Paris Saint-Germain have one foot in the Champions League quarterfinals after they thrashed an insipid Barcelona 4-0 in their round-of-16 clash on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes, finally making a statement on the biggest stage in world football.
Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011 and despite steamrolling domestic opponents ever since, Les Parisiens have struggled in Europe despite hiring some of the best managers and signing some of the biggest players.
And for nights such as these, Unai Emery was signed in the summer. Despite struggling in the group-stages, the French side put Barcelona to the sword, a remarkable feat even in a friendly these days and credit must be given to the Spanish tactician for this result.
PSG were impressive from the very first minute in their standard 4-3-3 formation, with Emery boldly picking young blood such as Julian Draxler and Adrien Rabiot in his starting XI against such sterling opposition.
Luis Enrique opted for Andre Gomes in midfield over Ivan Rakitic and went for the Samuel Umtiti-Gerard Pique tandem in defence as Javier Mascherano continued his recovery from an ankle injury.
Edinson Cavani and Blaise Matuidi went close to scoring for the hosts as they hit a rather languid Barcelona on the counter, but thanks to a combination of some last-ditch defending and some alertness from keeper Marc Andre-ter Stegen, were unable to break the deadlock.
But when Umtiti tripped Draxler on the edge of the box, one sensed a definitive moment in the game had come. Angel Di Maria stepped up and curled the resulting free kick into the back of the net, helped by a poorly-manned defensive wall to give the hosts the lead in the 18th minute.
The Catalans tried to hit PSG back with what could have been a priceless away goal but Gomes was unable to find a way past Kevin Trapp after a rapid counter had left Les Parisiens exposed.
And five minutes before half-time, PSG doubled their lead. Rabiot dispossessed Lionel Messi near the halfway mark and immediately passed to Marco Verratti. The combative Italian took a few touches before releasing Draxler inside the box and the German finished well past Stegen to put the home side in command of the tie.
If the first half had been good from the home side's perspective, the second was even better. For not only did they not concede an away goal, they added two more to go into the second leg with a massive four-goal cushion.
Di Maria scored his second and PSG’s third early in the second half, bringing the Parc des Princes to its feet as they celebrated a spectacular goal or golazo as they call it in South America. There seemed to be no danger when the Argentine received the ball around 10 yards from Barca’s penalty box with three defenders in front of him. He dropped his right shoulder and weaved past one before unleashing an unstoppable curler which flew into the top corner, leaving Stegen with no chance whatsoever.
Often criticised for not being consistent enough, Di Maria was unplayable on the night and put the famed ‘MSN’ trio to shame and how.
PSG weren't done yet and they fired a final nail in the coffin when striker Edinson Cavani showed exactly how a striker should make a diagonal run in the box, finishing Thomas Meunier’s through ball with aplomb in the 72nd minute.
While the tie isn't exactly done and dusted, Barca will have to mount one of the most, if not the most, impressive comebacks in the history of the competition in the second leg at the Camp Nou on the 8th of March.
In the other game on the night, Portuguese side Benfica edged Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at the Estadio da Luz thanks to a Konstantinos Mitroglou strike. The Germans had a perfect opportunity to equalise but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a spot-kick just before the hour mark to leave the tie evenly poised.