The tone of this preview would have been different if it was written a few days back. But coming on the brink of a confident win against Real Sociedad, reigning Spanish and European champions Real Madrid look like they have finally gotten into their groove and this time they mean serious business. Agreed that Sociedad and Paris Saint Germain are poles apart, but what that encounter highlighted was Madrid’ sheer firepower in their arsenal, which on their day can knock out any side. This new found confidence clubbed with the fact that Madrid tends to bring their ‘A’ game against big clubs is a lethal combination, something the French team should be wary of when they meet Los Blancos in the first leg at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Madrid have endured a painful domestic campaign this season, sitting on the fourth position, 19 points away from leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona. Hence, the Round of 16 match against Unai Emery’s side is a crucial match that will dictate the tone of Madrid’s European campaign this season. Such is the importance of the two-legged last 16 tie that Zinedine Zidane made a public statement saying that his future with the club depends on this clash. He, however, insisted that his team is ready to take on the visitors. “It’s going to be another match, in another competition and another extra motivation. We will be very motivated,” said the French manager.
Madrid suffered immensely with the dip in performance of the Cristiano Ronaldo but the Portuguese captain seems to have found his form back just in the nick of time and so have the Los Blancos. The 33-year old has scored 7 league goals this year and stands as the current top scorer in Champions League this season. When it comes to the Champion League, the former Manchester United star seems to have a liking for the tournament as he comes to his side’s rescue by finding the net almost in every big European match. Ronaldo understands that they are up against a strong side but is confident that they have the experience to take the PSG challenge. “We are going against a great team with excellent players, but we have shown that Real Madrid are a strong group with lots of experience. We respect PSG very much but we are very united,” goal.com quoted him saying.
However, Zidane’s biggest decision will be to select between an in-form Marco Asensio and veteran Gareth Bale. Bolstering Madrid’s attack, Asensio displayed how important he is in the 5-2 thrashing of Real Sociedad. On the other hand, Bale, whose season has been dominated by injuries, has experience on his side. As for Benzema, boos and whistles have only increased for the Frenchman, who has missed a number of easy chances.
While the trusted BBC attack have proved deadly for Madrid on multiple occasions, Los Blancos’ defence faces a strong partnership of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, who are becoming almost invincible. The Ligue 1 leaders have emerged as a powerful side after signing Neymar in a record €222 million release clause from Barcelona last summer. The Brazilian was then joined by Mbappe for a reported fee of €180m this year. The two young forwards have formed a devastating attacking trio with Cavani.
The stakes for the highly anticipated match are quite high. The Madristas will strive to leave no stone unturned in this titanic clash as Champions League remains as the only glory left for the Spanish side to go for, considering that it is realistically impossible to topple Blaugrana in the domestic league. Madrid were also dumped out of Copa del Rey in the quarterfinal last month.