Luis Enrique relishes facing former club Barcelona as PSG bid for European glory

By Sports Desk April 09, 2024

Luis Enrique has no qualms over going into battle with former club Barcelona as he attempts to end Paris St Germain’s quest for Champions League glory.

The 53-year-old Spaniard guided Barca, for whom he had made 300 appearances as a player, to European glory as manager in 2015 and was handed the task of repeating the feat with the big-spending French champions last summer.

The two sides go head-to-head in the first leg of their quarter-final showdown at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening with no question over where Enrique’s loyalties lie.

He told a press conference: “Of course I like Barcelona, but I’m very pleased to be here at PSG. I just need to focus on my job and this team and building confidence here.

“I think I’m capable of bringing trophies to this club and I’m full of desire to be at the top level in this tie.”

Enrique’s former team-mate Xavi – who he sent on as a late replacement for Andres Iniesta in the 3-1 2015 final victory over Juventus in Berlin – will be in the away dugout as the Catalan giants attempt to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2019.

However, the PSG boss is not convinced his inside knowledge will do him any good.

Enrique, who will be without the suspended Achraf Hakimi, said: “I have to say that I don’t know Xavi at all as a coach. I know about him as a player – he was my team-mate – I know about him as a footballer, but not as a coach.

“I know the club very well, I know Barcelona and the players, but I don’t know if that could be an advantage. Maybe it could be the opposite.”

PSG, who are on a 27-game unbeaten run in all competitions, have not made the quarter-finals in three seasons, while five-time winners Barca have gone out in the group stage in each of the last two campaigns.

The sides are meeting in the last eight for the fourth time with Barca having come out on top in the last two in 2012-13 and 2014-15, with the French giants getting the better of their Spanish opponents back in 1994-95.

PSG held sway the last time they were last paired together – in the last 16 – three seasons ago when Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick secured a 4-1 first-leg victory at the Nou Camp after Lionel Messi had opened the scoring from the penalty spot before both men scored in a 1-1 draw in the return.

However, perhaps the most remarkable tie in which the two clubs have been involved came at the same stage of the 2016-17 campaign when the Catalan giants returned from the Parc des Princes on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline to win 6-1 on home turf.

Barcelona reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in four years after beating Napoli in the round of 16 and boss Xavi was feeling the “excitement” for Wednesday’s tie.

“I think the word for tomorrow, after being out of the quarter-finals for four years, is excitement,” he said in a press conference.

“We can dream and we are very motivated.

“We are enjoying our best form of the season and we will face a team prepared to win the Champions League with one of the better coaches in Luis Enrique. I have all the respect in the world for them.”

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