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Barcelona Can Compete With Europe’s Best

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La Liga giants Barcelona are still able to “compete with the best teams in Europe”, insists boss Ronald Koeman.

The Catalans are mired in uncertainty with star man Lionel Messi’s contract expiring in the summer and presidential elections due to take place next month.

They are eight points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid and face Paris St-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Dutch head coach Koeman said Barca “still have a good team”.

Barca finished the group stage of the competition with a heavy 3-0 home defeat by Juventus, but the side have experienced an upturn in form since then.

They have lost just one of their past 18 games – against Sevilla in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final – and go into the meeting against PSG on the back of a 5-1 thrashing of Alaves at the weekend.

Koeman said: “The team is doing better, the team is playing good, on a high level, physically the team is on a high level and we still have fantastic players.

“That means we can beat everyone. That’s what we like to show, that we can compete with the best teams in Europe.”

Messi, who submitted a transfer request last summer, has scored 11 goals in 10 games during the side’s excellent run since the turn of the year.

The 33-year-old Argentine has been linked with a move to PSG, as well as Manchester City, but Koeman said he was “very hopeful” Messi would stay at the Nou Camp.

Left-back Jordi Alba added: “I am a much better player when Leo is on the field than when he is not. With Leo we are much better and much stronger.

“We want him to stay at Barca for many more years, but it is Leo’s decision and we will have to respect whatever decision he takes.”

Champions League ‘obvious target’ for PSG

Former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino takes charge of PSG in the Champions League for the first time knowing it is the trophy the club’s Qatari owners crave the most.

Thomas Tuchel, now Chelsea manager, guided the Ligue 1 champions to the final last year but they were edged out 1-0 by Bayern Munich.

Asked how he felt before his biggest test as PSG boss, the club’s former defender Pochettino said: “I am very calm.

“We are excited because there is so much passion around the club and this is a special game.

“We would so like to win this coveted trophy, it is a very big passion. History is in the past and we are now in a different reality with different players. Whatever happens, the past is behind us.

“It is an obvious target for PSG to win the Champions League, that is our responsibility and the fans are excited about it as well.”

Team news – Neymar out for PSG

Barca may welcome back defender Gerard Pique, who has been out for three months with a knee injury but has trained with the squad for the past five days.

The hosts will be without centre-back Ronald Araujo, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury.

PSG suffered a huge blow as forward Neymar was ruled out of the meeting against his old side with a thigh injury, but the Brazil international could return for the second leg on 10 March.

Winger Angel di Maria is also out with a thigh problem, while midfielder Marco Verratti is a doubt with a hip injury.

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