By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Angel di Maria scored twice as Paris St-Germain stunned Barcelona to leave the Spanish side in danger of failing to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in a decade.
PSG dominated this last-16 first-leg tie throughout and took the lead through Di Maria’s curled free-kick.
Julian Draxler added a second with an angled drive before Di Maria curled an effort into the top corner.
Edinson Cavani then sealed a famous win with a powerful fourth.
A lacklustre Barcelona – with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar largely anonymous – did not produce an effort of note until seven minutes before the end when Samuel Umtiti headed onto the post.
The defeat leaves Luis Enrique’s side with an almighty task to stay in the competition when they host PSG in the return leg on 8 March.
No side has managed to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit in the history of the Champions League
Barcelona breezed into the knockout stage by topping Group C, winning five of the six games they played.
Their one defeat was also the only time they conceded three goals in a group-stage game, when they lost 3-1 at Manchester City.
At least in that match they managed to score – Messi putting them ahead at Etihad Stadium – but at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday they barely troubled Kevin Trapp in the PSG goal.
The visitors regularly squandered possession and looked lethargic throughout. When they have not been at their best in the past, their star players have stepped up. But on this occasion they offered nothing.
Messi, so often capable of creating something from nothing, made uncharacteristic mistakes and was at fault for PSG’s second when he lost the ball to Draxler, who then played a one-two with Marco Verratti to slice through a static defence and put the French side in control.
It was one of the worst Barcelona performances in recent memory but PSG were also at their absolute best and, in truth, could have won by an even bigger margin.
They finished the game with 16 shots on goal, 10 of those on target.
Barcelona were one of the favourites to win the Champions League at the start of the season but will now need to produce one of the greatest comebacks in football to stay in the competition.
They are more than capable of scoring goals for fun at the Nou Camp, having hit three or more goals in six of their previous seven games.
Borussia Monchengladbach were the last side to visit Barcelona in the Champions League and they lost 4-0 in December.
But PSG possess much more quality, with Di Maria and Cavani more than capable of scoring an away goal that would surely put the tie beyond Barcelona.
It is sure to be one of the toughest tests of Enrique’s Barcelona career to date.
Barca’s joint-heaviest defeat – the stats
*Paris St-Germain became the sixth team to score four goals in a Champions League game vs Barcelona (after Milan, Dynamo Kiev, Valencia, Chelsea and Bayern Munich).
*Indeed, this was Barcelona’s joint-heaviest defeat in the competition (0-4 vs Milan in 1994, Dynamo Kiev in 1997 and Bayern Munich in 2013).
*Angel Di Maria has scored four goals in the Champions League this season – his best return in a single campaign.
*Only Lionel Messi (10) has scored more goals in the Champions League this season than Edinson Cavani (seven).
*No side has ever turned round a 4+ goal deficit to progress in a Champions League knockout tie.
*Barca faced 10 shots on target vs PSG – their joint-highest in a Champions League match since 2003-04 (also vs Bayer Leverkusen in December 2015).
The home crowd could scarcely contain their glee in the closing stages, cheering every PSG pass as the hosts looked to play out time.
They suffered a scare with six minutes to play, though, when Umtiti should have poached an away goal but the young Frenchman rattled the woodwork from three yards.
It summed up a hapless night for Barca, who have not exited the Champions League at the last-16 stage since Liverpool beat them in 2007.
Barcelona would need nothing short of a miracle to progress to the next stage of this UCL campaign, as they would have to score at least four unreplied goals at the Nou Camp when they play host to inform PSG.