Columnists, Soccer, Sports

Full-Time Focus: The last dance — possibly

The Champions League quarter final stage is when the intensity ramps up. With a big part of the season behind us, every team that is still in the competition poses a real threat. 

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

Fans can not be disappointed with how the drawings turned out, as each match promises to deliver compelling and contested soccer entertainment. Because of the new format, fans also are able to know how a hypothetical semifinals and final would look.

The winners of Paris Saint Germain versus Barcelona and Atletico Madrid versus Borussia Dortmund will play each other. Then, the winner of Real Madrid versus Manchester City and Arsenal versus. Bayern Munich will play in the other semifinal. 

The winner of each semifinal will play in the Champions League final. 

For today’s week, we will put the spotlight on a game where there is a lot in the line — Paris Saint Germain vs. Barcelona. 

In a way, what makes this game so attractive has nothing to do with both teams being European powerhouses. But more with the whole narrative that has been going on surrounding both clubs. 

Both PSG and Barcelona have not performed as well in European competitions during the last few years. This season especially, it seems like there are a lot of expectations being held over the administrations of both clubs. 

Starting with Paris, ever since the French club was purchased by the country of Qatar, money has been poured into the squad. From huge early signings like Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar — PSG did not hold back in building its squad. 

One of the main criticisms surrounding the French club is that, even with all the money and top notch players in the squad, the team has been unable to prove themselves in the Champions League.

 With all that said, PSG’s European ‘failure’ is not as bad as most people would think — they did manage to reach the final back in the 2019-2020 season. On top of that, they have completely dominated in domestic competitions. 

This year things seem to have reached their breaking point

Kylian Mbappe has been the face of the team inside and outside the field. Despite the club spending €265m on forwards last summer, Mbappe is still considered the main man on the squad. 

However, temptation to leave the Parc des Princes constantly hovers over the Frenchman’s head. There are several reasons for the general public to believe this is Mbappe’s final season in Paris. 

The Athletic reported in February that Mbappe has told PSG he will leave at the end of the season, and Luis Enrique has opted to replace the forward early for several games now. 

This means that this could possibly be the player’s last opportunity to bring home a Champions League title for PSG. 

On the other side is Barcelona. 

Ever since Messi’s exit, the Catalans have struggled to reestablish themselves as serious contenders for the European title. This is actually their first season since the Argentine left that they made it past the group stages. 

Barcelona is known for their tiki-taka style of play. Johan Cruyff brought in a new ideology into the sport during his time, and it seemed to have been perfected during Guardiola’s golden period. 

Head coach Xavi Hernandez had been one of the main protagonists to put this style of play into action on the field. 

Today, he plays a different role from the sidelines. When he stepped up to be the team’s coach, he shared his belief in the importance of keeping that same Barca ideology of playing a possession style of play.   

His time as a coach has been met with a lot of scrutiny, even though he brought the league title home last season, people are not content. 

The Champions League stands as one of Xavi’s last chances to prove himself a good fit as a coach for Barcelona. After a 5-3 home defeat to Villarreal, Xavi said that he will depart on June 30 following the conclusion of the La Liga season.

However, a lot of things could happen in this last stretch. What is for sure, is that that quarterfinals could mark the last dance of memorable figures for each club.

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