Lionel Messi came off the bench to get Barcelona out of a hole into the last four of the Champions League
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Peep! Peep! Peep! Barcelona are through!
90 min+4: PSG have a throw-in on the right after a collision between Alba and Van der Wiel. It's hurled in long - and cleared. That should be that.
90 min+3: Now they can... It's lumped forward towards Ibrahimovic. Barca are hemmed in. It's played out wide and swung into the box where Ibrahimovic's looping header is easily held by Valdes.
90 min+2: PSG still can't get a kick.
90 min: Four minutes of the added stuff, people. Barcelona plan to keep the ball for the entirety of stoppage time. How rude.
89 min: Beckham has been booked for chuntering too much about a free-kick to Barcelona. This has been expert timewasting from the home side.
88 min: PSG make their final change. Gregory van der Wiel is on for Jallet.
87 min: Oh my word. Iniesta diddles his way into the area from the left. He's faced by Alex and has Jallet up his back. What to do, what to do? Here's what to do: drag the ball back behind you with the outside of your boot, spinning as you do to send the two defenders skittering off in the general direction of Madrid. Unfortunately Iniesta can only slash his shot high into the side-netting.
86 min: Silva is booked after taking out Messi on the halfway line. He'll be suspended if PSG go through. PSG are being lured into giving away cheap free-kicks.
84 min: Barcelona respond by replacing David Villa with Alex Song. Villa takes around 50 seconds to walk off.
83 min: PSG throw on David Beckham for Marco Verratti. You know it, I know it.
82 min: Gameiro's first act is to send a tame shot well over from 25 yards out. Barcelona's fans seem relaxed. Too relaxed. This isn't over.
81 min: Kevin Gameiro replaces Lavezzi for PSG. "Barcelona are a one genius team," notes Ian Copestake.
80 min: Lavezzi will miss the next game if PSG go through after catching Alba.
79 min: "Holland, after the way they played in South Africa, should never have changed their tactics for the final," says Brad McMillan. "Italy, after years of being supposedly weaker, bottled it in Ukraine last year. In the big games, Spain look weak, but nobody else steps up. I'm not saying they're not a good team, and of course history is written by the winners, but I just won't remember them fondly the way I will other international teams." How did Holland play in South Africa? They were very lucky to get to the final and barely played well in any game. Italy were outclassed in the final. I'm struggling to remember when they have looked weak in a big game; they've never lost one!
78 min: Barcelona's goal seems to have knocked the stuffing out of PSG. They haven't been able to muster up much of a response since then. Get Beckham on. They'll be kicking themselves though because they should have two or three up by the time Messi came on. That Pastore chance...
77 min: Messi's contribution to this match is almost enough to make you wonder if he's even better than Gareth Bale.
75 min: "So two assists and one goal from Zlatan against Barcelona so far," says Leif Ove Lindgren. "Not too bad for a "big-game bottler", eh?"
*One offside goal.
73 min: The difference since Messi has come off the bench has been astonishing.
Barcelona get out of jail with a wonderful goal! And would you believe that this goal is all about Messi, who provided the impetus for the move with a trademark dribble. He wriggled through the middle, past a couple of PSG defenders, and then slid a pass through to Villa. It looked like he had lost control of the ball but he managed to flick it pack to Pedro, who absolutely hammered a left-footed shot through the bodies and into the left-corner before Sirigu could even thinking about moving.
70 min: I cannot stress enough how useless Dani Alves has been in attacking positions tonight. He hasn't done anything right.
69 min: "Can Lucas Moura finish?" says Niall Mullen. "Because if he can....woof!"
66 min: Pastore is such a threat. He lopes forward again but drags his low left-footer wide of the left post from 20 yards out.
65 min: And PSG are having to defend properly for the first time in the evening. When the corner comes in, the ball falls to Pique, whose shot is desperately blocked with Sirigu stranded. Moments later, Iniesta plays a one-two with Villa on the left of the area and his first-time curler with his right foot is brilliantly beaten out by Sirigu. The rebound falls to Messi but he can't sort his feet out quickly enough.
