Pedri, Gündogan and the key for Barcelona to overcome the pressure of PSG in the Champions League

He Barcelona has reached moment of truth against PSG. Their good game in Paris in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals and the favorable result (2-3) must continue tonight in Montjuïc to be able to say that the Barça team has returned to the nobility of football. “Seeing the fans excited again is a success,” said Xavi. “We are excited, we know it is a great opportunity,” added the coach. Achieve qualification for the semifinals, get among the four best on the continent, and also eliminate one of the “greats” of the moment, with Mbappe in their ranks, the best player in the world, would be a huge leap compared to recent years in a team that moves between Pedri and Gundogan.

The German player is the expert, the one who has seen these battles a thousand times, without going any further than last year, in which ended up lifting the “Orejona” with Manchester City. Gündogan truly rested for the first time last Saturday against Cádiz. He has had minutes in the other 44 games that Barça has played this season adding up all the competitions, being a starter in 38 and having played a full 28, including an extra time in the Cup. “He is a spectacular player. Since the preseason I already knew: the first checks, the first passes… He makes them all Well, I learn a lot from him in training, and although people don't see it, that's where you learn a lot,” confessed Pedri, who is on the other side of the equation, in that of almost inexperience in the Champions Leagueat least in the crossroads: he played the two round of 16 games of 2020-21 precisely against PSG, the first leg of the round of 16 against Naples this season and half an hour in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

“I prefer to play 80 minutes at 100% and when I can't anymore ask for a change”

In total there are 21 appearances in the top continental competition. “This match and the semi-finals of the Euro Cup with the national team are the most important ones I have played in, I hope there are more to come,” confessed the Canarian, who looks ready to go from the start. “I feel strong and, above all, eager. I prefer to play eighty minutes at one hundred percent. Until I get it, I will give it my all, and if I can't take it anymore, I will ask for a change,” he acknowledged. He is not afraid of relapse due to continuous muscle injuries and he has not needed the help of a psychologist in this process, although it is not something that he rules out for the future either. “With the club's readapters, when a match situation arrives I have already repeated it four or five times in training and that is why you feel comfortable,” he explained. The pass of the goal in the Parque de los Príncipes, for example, was with a gesture similar to the one he broke in San Mamés the last time. “All those who are called up are prepared, they can play 90 minutes. We'll see when he plays, but Pedri has to be very important,” Xavi insisted.

Pedri and Gündogan can play both at the base of the play and near the area. “At the base you touch more of the ball and you can help create the game. At the top it's more about the team bringing you the ball and you giving the last pass. I like both positions,” Pedri described. The duel with PSG will be for the two of them and De Jong to be brave, due to Luis Enrique's way of playing. “The midfielders have to make a living because they make individual markings: they have to feint and feint to make room for themselves,” said Xavi. In the first leg, Fabián was the shadow of Sergi Roberto, Vitinha that of Gündogan and Kang-In Lee that of De Jong. That forced Ter Stegen to play many long balls (24, a record, according to Luis Enrique, of what he boasted about for denaturalizing his rival), directly to Lewandowski, who, especially in the first half, won practically all of them. Later he had it more difficult, when Marquinhos was central. The Brazilian this time will play in his natural place because The French team recovers Achraf for the right side, which will make other pieces fit. Barcola, who played in the second half in Paris and did a lot of damage, this time will act from the beginning.