Champions League: PSG vs Real Madrid – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

The most highly-anticipated matchup in the Round of 16, PSG have to overturn a two-goal deficit against Real Madrid to progress.

by Jon Mackenzie

(Photo credit: @l-x)

19:45 GMT, Tuesday 6th March, Parc des Princes (Paris, France), BT Sport

The age-old adage about Paris Saint-Germain is that their raison d’etre – to be French about it – is to win the Champions League. As things stand, though, they have – as is becoming all too customary – been weighed in the scales and found wanting.

When Adrien Rabiot scored in Bernabeu in the 33rd minute in the first leg, it looked for all the world that this could have been the year in which the Parisian’s fortunes were reversed. Three goals conceded later and Unai Emery’s side are hanging onto their Champions League pretensions by their fingertips.

What is most galling about this turnaround will be the fact that Real Madrid have hardly looked convincing this season in any competition. Out of the Copa del Rey, out of the hunt for the La Liga title, by their standards, their Champions League progress has been disappointing this year.

And yet, they continue to grind out results which, to use another overused phrase, is supposed to be indicative of a winning mentality.

Paris Saint-Germain, then, continue along their nowhere in particular trajectory, proving that the ‘Disney-fication of football’, as Jonathan Wilson so indelicately put it, does not necessarily produce football worthy of winning the most sought after competition in Europe.

Last Time Out

Real Madrid 3-1 Getafe (La Liga)

Having rested Cristiano Ronaldo last week and losing to Espanyol, Zinedine Zidane took no chances this weekend against Getafe, fielding his talismanic striker who scored twice on the way to a 3-1 win.

Real Madrid opened the scoring on the 24th minute: Gareth Bale hammering home a loose ball that looked to have ricocheted off Isco in the build-up. 

Just before the break, the lead was doubled when Ronaldo received the ball in the penalty area, jinked around two defenders and stroked the ball into the far left corner of Emiliano Martínez’s goal.

Any chance of a comeback from the Barcelona-based club seemed out of the question when Loic Remy was sent off for two bookable offences but a Francisco Portillo penalty retained some vestige of hope for the Espanyol fans.

Ronaldo, though, was having none of it: heading home a Marcelo cross at the near post, he made it game, set and match to Real Madrid.

Troyes 0-2 PSG (Ligue 1)

On Saturday, PSG eased past relegation strugglers Troyes to retain their 14-point lead in Ligue 1.

Hardly convincing, it took Unai Emery’s charges until early in the second half to score: Angel di Maria with a delicate chip over the advancing goalkeeper.

However, given the away team were missing Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to injury, and that Edinson Cavani was rested for the Champions League fixture, any labours on the part of the Parisians was only to be expected.

Midway through the second half, youngster Christopher Nkunku scored after Angel di Maria found him in the box, allowing Emery to consider it a good day at the office with players rested for Tuesday’s clash with Real Madrid.

Real Madrid Lineup

With Real Madrid missing both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric over the last few weeks, Zinedine Zidane was relieved to welcome them back to training on Sunday. Although they will still have their respective fitnesses assessed before the game, they are expected to be starting unless their rehabilitation is slowed. 

PSG Lineup

Given Unai Emery is without Neymar and Kylian Mbappe is only just coming back from injury, PSG should start with Angel di Maria and Julian Draxler in the wide areas, with Mbappe an option off the bench.

In defence, Marquinhos picked up an injury against Troyes and so he should be replaced by the recently out-of-favour Thiago Silva.

Key Battle: Toni Kroos and Luka Modric (Real Madrid) vs Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot (PSG)

With Toni Kroos and Luka Modric injury doubts in the run-up to this fixture, Real Madrid fans will be aware of how thin their squad options are in central midfield. 

If either of them cannot play, then the direct replacements are likely to be Mateo Kovacic or Diego Llorente. However good they are in their own right, there are no pretensions that either would be a like-for-like replacement for either Kroos or Modric.

Given this level of uncertainty, Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot will have to come into the game expecting Real Madrid to have a weak link in midfield.

In the first leg, the standard of the football was remarkably poor given the embarrassment of riches on the field. While PSG looked assertive in the first half, they weren’t able to control the game in the midfield area later in the game.

The Parisian’s have to score at least two in the Bernabeu so they cannot afford to be complacent. Much of this will come down to their midfield. Can they supply their attackers without ceding control in the midfield areas? 

Talking Points

What difference can Ronaldo make?

If Real Madrid can score once, PSG will have to score a minimum of three goals to stay in the fixture. As a result, attack might be the best form of defence for Los Blancos.

Much was made of Ronaldo’s poor scoring form over the early stages of the season but, in the last few months, the Portuguese has scored 12 goals in seven games, putting him back in contention for La Liga’s golden boot competition.

Everyone knows that Ronaldo cannot help but score in the Champions League. If he does, then he will likely have done enough to put his team through to the quarterfinals.

Will the makeshift front three benefit PSG?

A front three of Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe has the sort of firepower that would strike fear into the heart of the most sturdy defence. However, it is not without its drawbacks.

With the two wide players often playing as almost strikers, the Parisian’s midfield has to pick up the slack for their teammates lax attitudes to defensive solidity.

Playing Julian Draxler and Angel di Maria in the absence of Neymar and Mbappe, it will be interesting to see the overall effect on PSG’s play.

Given the fact that they can’t concede first, PSG could benefit from losing their star players. The only question will be: do they have enough to score?

Prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain

This could turn into a fairly conservative performance from Real Madrid, especially if they are without one of their midfield maestros.

PSG will have to push for goals and so it is hard to see their defence holding out for a clear sheet. However, it is equally difficult to see them not scoring. In the end, both teams could cancel each other out.

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Jon Mackenzie

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