64 min: Suddenly it feels like the complexion of the tie has changed. Alba's subtle touch has Iniesta charging into the area on the left but Alex's superb tackle takes his shot over the bar!
63 min: "Obviously Spain would be better with Messi, not just because he is probably the best footballer ever (and would therefore improve any team), but because he's probably the missing link in their system," says Andrew Mullinder. "But let's not forget, Spain has the best set of individuals in the world by miles. Rather than just listing the greats we all know about, how about this: none of Mata, Michu, Cazorla and Silva, four of the best ten players in the EPL, are guaranteed starters. Rather says something, doesn't it?"
62 min: Now PSG might be feeling a bit more nervous. Messi is on, replacing Fabregas. He had a miserable night. Marc Bartra is also on for Adriano.
61 min: Barcelona's shooting has been dreadful. Alba hangs up a cross to the far post. It evades everyone but Alves judges it perfectly. He takes it down and then wonks his shot high and wide when he had a clear sight of goal. Dear me.
60 min: Ibrahimovic hits the free-kick straight at Valdes.
59 min: Barcelona are a total mess. From the resulting goal-kick, Valdes gifts possession straight back to PSG, who eventually win a free-kick after a foul by Adriano, who injures himself in the process.
58 min: That could have been the tie in the bag. On the left, Ibrahimovic waits and waits and waits for support. When it arrives in the shape of Pastore he slices Barcelona's defence open with one pass, only for the midfielder to skew his effort wide on the run from the middle of the area! He had more time than he thought. What a chance.
57 min: Fabregas cuts a ball back to Villa on the edge of the area. He pulls a cross-shot wide, albeit off Alex's knee. The referee gives a goal-kick. Oh dear. "I'd say mourhino was snuck into the PSG dressing at half time in a
trolley to tell them what to do," says Anthony O'Connell. "Only problem is barca have a plan B sitting on the bench who'll most likely be on very soon to sort the mess out!"
56 min: There are passengers in this Barcelona side. They look very predictable. "I'll put my neck on the line and assume you mean Messi's missing," says Brad McMillan. "That's been Spain's problem also. As good as they were between 2008 and 2010, I believe they won the last, or possibly the last two international tournaments on reputation." I don't know about that. Who was supposed to beat them?
54 min: Messi has decided to warm up. This is critical for Barcelona. They're doing bugger-all and PSG know that they can score again.
53 min: Barcelona are ragged. From the left Ibrahimovic tries to play a pass into the middle for Lavezzi. The pass doesn't quite have enough on it though and Adriano gets back to boot it away.
52 min: Messi's not come on yet, mind you.
But for a small pocket of PSG supporters, the Nou Camp has just gone very, very quiet. This is a superb goal. Pastore plays a pass to Ibrahimovic, who spots that the Argentinian has continued his run beyond the Barcelona defence, which is so high. Pique doesn't step up and Ibrahimovic coaxes a wonderful pass into his path. Pastore sprints elegantly clear of Alves and then dinks a cool shot over the advancing Valdes with his left foot! Messi has decided he's coming on.
49 min: Fabregas steps past Pastore but his shot from 20 yards out is awful.
48 min: Maxwell clips a dangerous cross to the far post but Alba superbly heads clear under pressure. "Sorry, Justin Kavanagh, but I can't convincingly call anyone 'son.'," says Matt Dony. "Including my son. And I present Michael Angelo Batio, who plays guitar to a ludicrous level right handed AND left handed. Although, admittedly, he makes soulless, guitar-onanism, boring twaddle. So it's not a strong defence."
47 min: Another Barcelona corner is headed away. I genuinely don't know why they bother sticking it in the mixah. Who do they think's going to score?
46 min: Here we go again. Barcelona, kicking from right to left, get the second half underway. Messi remains on the bench.
"The great thing about the online feed of the match here in the States is that THE BOOTH MIKES ARE OPEN," says Jerry Slaff. "Someone's making fun of how the announcers pronounced Ibrahimovich's name, and someone else is humming a tune. Aside from the general tech chatter. It's Gary Neville's mike that's open, by the way." There's potential for farce there.
Barcelona didn't have a shot on target in the first half. There's something missing. I just can't quite put my finger on it.
