Reigning champions Real Madrid resume their Champions League defence when they host Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16.
Unai Emery’s men are currently running away with the Ligue 1 title, having accumulated a 12 point lead at the top of the table. Real Madrid on the other hand, are languishing at fourth place in the La Liga and are in a desperate fight to stay in the Champions League spots.
Los Blancos finished second in their group after a draw and then defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Paris Saint-Germain finished at the top of their group, with their sole defeat coming against Bayern Munich. They finished level on points with the Bavarian giants, but they had a goal difference of 21 in their favour, which ultimately helped them secure top spot.
Team News & Tactics
Zinedine Zidane will miss out on the services of defenders Jesus Vallejo, who is out injured and Dani Carvajal, who is suspended for this match. Besides that, he has a fully fit squad to choose from, bringing with it a selection headache the Frenchman hasn’t had too much this campaign.
They will likely move to a 4-3-3 formation, with three main personnel changes taking place in the squad that started in their 5-2 victory against Real Sociedad on Saturday. Navas is the first choice to start in goal while Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane likely to set up shop in the centre of defence.
Marcelo will likely start at left back, with Nacho Fernandez taking Dani Carvajal’s place at right back. In midfield, Casemiro is expected to come into the squad and join Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. Karim Benzema is expected to start as the sole striker upfront with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo on the right and left flank respectively.
Probable Starting XI(4-3-3): Keylor Navas; Nacho Fernandez, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo
The Parisians will miss out on the services of Hatem Ben Arfa, Sebastien Cibois, Thiago Motta and Christopher Nkunku, all of whom are recovering from injuries. They have no players suspended for this tie and Unai Emery can field a fully fit and first choice starting XI.
Emery rested a number of key players in their narrow 0-1 victory over Toulouse on Saturday and we may very well see four big names return to the starting XI tonight. Starting in defence, Layvin Kurzawa and Thiago Silva are likely to replace Yuri Berchiche and Presnel Kimpembe.
They will join Marquinhos and Dani Alves, thereby completing the back four. Adrien Rabiot and Giovani Lo Celso are likely to retain their places in midfield, with Marco Verratti coming in to replace Lassana Diarra in midfield.
Edinson Cavani, who was rested against Toulouse, will likely come back into the squad to lead the line, with Neymar on the left and Kylian Mbappe moving to the right. It is unlikely that Angel Di Maria will start at this point, but he can be expected to feature at some point in the game.
Probable Starting XI(4-3-3): Alphonse Areola; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Layvin Kurzawa; Giovani Lo Celso, Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot; Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, Neymar
- In the 6 times that these two sides have faced each other in UEFA competition, Real Madrid have won twice, Paris Saint-Germain have won twice and they have played out draws on the remaining two occasions.
- Paris Saint-Germain will be looking for their first victory over Real Madrid in 24 years.
- At the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid have lost 1 and won 2 matches against Paris Saint-Germain, scoring 4 and conceding 2 in the process.
- Both Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have lost only 1 game in the Champions League this season.
- Real Madrid have scored 17 and conceded 7 goals, while Paris Saint-Germain have scored 25 and conceded 4 goals in the Champions League this season.
Player To Watch
Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo has begun to finally find some good form, something that has been eluding him for most of the season, and just in time as well. The Portuguese has netted 7 and assisted 2 goals in his past 4 Liga appearances, after managing to score only 4 and assist 2 in the 19 games before that.
His European form however, has been exemplary. He has scored in all 6 of Real’s Champions League Group games, finding the net 9 times and assisting 1. Needless to say, his form is crucial to Real’s hopes of a trophy this season and all eyes will be on the 32-year-old to see if he can continue his superb Champions League run.
Paris Saint-Germain: Angel Di Maria
The Argentine speedster has had to compete with Lucas Moura, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for a place in the starting XI week in and week out, but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring 13 goals and assisting 15, in 29 appearances across all competitions this season.
The last time he faced Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, he couldn’t affect proceedings in a positive manner and both sides eventually settled for a 0-0 draw. He will certainly want to prove himself worthy of a starting spot to his current manager, and what better place to do it than against the reigning champions of Europe at his old stomping ground.
Real Madrid 2-2 Paris Saint-Germain
PSG have been in stunning form this season, while their hosts have been inconsistent throughout. However, Zidane’s men will be wary of the fact that they have a better chance of defending their European crown than their League title, so we can expect them to be at their very best tonight.
Both sides have some of the best defenders in the world in their ranks, but the quality upfront is just too much to for this match to not have some goals and PSG will also be desperate to end their bad form against Spanish sides in Europe. Keeping all those factors in mind, we predict a tense 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.