12 Feb, 17:00
In what promises to be a colossal affair, Real Madrid welcome Paris Saint-Germain facing the very real threat of elimination from the Champions League for the first time in three years.
The idea that a marching band from any town in the country would be capable of scoring a goal at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has been growing recently. Real Madrid has been conceding goals against big teams, small teams and mid-table teams. So if any random team can score at the Bernabeu, then wouldn't PSG, with their exciting front three, be able to as well?
A dreadful defense of their Liga crown sees Madrid in a fight to qualify for next season's Champions League with the pressure ever-mounting on Zinedine Zidane after two years of near dominance. PSG, meanwhile, have never been in better shape to win Europe's top prize and claiming the scalp of Real Madrid's historic back-to-back winning squad will prove a huge hurdle jumped.
PSG’s record against Spanish teams
The only thing not in favour of Unai Emery’s side ahead of the epic clash is their history with Spanish teams. Of their last twelve encounters with a team hailing from the Iberian Peninsula in the UEFA Champions League, the Paris outfit has been victorious only thrice - a 2-1 win over Valencia in 2013, coupled with a pair of 3-2 and 4-0 victories over Barcelona in 2014 and 2017 respectively. They’ve lost a total of five games in that run, including the momentous 6-1 defeat to the Blaugrana last year, that’s still vivid in the memory. The tame 1-0 loss to the Whites in 2015 could be considered as mere bad luck, as the French giants had thoroughly outplayed their Madrid counterparts. However,it is a fact that each of their last four trips to Spain has ended in a defeat.
Real Madrid’s attacking trident of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo has slackened off in the recent times, owing much to the former two’s recurring injuries. Whilst Bale continues to grapple with more concerns this season, Benzema has hit an all-time nadir in his career. The Frenchman hasn’t scored in 9 league outings and has been guilty of missing numerous gilt-edged chances during the run.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who endured a dry spell of his own at the start, is slowly getting into the groove since the turn of the year, having netted 7 times so far. However, he needs his attacking allies to be on song to outgun the Parisians, who come with a more blistering attacking triumvirate of their own.
Meanwhile, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe have forged a fearsome strike partnership that’s also the most prolific in Europe with 70 goals in all competitions this season. Cavani has successfully taken over the No.9 role from Ibrahimovic, whereas the summer arrivals have hit the ground running.
Whilst Mbappe continues to be the best young talent in Europe with 15 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, Neymar is busy fuelling his Ballon d’Or chances. The Brazilian,is a more threatening presence than in his Barcelona days and would relish the prospect of returning to the familiar surroundings of Bernabeu.
Real Madrid: Navas, Marcelo, Varane, Ramos, Carvajal, Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale
PSG: Areola, Alves, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Meunier, Verratti, Diarra, Rabiot, Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar
The fact that Real Madrid have everything to lose in this big one is the reason why they are favorites to win. PSG’s horrible record against Spanish teams could be a factor as well. Real Madrid will do everything to avoid any away advantage to PSG.