"The Dutch commentator just noted that Fabregas's hat-trick on the weekend was the first by a Barcelona player other than Messi since October 2009," says Aisling Daly. "In which time Messi has scored 20 hat-tricks. Twenty!"
Peep! Peep! And that's the end of an engrossing half. It has to be said that PSG have been the better side but they haven't been able to take a number of key players. Barcelona, funnily enough, are missing the best player in the world, who's been getting increasingly restless on the touchline.
45 min+1: There will be one more minute of this.
45 min: Iniesta skedaddles through the middle again. His pass is cut out but runs to Villa anyway. His pass round the corner almost gets Fabregas in but it's desperately hacked behind for a corner. It comes to nothing.
44 min: Alves's delivery from the right flank has been appalling. "Has that ref just come up with a great approach to dealing with timewasting fake injuries?" says David Flynn. "Don't let the player back on until there's a break in play so you condemn your team to playing with ten men or your own team has to put it out and hand the ball back to the opposition. So simple."
43 min: Ibrahimovic wins the debate - did that need saying? - and slams the free-kick into the wall. "Thank goodness Matt Dony wasn't around in the 60's," says Justin Kavanagh. "He'd be stood at the front of a Jimi Hendrix gig telling him to hold his guitar the right way up, and 'play it proper like, with your right hand, son!'"
42 min: Adriano will miss the next game after being booked for a preposterous challenge on the excellent Lucas Moura. PSG have a free-kick around 30 yards out. They're having an executive meeting over who'll take it.
41 min: Iniesta dashes away from Jallet as if he wasn't there - that little body-swerve to get rid of defenders is just divine - and finds Fabregas 30 yards from goal. His eyes light up but unfortunately the goal doesn't get any taller.
40 min: Lucas Moura has a wonderful, leggy stride. Along with Pastore, he's causing a lot of problems. Triffic players, the pair of them.
38 min: This is the first Barcelona attack of any note for some time. Pedro slides a pass into Xavi on the edge of the area. He befuddles the PSG defence by dummying it to Villa, who turns away from Silva and then slashes high and wide from the edge of the area with his left foot. He was off-balance as he hit it. Barcelona just seem to be a bit hurried when they're in the area. It's as if no one else has been allowed to shoot for the last couple of years.
37 min: The camerman keeps cutting longingly and wistfully to Leo Messi on the bench.
36 min: Villa scampers down the left and flashes in a cross. There's no one in the middle. Oh. "Also, the whole Beckham getting in celebration photos thing, which he does do....Isn't he copying David May's idea?" ponders Elliot Carr-Barnsley. "David May! Also, Jose Bosingwa did an absolutely marvellous job of it in the Champions League final." At least Bosingwa played.
35 min: PSG would not be so aggressive if Messi was on the pitch. That is all. It also helps that Barcelona have Adriano at centre-back.
34 min: From the first corner, Ibrahimovic can't quite make contact with the cross and it's cleared behind for another. Alex throws himself at it but only succeeds in putting it out for a Barcelona throw.
33 min: Pastore tries to find Moura hurtling through on the right of the area. It's a tight contest between him and Alba and one that ends with a PSG corner.
32 min: Dani Alves is back on with his new boots. The first thing he does is fall over.
31 min: There's Dani Alves! He's off for the time being because he's putting new boots on. "That pass by Alves in the first leg was, indeed, astonishing, but is it really better to go for such a technical, high risk pass rather than simply, y'know, using his other foot? It should've been his left," says Matt Dony. Professional footballers really should be able to use both feet." But the spin was what fooled the PSG defence.
29 min: From the resulting corner, Alex's down-and-up header is pushed wide by Valdes - but a free-kick is given for offside against the PSG attacker who was standing in front of the Barcelona goalkeeper, who might feel he is being kept a bit too busy out there.
28 min: PSG are the more threatening side here, you know. Barcelona keep losing the ball in dangerous positions. When it happens again, Pastore plays Lavezzi in on the left. His low centre is cleared by Busquets in the six-yard box. But moments later, PSG are on the attack again. Where's Dani Alves gone? Ibrahimovic runs through on the left and lifts a fine cross to the far post where Moura's header is pushed wide by Valdes.
