Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona meet on Wednesday for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinals tie (catch coverage of the tournament across CBS, Paramount+, CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports Golazo Network) which will bring these two sides together for the first time since 2020-21 when Les Parisiens last reached the semifinals. Neymar and Lionel Messi have come and gone for PSG but Ousmane Dembele and Luis Enrique are on the French side of this rivalry having previously represented the Catalans and the Spanish tactician was actually the architect of Barcelona's famous Remontada comeback having been the head coach who oversaw it against his compatriot Unai Emery.

That infamous game, as far as the Ligue 1 champions are concerned, was their lowest Champions League moment and it took years to truly get over it at Parc des Princes. However, having come out on top three years ago now, it is somewhat consigned to the past, although it does serve to be reminded of what happened back in 2017 before we trace this rivalry back to the very beginning of PSG's era of Qatari ownership.

What was the Remontada

Back in 2016-17, PSG and Barcelona were drawn together in the Champions League round of 16. The French giants made an impressive start by blitzing the Blaugrana 4-0 at Parc des Princes in heartbreaking fashion on Valentine's Day. Angel Di Maria was on fire, Julian Draxler actually played and played well while Edinson Cavani was sharper than ever and it looked as if a quarterfinal berth was already sewn up.

However, the heartbreak was actually to be all Paris' with a chastening 6-1 loss at Camp Nou completing a historic 6-5 aggregate turnaround which few could believe. On the field, Neymar was inspiration with two late goals as the catalyst for the turnaround which looked impossible when Cavani scored to make it 3-1 and seemingly halt the collapse.

Collapse PSG did, though, and although Messi will forever be remembered in the photos from that night, it was his Brazilian teammate who played a huge role in that happening. It is safe to say that the Parc des Princes will remember the last time they hosted Barca in a UCL first leg game…

2012-13: The beginning of a rivalry

Winding the clock back to 2012 and PSG's celebrated era with Carlo Ancelotti coaching the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva actually kicked off a with a prestigious friendly between these two. It finished 2-2 with Barca winning on penalties, but it was supposed to signal a Parisien move into a new era of being a major European player.

Fast forward to the quarterfinals in 2013 and these two are paired together with Barcelona advancing 3-3 on aggregate after a dramatic 2-2 draw in Paris and a 1-1 tie in Catalonia, which meant that the Ligue 1 outfit fell just short. At that time. It was the first of what would go on to be four consecutive last eight appearances by PSG and losing out on away goals, although painful, had no shame attached to it at that stage.

2014-15: A four match year

Two years later, though, PSG and Barca would meet four times in total with the outcome heaping huge importance upon their next meeting which would ultimately produce the Remontada scenario. It started with a Group F meeting with Les Parisiens winning 3-2 at home featuring the likes of David Luiz, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi scoring in Paris and Messi and Neymar scoring once apiece in each game including the 3-1 win at Camp Nou.

However, this campaign also saw them meet in the quarterfinals and it turned brutal for a depleted PSG who went down 5-1 on aggregate with some major injuries having dramatically battled past Chelsea -- another regular foe at this time – to get there. Neymar scored three of Barca's five goals as PSG limped home, even if the enduring memory is of Luis Suarez doing damage to David Luiz that the Brazilian never truly recovered from after that.


What happened in 2017, we all know, but PSG and Barca were reunited four years after that when they met in the round of 16. This one was a different story despite Neymar being unavailable for the Championnat side with PSG blowing Barca away 5-2 thanks to a 4-1 first leg win and Kylian Mbappe scoring four of PSG's five goals.

This included a first leg hat trick for the French superstar while Messi scored a consolation goal in each game for Barca. PSG could consider their ghosts exorcised by none other than former RCD Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino who had replaced Thomas Tuchel as head coach, which now tees us up for the latest instalment of the rivalry on the field. But why, Remontada aside, did it get so acrimonious?

Off the field tensions heighten the drama

The answer to that lies in what happened off the field, specifically in the wake of Remontada with PSG activating Neymar's minimum fee release clause as Barca's financial house of cards started to fall down to the point that we saw them struggling in earnest come 2021. Just over $240 million for the Brazilian superstar created a transfer record which remains intact today and possibly will do for some time to come, yet it somehow made a mockery of both sides.

Neymar endured a largely torrid time with PSG and only came close to Champions League success when injuries allowed him to in 2020, while Barca somehow squandered that cash by frittering it on players such as Philippe Coutinho. Messi being more associated with the heroic Remontada contributed towards Neymar feeling overlooked and the rest is extremely lavish history.

Outside of that, there were Barca's flirtations with trying to bring the South American back which irritated many at PSG and there were the tug-of-war situations regarding Dembele and also Marco Verratti which the French club won. In fact, despite the crippling mental impact of Remontada on the field, Paris was the very clear winner in this rivalry away from it as Qatar's financial might helped PSG to strike back at the club which had eliminated them in three of their four knockout round meetings.