When PSG faced off against Barcelona on Tuesday evening, the script was set, as it usually is, for a certain Rosario-born playmaker to have a big influence on the game. So, step forward birthday-boy Ángel Di María, who ushered fellow rosarino Leo Messi to the wings of Wednesday’s talking points as he took center stage. spearheading his side to a dominant 4-0 victory with two trademark goals of his own.
His free-kick 18 minutes into the first half was a piece of clever intuition – spotting Barca keeper Ter Stegen offset in his goal – but his curved 25-yard strike just after half-time was a moment of vintage Di María flair and execution. With four goals in the tournament already this season, this stellar performance will only boost his side’s confidence going into the second-leg in a few weeks’ time, and the quarter final that’ll almost inevitably follow.
What’s more, PSG recently welcomed another rosarino to their ranks: Giovani Lo Celso, the 20-year old dubbed the best young prospect out of Rosario Central since his now fellow teammate Ángel Di María burst onto the scene almost a decade ago. It seems unlikely he’ll feature in the Champions League this season, however, with so many experienced attackers ahead of him in the squad. But, as always, watch this space.
Meanwhile, the Parisians’ other Argentine international, Córdoba-born Javier Pastore, cuts a frustrated figure at Parc des Princes, having been granted very few opportunities in the competition under coach Unai Emery this term. What’s next for the once prolific attacker, we’ll have to wait and see.
On the receiving of Di María’s masterclass earlier this week was, of course, Lionel Messi. Having been shut out of the game by PSG’s young, well-drilled defense and combative midfield, Leo will feel frustrated that his 10-goal European campaign will undoubtedly reap little reward this time out. A 4-0 deficit seems an insurmountable challenge, even for him and his Barcelona teammates.
For all the criticism he’s received in the wake of their most recent collapse, however, let’s not forget the utterly magisterial performance he produced in Barca’s 7-0 thrashing of Celtic back on matchday 1. There’s always hope, as little as it may be, especially for this Barcelona.
Messi’s importance was reiterated by Javier Mascherano, who missed Tuesday’s onslaught through injury. Speaking to Barca’s official magazine, the San Lorenzo-born 32 year-old said of his fellow countryman: “the club is bigger than any manager, than any player… except Leo. That’s the reality, and you have to accept it.” Worthy praise, but it looks like Masche will have to wait until next year to challenge for his third European title with Barcelona.
It was a night to remember for Portuguese side SL Benfica as they enjoyed a 1-0 victory over European heavyweights Borussia Dortmund. Avellaneda’s very own Eduardo Salvio started out on the wing for the home side, giving Dortmund’s full-backs problems and earning plaudits for his tidy play throughout the game.
Ex-Rosario attacker Franco Cervi also made an appearance, entering the pitch on the 70th minute. The former Rosario Central player has already scored this campaign – against Dynamo Kiev back in October.
If Benfica can hold on to their lead in the second-leg of the tie in Germany, the pair will find themselves in the quarter finals of the tournament for the second year in a row.
Alright, so no Argentines actually featured in the Italian side’s 3-1 defeat to holders Real Madrid this week, but one did make an appearance in the locker room prior to the game and is certainly worthy of a mention.
That’s right, Diego Maradona – never one to stray too far from the action – was invited to gee up Napoli players ahead of his former team’s clash at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night. The fixture was a re-run of 1987, when the two sides met at the same stage of the tournament and Maradona was the darling of the Napoli support. Clearly, though, his speech didn’t quite have the desired effect.