27 min: "But isn't that the reason we all watch, we don't know what'll happen, but we all hope something great will indeed manifest itself?" says Colin Sebastian. "No one knew United would score two at the Camp Nou in '99. No one knew Liverpool would come back in Istanbul. But those fans hoped like hell it would happen and when it did it was euphoric." Yes, that's why I said it.
24 min: Iniesta is ridiculous. With three PSG defenders surrounding him, he sends them all skittering off into the distance with a wonderful turn on the spot. His shot takes a deflection though and Sirigu holds easily. From there PSG attack and what a chance this is! Ibrahimovic is given too much space 30 yards from goal and he slides it through for Lavezzi. This time Alba isn't quick enough to clear but Valdes saves Lavezzi's toepoke with his legs! PSG might feel they should be ahead.
23 min: This is exceptional defending from Jordi Alba. Alves loses the ball ponderously and Lavezzi curls an instant pass over the top of the Barcelona defence for Ibrahimovic to run on to. Alba, though, sprints back out of nowhere to head the ball to Valdes and safety.
21 min: This is a really good game. On the left, Pedro speeds past Jallet on the outside and drills a low cross into the six-yard box. Diving down, Sirigu pushes it out and for a moment it looks like it's going to fall to Xavi until Silva pokes it away from him. It deflects back to Pedro but he can only prod a volley into the side-netting.
20 min: "You'd have to worry if the bench-bound Beckham has the legs to get into the celebration photo quickly enough, should PSG score here," says Justin Kavanagh. You know, the last time he played a Champions League tie against Barcelona here, it finished 3-3. It's an omen.
19 min: Lucas Moura has another effort from distance. It's well over though, but PSG are playing some confident football. "In response to Gary Naylor's email, I'm surprised that the suits at UEFA haven't yet introduced a league format into the knockout stage," says Simon McMahon. "It'd be like the group stage but with just two teams playing each other 3 times home and away, with the team finishing on top progressing to the next stage. If the teams are tied on points then they could play each other again home and away to determine the winner. The final could be a best of seven game series played in Qatar in June."
17 min: Alves clips a cross into the area. It's just behind Villa and his snapshot on the turn is deflected behind. That might be his first touch.
15 min: PSG threaten again. They'll be encouraged. Lavezzi drops the shoulder, rolling past Busquets easily, and sends the ball high into the stand from the edge of the area. It opened up for him there, just for moment.
14 min: Jallet does well to prod the ball to Lucas Moura on the edge of the area. His low fizzer is well held by Valdes, plunging down to his right.
13 min: "Adriano at centre back?" says Thierry Salvet. "With Song on the bench? Well, I guess it hasn't panned out how he thought it would yet..." It was an odd signing.
12 min: Fabregas pings a pass from left to right, looking for Pedro. He cuts inside and uses the overlapping Alba as a decoy. His shot is blocked though. PSG don't keep it long. Motta loses the ball and from 45 yards out Iniesta tries to catch out Sirigu, who was off his line. The ball flies a few yards over. He only did that because Beckham's watching.
11 min: Based on these opening 10 minutes, you feel this one would be a formality for Barcelona with a fit Messi. But he's not fit, is he, so it's still up in the air.
10 min: "I myself take an hour and a half to get ready in the morning (ladies!)," myselfs Ryan Dunne. "A lot of that's moisturising time tho."
8 min: PSG are bewildered by the blur of moment. Barcelona tiki and taka their way towards the area, the ball finding its way to Fabregas. He holds off a couple of challenges and then slips a pass into the area for Iniesta. He spanks a low shot goalwards but Alex deflects it behind for a corner, which comes to nothing.
7 min: Fabregas finds space on the edge of the PSG area but slips as he shoots and it goes wide. He claims he was clipped as he shot but there wasn't much in it. It must be a slick surface.
