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Champions League: Key battles to look for in PSG v Barcelona

Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona has become one of the classic Champions League games over the years.

Never better than in 2017 of course, when Sergi Roberto’s last-second goal made the impossible possible for Barca.

The fixture that’s ahead has the opportunity of becoming the next memorable clash too.

PSG seem to be the favourites going into the match but, as plenty of teams have found out in cup clashes over the years, you underestimate the opposition at your peril.

If PSG wanted a reminder of that, they only need look to earlier this season when they were completely ripped apart by Newcastle at St. James’ Park.

On the night, the Magpies won all of the key battles, and there are three that could define the two matches that Barca have ahead of them, notwithstanding that Luis Enrique could spring a surprise in terms of formation and positioning.

Kylian Mbappe vs Jules Kounde

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The two French players know each other well and could well provide the narrative for both legs of the tie.

Mbappe still hasn’t announced his expected move to Real Madrid, and this will give the Catalans a chance to see him again up close and personal.

There aren’t too many defenders that can tame him when he’s on his game, as much for his actual speed as well as his speed of thought.

Kounde hasn’t been a fantastic signing for Barca but he does do some things wonderfully well, and he has the pace to match his countryman which could frustrate him over the two legs.

Barca don’t need anything fancy from the right back, just a calming presence and one that will defend as though his life depended on it.

Should Mbappe get past Kounde he still has Ronald Araujo to beat, and that’s as strong a right side of defence as he will have come up against this season.

Ousmane Dembele vs Joao Cancelo

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Photo by Aurelien Meunier – PSG/PSG via Getty Images

Since signing for PSG from Barca, Ousmane Dembele has been played right across the front three and even in behind a front two.

The fact that he can play with both feet equally well makes him a menace to his former club and his raiding could mean that Joao Cancelo’s wanderlust will have to take a back seat for 180 minutes.

Just as Kounde has Ronald Araujo as back-up behind him, Joao Cancelo has the excellent Pau Cubarsi in attendance, and between the pair, they can snuff out the threat from Dembele.

Moreover, if Cancelo can get forward on a regular basis, the Frenchman isn’t known for his tracking back so that area of the pitch could be fruitful for Xavi’s men.

Robert Lewandowski vs Lucas Hernandez

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Photo by Franco Arland/Getty Images

Lucas Fernandez is another who has been moved about by his manager, playing in various defensive positions across the campaign.

Given how strong he is aerially and in the tackle, it would be a huge surprise if Luis Enrique didn’t have him following around Robert Lewandowski like a dog with a bone.

Our Polish hit-man isn’t the most mobile these days, and he’s likely to find it incredibly difficult to get any change out of his marker.

However, he does still know where the goal is instinctively, and he only needs one chance.

If he gets the right service, you’d fancy him to come out on top of this one.

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