Match Preview: Real Madrid vs PSG – 2021/22

By: Mohammed Sahel

European pedigree on the line for Real Madrid as Paris Saint Germain’s greatest test awaits at the Bernabéu. The first leg may have gone down as one of Real’s poorest Champions League performances in recent times, but Ancelotti’s side have trained hard and built on a solid run since the Paris debacle.

When Madrid’s Champions League campaign hangs in the balance, they do tend to bring their A-game to the pitch no matter the stage or opponent. They’ve done it before, and tonight may well be a repeat of the many historic games of football the Bernabéu has witnessed. And nobody would be surprised if it does end up that way.

What to Expect:

Paris Saint-Germain have with them a star studded squad, one built around their ambition to become the next European superpower and games like these are just part and parcel of that very ambition. Real Madrid know it all well, turning up to the biggest stage and pulling off a miracle is pretty much their forte. For PSG however, preserving last month’s lead or at best, capitalising on that advantage seems to be the way to go. They will come out all guns blazing what is a do or die game for their rivals.

While Madrid have gone onto win three games in a row, PSG’s form can be pointed out as concerning to say the least. Their recent league loss to OGC Nice was their second in three matches. While they still lead Nice by a whopping 13 points in Ligue 1, the performance was not one to be proud of, and certainly doesn’t do their confidence any good. Pochettino’s team were indeed woefully frustrating on the night, and lost their third game away from home, although they are still to lose at home.

In the Champions League this season, the Parisians boast one of the best goal records and shot conversion rates. Their front three is as clinical as they come. Both Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi have without doubt been brilliant, but it is discipline and sometimes a pure, Conservative team ethic that they might need to be able to preserve this lead. Danilo and Idrissa Gueye (may start over Paredes) will prove to be crucial in midfield, alongside of course the brilliant Marco Verratti.

In defence, the pairing of the experienced Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe is as solid and consistent as ever. They are flanked by Nuno Mendes and Achraf, both of whom will have great defensive burden in parts of tonight’s game. Naturally, that pushes them back and takes their pace and physicality out of the equation in some situations. Neymar’s involvement may bring spark and creativity for Mbappé to benefit off, the Brazilian can change the complexion of such games in a matter of seconds.

All in all, it only makes sense for PSG to play to their strengths. Their tendency to play Conservatively away from home is something that Real will have their eyes on (like against Manchester City in the group stages where they switched off after the first goal). Their best bet is to keep the ball, spread the field of play and make themselves comfortable at what will be a noisy Bernabéu tonight. For Real Madrid, getting the Parisians to come out and play, then countering with pace and proficiency seems to be the way to go.

Team News:

Toni Kroos’ involvement is an issue of great concern although after Eduardo Camavinga’s display at the weekend (and that spectacular strike from range), many fans might not be as worried afterall. Casemiro and Ferland Mendy will take no further part in the tie due to suspension.

Sergio Ramos’ homecoming came too soon for his injury woes, although he has asked to travel to the Spanish capital and will be in attendance in front of his beloved team. Ander Herrera and Juan Bernat are ruled out too, while Leonardo Paredes picked up a knock. Kylian Mbappé’s training injury was a concern but I suppose he gets around it and starts tonight. In any case, Real Madrid will be facing a stacked out PSG team.

Expected Line-ups:
Real Madrid:
Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Nacho
Valverde Modrić — Kroos
Asensio — Benzema — Vinícius
Hakimi — Marquinhos — Kimpembe — Mendes
Gueye — Verratti — Danilo
Neymar — Messi — Mbappé

Player to Watch:
PSG: Marco Verratti. The little Italian bossed the first leg and there’s no reason why he doesn’t boss this one. Although Leo Paredes, his partner in crime will likely miss the match through injury. Danilo and Gueye have a lot less in common with a skillful technician like Verratti but they do offer great cover to PSG’s forwards who are extremely passive without the ball. Verratti’s influence will not go unspoken of in the Real Madrid dressing room.

Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. Ancelotti turns to his big man for games like these. If he puts out a fine performance, Madrid are likelier to score and go through. The Frenchman has been scoring all sorts of goals in the league lately, but ultimately his form will be judged by games like this one. He will be accompanied by Vinícius junior in attack, one of their swift combinations will get the Bernabéu on It’s feet tonight.

Real Madrid 3-1 PSG.

This should be a thrilling prospect, for the excited neutral and the worried fan alike. As anybody will tell you, the atmosphere around the Spanish capital is tense. I expect great things tonight. As the Ultras themselves wrote on their social handles, “We don’t come back, we never left”

“90 minutes at the Bernabéu is a very long time”

— Juanito

Hasta el Final.

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