Lucas Moura. FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
Lucas Moura has been knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona twice before with Paris Saint-Germain, but the Brazilian insists the French club can come out on top in the sides’ latest meeting.
PSG host the Spanish champions in the first leg of their last-16 tie at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday knowing they must silence Lionel Messi, Neymar and co to maintain a realistic hope of reaching the quarter-finals ahead of next month’s return.
Paris have reached the last eight in each of the last four seasons, losing to Barcelona there in 2013 and again in 2015.
Getting to the same stage had been seen as a minimum objective this time around under new coach Unai Emery, but now the Catalans stand in their way even earlier than before.
“For me they are the best team in the world, but nobody is invincible,” Lucas, 24, told AFP in an exclusive interview.
“I think we are also very strong — for four or five years now we have been gaining respect on the European scene.”
PSG have beaten Barcelona in the recent past — Lucas was in the starting line-up for a 3-2 victory in the group stage in September 2014.
“I know you must not make any mistakes against Barca. If you make one mistake against a team like that you are dead,” he added.
“And we need to make the most of what chances we get, because we will get some. We will need to produce an almost perfect match.”
When the draw was made in December, beating Barcelona looked an impossible task for PSG but they have improved considerably since the turn of the year.
Emery’s side have won 10 and drawn one of their last 11 games, quite a turnaround from a miserable run of results prior to Christmas.
“I think the short break over the holidays did us good,” said Lucas, who used the break to get married in his native Brazil.
“We could relax a bit, forget about our problems and rest. We came back looking very strong. I think we can get to the end of the season and win trophies. We must not give up. It is to be expected that there might be a few problems.”
– Paris a ‘magnificent experience’ –
A winger with searing pace and outstanding technical ability, it is now four years since Lucas arrived in Paris with a reputation as one of the most exciting young players in Brazil.
He is just six months younger than Neymar but he has not yet become a global superstar like his compatriot, even if he is becoming more important than ever at his club.
He has 14 goals for PSG this season, cementing his place in a team finding its way following the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Neymar, in contrast, has faced some criticism recently.
“He is an incredible player who will be very difficult to stop,” he said of Neymar.
“In terms of his statistics he has not been as good this season, but for me football is not only about statistics. Neymar, even if he scores fewer goals, is still Neymar.”
PSG’s Qatari owners have been linked with moves to sign Neymar in the recent past in their quest to really put the club on a par with the world’s top sides.
So far they have been frustrated in their attempts to make such a marquee signing, but the French capital is an attractive proposition for players.
Lucas, for one, admits he is happy there and aims to stay beyond 2019, when his contract expires.
“I hope so. That is my objective. I feel very good here. I like the city, the club, the supporters. It is a magnificent experience to live here,” he said.
“I love going to the Champs Elysees, to Trocadero, eating in a good restaurant. I hope to stay here a long time.”