PSG, who get rid of Barca, is not going to erase the well-known “Remontada” from historical past however will permit the Parisians to maneuver on
It happened four years ago, but sometimes it still feels like it was yesterday. For Paris Saint-Germain, it’s an ugly, painful scar that will always be there regardless of what happens in the Champions League last 16 against Barcelona on Wednesday. They beat Blaugrana 4-1 in the first leg but the draw doesn’t seem to be over. On March 8, 2017, the Catalans celebrated the most memorable comeback in football history, beating Parisians 6-1 at Camp Nou after losing 4-0 in the first leg at Parc des Princes.
Four years later, both teams have changed a lot. Both managers tonight (Unai Emery for PSG, Luis Enrique for Barcelona) have since moved to other jobs and most of the two teams have changed as well, but there are still many connections to that fateful night. Marquinhos, Layvin Kurzawa, Marco Verratti, Julian Draxler, Presnel Kimpembe and Angel Di Maria are still at PSG, as are Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and Lionel Messi. are still at Barca.
Neymar, who will miss the second leg with a thigh problem like in the first leg, has swapped sides. Rafinha too. Both started for Barca that night, with Neymar acting as the hero with his hat trick. The Brazilian international admitted in July 2019 that the “Remontada” was “one of the two best moments of” [his] Career “which, as you can imagine, did not go over well with PSG fans.
Whatever happens on Wednesday, it won’t change that night in 2017, but for the Parisians it would allow them to turn the page once they take out the giants of La Liga after first destroying them on their soil and then quit the job at home for everyone. The message this year is definitely not to think about 2017.
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“You play with the ‘Remontada’,” PSG defender Abdou Diallo replied on Saturday when asked about the game. “It was before. There are new players and it’s completely different now. Today there is no more stress.”
We can believe the defender who joined the club more than two years after that epic loss, but the fact that most of the players who have been there still refuse to talk about that night shows how painful that memory is. Kurzawa, for example, was there.
“The last game I played in Barcelona was a nightmare,” he said. “Some of us were there that night and we swore we’d never go through that again. That’s why we were so focused in the first leg. I knew we weren’t going to lose. I could feel how committed everyone was.” “”
The Camp Nou win three weeks ago was so important that mentally – casting out the demons of 2017 – was just as important as booking her spot in the quarterfinals.
Marco Verratti’s PSG were hit by their historic breakdown in Barcelona in 2017. Getty Images
As before the first leg, PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino was very intelligent in his communication before this second leg. His focus was on calming his squad. After the masterclass of his team in the first leg, everyone in the club knows that they are in a strong position. You are confident. Of course, he knows what happened at Camp Nou four years ago. He was watching the game on TV and was stunned. PSG’s whole approach to the game was wrong; There was a sense of doubt within the club and the country, even a bit of fear, and Pochettino picked it up in his own preparations for the game.
“I’ve only been here two months but I have found that there is a terrible panic in France as we approach certain games in terms of injuries and preparation,” he told the media last weekend. Therefore, his message to his players and fans through the press was very positive. “We are not affected by what happened in the past. We came here with a free spirit and without prejudice.
“Living in the past limits your future options. It brings negativity. We come with a new energy and believe we will qualify. In football, one belief brings you closer to victory.”
In that sense, Pochettino’s pre-game talk was very different from Emery’s in 2017. He also scored an epic win in the first leg, but had a lot of responsibility in humiliating the second leg. Today’s Villarreal manager still remembers the “Remontada”.
“We can look at a lot of details, but if I started at the end I would change referees [Deniz Aytekin] and that’s all, “said Emery.” We came back to 3-1, then we missed the chance to 3-2 and there was a clear penalty for Di Maria that wasn’t given. There are circumstances that you cannot control in a game. Especially the Barcelona players [Luis] Suarez kept falling into the box, putting pressure on the referee until he fell into their trap. “
Maxwell and Thiago Motta weren’t on the pitch that evening. Emery kept the left-back out of the squad while the defensive midfielder was injured. They saw history being made from their position in the stands.
“Our experience would have been useful, especially given the referee, but it was so difficult to get through,” said Maxwell. Like Emery, Motta accuses Aytekin. “It’s punishment and red card for [Javier] Mascherano for his actions against Di Maria. Then the last two goals, we won’t admit them. It’s my worst memory in Paris. “
Perhaps Aytekin will watch the game on TV from his Bavarian home on Wednesday, as it is a distant memory for him too to direct a game of this caliber and importance. Since that night in March 2017, he has not looked after a knockout game in the Champions League. This season he was responsible for only two games in the German second division.
A lot has happened since that night in Barcelona. PSG reached a Champions League final last season, although Barca are still waiting for the first since 2015. The Catalans have since had five managers (Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and now Ronald Koeman), PSG three (Emery, Thomas Tuchel), Pochettino). At home, both were very strong, as always. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have arrived in Paris, Suarez has left Barcelona and Messi could do the same this summer. Joan Laporta is the new president of the Spanish giants and would like to start another “Remontada” in the club’s second stint. If Koeman & Co. could do it, it would be even bigger than 2017.
All PSG want now is to qualify and move on.