6 min: Joey Barton will have enjoyed this farcical episode. PSG had a free-kick just outside their own area, which should have been taken by Sirigu. Instead Thiago Silva dashed across to take it. I don't know why. But he slipped in clownish fashion as he went to hit the ball. What the! Legally he can't touch the ball again but he has to spring up quickly and boot the ball clear with Fabregas speeding in to seize possession. All of which means another free-kick for Barcelona. It's a bit closer from where Xavi went close, but this one is blocked.
4 min: What a chance for Lavezzi! Busquets dwells on the ball inside his own half and doesn't react quickly enough to the pestering from Lavezzi. He scampers away and looks to be in the clear but can't quite get the ball under control and Pique gets across to calm things down.
3 min: It's a brisk, open start and PSG are here to attack. Ibrahimovic causes a nuisance of himself outside the area and suddenly Lavezzi is clear on the left of the Barcelona area. He's up against Pique but he manages to cut inside, looking to bend one into the far corner with his right foot. It's straight at Valdes, though, and he saves.
2 min: The free-kick is 25 yards out but there's no Leo Messi to take it. Oh well, it will have to be Xavi instead. He curls a beautiful effort up and over the ball with his right foot. It looks like it's in as the net ripples - but instead it's brushed the side-netting! Sirigu was struggling there.
Off we go! PSG get the game underway and immediately hump the ball up-field, looking to unnerve that unfamiliar Barcelona defence straight away. It's cleared and Barcelona attack. Fabregas tries to skip past Verratti and the Italian scythes him down. A free-kick to Barcelona, to the left of the D.
The Champions League anthem. Sing along, if you like.
Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Es sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event
Les grandes équipes
Une grande réunion
Eine große sportliche Veranstaltung
The main event
Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die Besten
These are the champions
Les grandes équipes
Les grandes équipes
Here come the teams. In the tunnel, Xavi shares a hug with his former team-mate, Maxwell. Barca are wearing blue tracksuit tops and PSG are in red. They stride out underneath a sign that reads "Road to Wembley". Take my advice, you're better off getting the tube.
"Just how long are your showers?!" says Holly McGuire.
EXCUSE ME? You can't ask a gentleman th... Oh, I misread.
"I can't see how Fábregas could have expected - hoped - for anything better than the stupendous twist of fate that put him in the world's best football team (probably)," says Charles Antaki. "Other than that it would have perhaps hampered his forward play, he'd have given his right leg for it. But it's not all one way. It has suited Barça enormously, too; otherwise as Xavi-substitute they only really have Thiago Alcántara to rely on in and around that area. And he's too green, and possibly will always be."
Maybe but they've had to play him and I think he disrupted the side's flow and has, at times, compromised Iniesta, who's had to move to the left. He's not quite the same there.
"Could you type your jokes in red so we can tell the difference between your jokes and your expertise?" says Jeff Woodman.
"We’re into Don Rumsfeld territory here with the “known knowns”, the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns”: We know the stats and the history; we know the things that can produce an upset or an assured victory; what we lack is knowledge of things that are inside players heads and hearts," says Glenn Easton. "I don’t know if there is a tactical set up available to PSG that will get them over against Barcelona. Stats and history suggest this does not exist or if it does PSG don’t have the players to make that arrangement pay off. But good teams have bad days and mediocre teams play “over their heads.” Can élan overwhelm talent?"
This much we know: if Barcelona are at their best, you're screwed.
"If I'm reading correctly you all agree with The Don," says Paul Ewart.
Puh-lease. There's only one Don.
Cesc Fabregas, then. This could be the night when it happens for him. He's not exactly been a failure at Barcelona but he'd probably admit that it hasn't panned out how he thought it would yet. The main problem for him is that Xavi and Iniesta still aren't going anywhere any time soon, which has meant that he's had to play in the front three. But that robbed Barcelona of some of the speed and their width that made them so dangerous in 2011, while he was slightly getting in Messi's way, and Barca were sensational after leaving him out against Milan. Fabregas is a special player though and he has the medals at international level to prove that. He got a hat-trick against Mallorca on the weekend. There is a sense that a lot rests on his shoulders tonight.
"There are some stats that are telling over a season for sure, but in the social age many statisticians are aggregators and dont know how to use them or how they were collected," says Seamus Devlin. "Nate Silver knows what he is doing obviously. Some, like me, will tell you that there is a 50/50 chance of your plane crashing - it either will or it won't."
