Match Preview: PSG vs Real Madrid – 2021/22
Champions League football comes and goes in a flash. The last time it was here, it gave Madridistas a few moments to cherish, others to forget. The group stages concluded with the Merengues sitting top of the ladder, with a Round of 16 tie against tournament favourites Paris Saint Germain.
The first of the two legs kicks off tonight. The Parisians welcome Madrid in a wounded, tired state of form, without few key players and fresh from the goalless draw at the weekend. As for themselves, they boast supreme European talent, the best of the best, designed and put together to achieve continental success which for sometime now, has been the Qatar owned team’s achilles heel.
What to Expect:
Big occasions such as this are what Real Madrid live for. Their brand is about turning up in their best spirits for an away night in the French capital, games like these undoubtedly bring the best out of much of that team. Madrid’s European pedigree shines brighter than any other team’s. And while it must be said that PSG as a whole have been the more successful outfit in the few seasons leading up to tonight’s clash, Real sure do hold the upper hand. They are, as ever, in a constant battle to get their hands on the next crown for their cabinet.
Paris Saint Germain too, like Madrid, suffered last week. They were knocked out of the French cup by OGC Nice upon failing to score in normal time. Mauricio Pochettino’s authority over a star studded team and, most obviously his job, is constantly under the question. But all will be forgotten if they meet the standards of their owners and beat Real Madrid, convincingly or otherwise.
PSG play some exhilarating football given the squad they have. In France, a little more comfortably and in Europe, a little pragmatic. On paper, they do lineup in a 4-3-3. With Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappé flanking Lionel Messi, the front three is, (as ever with PSG) wild.
In all certainty, Paris’ full backs tend to a lot of work on both ends of the pitch and given the low work rates of their forwards, much of the disciplinary burden falls on the shoulders of the midfielders, who quite often operate from deep within their own half. With Marco Veratti being the spearhead of a three man midfield, distributing into the darting runs of Mbappé and Di Maria.
Attacking transitions bring the best out of PSG, and while a team may want to tire them out (like Manchester City at the Etihad), they often struggle to keep hold off teams who like Real Madrid, offer a balanced approach between keeping the ball and playing on the break. Vinícius Júnior’s pace should hurt and should Valverde start, his darting runs into space will cause problems. Karim Benzema is never a liability to have but doubts over his fitness linger.
Real Madrid will dominate play, and leave PSG chasing shadows in midfield. Stylistically, the two teams match each other out in more than one aspect. Both create chances mostly down the wings, and are well accustomed to hitting the other team on the break. Being efficient in front of goal (like Real Madrid weren’t in their recent LaLiga fixture) should be what separates the two sides. The first goal is, as ever, of most importance. The complexion of the tie will change beyond that.
Real Madrid have already been through their fair share of injury related turmoil and thankfully, Carlo Ancelotti was able to bring with him a full squad to Paris. Whether or not Karim Benzema participates is down to the coach to decide (he trained perfectly well yesterday), but it isn’t like us to be pessimistic.
Sergio Ramos will be sidelined for the fixture. Can’t say this affects our opponents a whole lot but it would’ve been emotional to have Ramos play against his former team. Ander Herrera is also out while Neymar’s inclusion is a doubt.
— Real Madrid News (@onlyrmcfnews) February 13, 2022
Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy
Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos
Valverde — Benzema — Vinícius
Hakimi — Marquinhos — Kimpembe — Mendes
Wijnaldum — Gueye — Veratti
Di Maria — Messi — Mbappé
Player to Watch:
PSG: Marco Veratti. Simply put, PSG’s game flows through the little Italian. Lionel Messi might be the greatest footballer to ever step on a pitch but he isn’t enjoying his greatest run. Kylian Mbappé is always a threat with his pace but the Frenchman offers little outside of the few bursts of pace on the counter-attack. Veratti though, is the pivotal reference point in midfield.
He recovers possession well, circulates the ball, maintains calm under pressure and is incredibly press resistant. His distribution is second to none and really and truly, he’s the best example of a modern day regista. Only, because of Gueye’s involvement he’s freed of defensive positioning and can offer a lot more ahead of the midfield region.
Real Madrid: Casemiro. The Brazilian’s performance went under the radar against Villarreal. He’s slowly but surely fit into this new hybrid #6/#8 role Ancelotti has for him. His distribution was brilliant and suited the Real Madrid wanted to approach the game on Sunday, and of course he offers a lot more than the average midfielder without the ball. Only problem, he’s one yellow away from suspension. Lionel Messi’s long time arch nemesis is back to haunt him. Must be a good one for the neutrals.
PSG 1-1 Real Madrid.
I say we take a draw back to Madrid. And obviously, the away goals rule (now scraped) must’ve done a lot more good in a game like this but that’s different. The atmosphere will be extraordinary at the Parc de Princes. Sit back, and enjoy this blockbuster of a football match.