Saturday February 10 2018
Battle at the Bernabeu

Samuel Bridges previews Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, which has all the makings of a classic.

Real Madrid will be given their first real test in the Champions League when Paris Saint-Germain come to town on Wednesday, but despite the French giants’ fearsome attack, their big-game track record is far from exemplary - something to take into account when checking out these Real v PSG Betting Odds.

Madrid are a side synonymous with the Champions League. Los Merengues have won the most European cups, have the competition’s all-time top goalscorer on their books and became the first club to retain the trophy in the competition’s current format. However, on the day of a huge knockout tie, this means very little. Zinedine Zidane’s men have been battered by Barcelona and humiliated by Leganes in the Copa del Rey since the group stage ended, while the Blancos faithful are longing for the days when Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t blast everything over the bar.

Madrid’s current form presents a great opportunity for PSG to not only advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League but also finally announce themselves as an elite club. The Parisians managed to throw away a 4-0 first-leg advantage against Barca at this stage last season, and although they may have bought Kylian Mbappe and Neymar since, there is no evidence that those demons have been banished. Unai Emery’s troops have often struggled on Europe’s grandest stage, and although they won Group B over Bayern Munich, they fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Allianz Arena in their final game, showing that when the going gets tough, the Ligue 1 champions don’t exactly get going.

Although Zinedine Zidane and his troops will be confident on making the last eight of the Champions League for the eighth consecutive season, Dani Carvajal’s suspension presents a headache for the World Cu winner as the former Bayer Leverkusen full-back has been an ever-present in his diamond 4-1-2-1-2 shape. However, this does offer a great chance for Achraf Hakimi to prove he has Madrid DNA. The Moroccan starlet has impressed when called upon this season, even though handling Neymar at full flight presents whole new level of challenge. Karim Benzema’s poor form means we could see Gareth Bale partner Cristiano Ronaldo up front, while Isco could be in line to start in the number 10 slot to dispel the rumours of his departure this summer.

Emery, on the other hand, is known for his squad rotations, although it should be a full-strength XI at the Santiago Bernabeu. Kevin Trapp and Alphonse Areola have been largely sharing the No 1 shirt this season due to consistency issues, so we could see a deeper line from PSG on Wednesday evening. Dani Alves’ experience should see him pip the impressive Thomas Meunier at right-back, while Thiago Silva and Marquinhos are likely to start in the middle of defence. Angel Di Maria’s current form should see him win a place in midfield against his former club alongside Marco Verratti, and possibly new boy, former Blancos man Lassana Diarra, while Edinson Cavani will spearhead the attack, with Neymar and Mbappe either side of him.

Keep an eye on: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

The Portuguese’s star may be waning, but managing to score in every Champions League group game this season shows that he can still make an impact when it counts. As this could be his last European campaign with Real Madrid, before what will likely be his last World Cup this summer, the former Manchester United man will be looking to go out with a bang.

Form guide: Real Madrid (D W L W W) Paris Saint-Germain (W W W W W)

Stat fact: Madrid’s 1-0 win here in November 2015 was their sixth competitive meeting with PSG and only their second win against the French side. The Parisians have eliminated Los Blancos from continental competition twice before, at the quarter-final stage of theUEFA Cup in the 1992-93 season, before knocking them out of the Cup Winners’ Cup at the same stage a year later.

Top tip: Edinson Cavani to score anytime

Real Madrid (probable): Keylor; Achraf, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco; Bale, Ronaldo

Suspended: Carvajal

Paris Saint-Germain (probable): Areola; Alves, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Kurzawa; Diarra, Verratti, Di Maria; Mbappe, Cavani, Neymar

Suspended: None

Follow Samuel on Twitter @sama_roma 

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