Love was in the air at the Parc de Princes on a cold Valentine’s night in Paris two years ago.
Paris St-Germain had just beaten Barcelona – THAT Barcelona – 4-0 at home in the first leg of the last 16 of the Champions League.
That night in Paris was as good as it got for PSG, as their dreams of European glory came to a cruel and soul-destroying end just three weeks later.
Barcelona achieved mission impossible, becoming the first team to overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit in the competition, winning 6-1 to knock the French side out 6-5 on aggregate on an unforgettable night at the Nou Camp.
I also watched PSG suffer a similar fate, at the same stage of the competition, at the hands of Real Madrid the following year.
Yet for all the big names, glamour and domestic glory, they only got as far as the last 16 of the Champions League in the last two seasons.
What struck me around that Nou Camp match was the ‘European giant’ mentality of Barcelona.
On a Champions League matchday, I will normally head down to the post-match ‘flash’ area for one-on-one interviews around 10 minutes before full-time.
Three goals in seven minutes followed and the Nou Camp went bonkers.
Neymar could only look on as the Bernabeu celebrated Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th Champions League goal.
PSG were dealt a huge psychological blow with the Brazilian injured for the second leg, but by the time Real Madrid completed the job in Paris, 5-2 on aggregate, even the French press had turned on them.
Barcelona and Real Madrid had the aura, experience and belief to kill off PSG.
As they face another verified European heavyweight in Manchester United – without their injured talisman Neymar – you wonder if history will repeat itself again.
There are no easy games at this phase of the competition, but these two legs against United could prove a huge test of PSG’s mental resolve under new boss Thomas Tuchel.
With World Cup experience under the belt for many, it will be fascinating to see whether this group of players have mastered the ‘sangfroid’ needed to survive the heat of a European battle, or if it will be another case of stage fright at their latest audition.
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