

“400 goals for FC Barcelona, and I hope to score many more! However the most important part is that we got 3 points from a really tough game.”

Of those goals, 317 were struck with his left foot, 65 with his right, 17 were headers, one was chested in and one - not unlike his hero Diego Maradona - was scored with his hand.



Pressure will be on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti, both back from one-match suspensions, to prove that it was their absence that PSG felt most keenly in its 3-1 first-leg loss and to make the difference in the return leg at the Camp Nou.

Verratti should slot in alongside the indefatigable Blaise Matuidi to strengthen PSG’s midfield.

The Italy international’s feisty creativity, assured ball possession and low center of gravity on darting runs should pose a far greater puzzle for Sergio Busquets than Adrien Rabiot, the 20-year-old stand-in for PSG last week, whose loss of the ball to Busquets started the movement that led to Neymar’s opening goal for Barcelona.

Rabiot remains in Laurent Blanc’s 20-man squad for the return leg and could again see action, as ex-Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta - who normally would be first-choice to play in front of the PSG defense - is making his way back from injury and is not in the squad.

Blanc can also try again with Yohan Cabaye in that deep-lying midfield position, although the France international appeared overwhelmed at times in the first leg by the complexity of the attacking combination of Neymar, Suarez and Messi.

Captain Thiago Silva has not recovered from a thigh injury suffered less than 20 minutes into the first leg and didn’t travel to Barcelona.

That reduces the likelihood of Blanc moving David Luiz up to the midfield holding role, because the Brazil defender will be needed at the heart of PSG’s back four.



Enrique stood firm, looked impassive and made it clear he was the boss when Neymar appeared to lose his temper as he was substituted during Barcelona’s 2-2 draw at Sevilla last weekend.

Neymar’s father, Neymar da Silva, said his son had spoken with the coach and the two were “on speaking terms again.”

Da Silva said his son “is young, still learning and will soon learn from these lessons.”

It was clear that part of Neymar’s anger was prompted by Suarez’s poor form during the match.

However, the Uruguay forward scored twice in the first leg at PSG and once on Saturday against Valencia, emphasizing Enrique’s choice.

Enrique’s squad will benefit from Andres Iniesta’s return to fitness.



Ibrahimovic returns to familiar ground at the Camp Nou, where he had a complicated season in 2009-10 before moving to AC Milan.

With his giant size and swagger, the Swede will be expected to weigh far more heavily on Barcelona’s defense than Edinson Cavani, who missed a sitter in the first leg and again proved a pale understudy to Ibrahimovic in the center of PSG’s attack.

With Ibrahimovic the first name on his teamsheet, the question is who else Blanc will field to get the minimum of three goals that PSG needs to have any hope of going through to the semifinal draw.

Javier Pastore, voted Ligue 1 player of the month in March, was among PSG’s better performers against Barcelona and scored twice in the 3-1 league victory at Nice on Saturday. But Pastore also was guilty of squandering opportunities in the first leg.

The Argentina international could play on the right, reprising a front three of Cavani-Ibrahimovic-Pastore that Blanc fielded with success in one of PSG’s highest-pressure matches this season: a 3-2 derby win away at Marseille on April 5.

If PSG is still hunting for goals in the second half at the Camp Nou, Blanc could bring Argentina forward Ezequiel Lavezzi and Brazil’s Lucas Moura off the bench to trouble tired defenders with their speed. Or Blanc could go all-out, picking a forward-thinking three from Cavani, Pastore, Lucas and Lavezzi to add firepower to Ibrahimovic up front and leave Verratti and Matuidi with the unenviable task in midfield of keeping Messi and Co. under wraps.


John Leicester in Paris contributed to this preview.

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