"You're right Jacob - nothing is indeed what we know," says Gary Naylor. "Except that we don't. We know shedloads of stats, Wilsonesque analyses of tactics and replays of every goal at the touch of a button. We even know what the outcome of most leagues will be. But we don't know what will happen over two legs of knockout football. It's why the only international football I can be bothered with are the knockout stages of the Champions League and World Cups. I bet the suits hate them."
Oh indeed, we know what will happen in the domestic leagues, more or less. But as you say, the variables of a one-off game are what keeps us going.
A stat from James Horncastle regarding Leo Messi. The last Champions League game I remember them playing without Messi was against Inter in the group stage in 2009. They had to win and gave them a lesson, winning 2-0. As tempting as it is to talk about their Messi-reliance, tonight's side looks a lot like all-conquering Spanish one. The difference, though, is in defence.
The teams news is in and Lionel Messi doesn't start. He's on Barcelona's bench, while Adrano is at centre-back because of injuries to Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano. David Beckham is on PSG's. Let's face it, the Nou Camp pitch is no place for someone of his age. Blaise Matuidi is suspended.
Barcelona: Valdes; Dani Alves, Pique, Adriano, Jordi Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Fabregas, Villa. Subs: Pinto, Sanchez, Messi, Thiago, Bartra, Montoya, Song.
PSG: Sirigu; Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell; Thiago Motta, Lucas Moura, Verratti, Pastore; Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi. Subs: Douchez, Sakho, Gameiro, Chantome, Armand, Van Der Wiel, Beckham.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)
Hello. I've been thinking. I hope you come here for the jokes, for the ride, for the banter. I really hope you don't come here for the expertise and here's why. In the shower this morning, I was reflecting on last night's absurdity in the Borussia Dortmund v Malaga match and eventually came to the conclusion that no one knows anything. Maybe football's just too unpredictable - and that's its beauty. In the last year or so, we have seen 10-man Chelsea win at Barcelona. We have seen Manchester City throw away the league because you can never write off Manchester United and that's typical City. We have seen Manchester United, eight points ahead, wrap up the league and then lose the league. Because they have no midfield, see. And then United threw away the league, before City threw it away and won it again in the space of 94 minutes on the last day of the season. Just so you know, apparently you can get City at 50-1 at the moment.
Anyway there I was last night, watching the Dortmund game on the basis that it was going to be a thriller and news quickly filtered through that Cristiano Ronaldo had put Real 4-0 up on aggregate in the other game. Malaga scored - no one saw that coming. But then Dortmund produced a moment of brilliance - everyone saw that coming and everyone expected them to swat Manuel Pellegrini's team aside in the second half. But nothing happened. For 25 minutes or so, nothing happened. It was an awful game. Dortmund choked, Malaga were comfortable and then I realised that my phone had no reception, which meant no Twitter. Hmm, I thought, this is boring. I turned over to the Real game and, just as I did, Didier Drogba put Galatasaray 3-1 up. Pretty wild, huh? A few minutes later, ITV announced that Malaga had scored again to lead 2-1 in Dortmund. "We're all going to sunny Spain," said Clive Tyldesley.
I missed both Dortmund goals.
What does this tell us? Firstly, that I know how to have a good time. It also provides us with pretty compelling evidence that football is the greatest invention of all time, better even than YouTube. Lastly it tells us that no one knows anything, not until the final whistle is blown, and maybe that's just how it should be. You've probably come here looking for some piercing analysis about tonight's huge match between Barcelona and PSG. Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic turn up for a Champions League game? Will Xavi and Iniesta be over overawed by the mere sight of David Beckham? Will Barcelona be able to cope if Leo Messi doesn't recover from his hamstring strain? These are all burning questions and I should tell you that PSG don't have a hope in hell of getting the win/the 3-3 draw they need to go through. Barcelona beat Milan 4-0 here in the last round, for crying out loud. But now I don't know what to think.
So, a prediction: football will happen and it will be entertaining and at the end
Barcelona one team will be happy and PSG one team will be sad. And all the English journalists will be talking about David Beckham.