Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
The first leg of this double header exemplified Rafa Benitez’s philosophical leanings to a tee. The doughty Spaniard is always defensively astute, which perhaps hasn’t served to endear him to the Madrid massive. The 0-0 draw was ultimately a good result for Madrid, but it was still the first time in 41 matches that the Galacticos failed to find the back of the net. PSG are comfortably dominating Ligue A, affording Lauren Blanc the opportunity to focus firmly on this crucial encounter. Angel Di Maria returns to Madrid two years after winning the man of the match award in a European Cup Final: I still am baffled by why exactly Madrid let the dynamic Argentine go.
To Win (90 Mins)
Real Madrid 7/10
Despite the misgivings of a certain segment of the Madrid faithful, you can’t help but be impressed with the way Benitez has eased into his task at Madrid. He has certainly brought some defensive stability whilst allowing younger players such as Jese the opportunity to express themselves. Even the failure to acquire the services of David De Gea has turned into something of a moot point with the excellent form of Kaylor Navas. Ronaldo has been occasionally indifferent, with one five-goal return helping to offset what has been a slightly disappointing scoring season for the Portuguese thus far. Benzema and Jese have supported him ably, however, while Bale works his way towards full fitness again.
One area where Madrid may concede some ground is in the engine room. Veratti and Matuidi are such tireless runners; Kroos and Isco are going to have to remain disciplined in the middle of the park.Varane is growing into a world-class centre-half while Marcelo remains possibly their most consistent player. The key for Madrid is just how they plan to break down PSG’s strong defensive shape. Silva and Marquinhos will generally deal with any aerial threat without sacrificing on the athleticism front. In many ways, this game plays into the French side’s strengths, as they look to continually attack rapidly on the counter through Di Maria and Moura. Madrid will probably have the lion’s share of possession, but will they be able to contain the considerable counterattacking threat posed by PSG?
Laurent Blanc’s side will probably feel somewhat disappointed that they never nicked a win in the first leg. That being said, there is enough talent in this side to suggest that the Parisian's can still finish top of the group. In Ibra, they have the quintessential target man, while Di Maria and Moura are extraordinary runners. It will be interesting to see if Blanc tinkers with his formation to find a place for David Luiz. I feel that the talented Luiz is sometimes a liability in these huge encounters, with a tendency to roam out of position. He may just opt to start with Silva and Marquinhos, with Veratti and Matuidi screening the defence.
Maxwell and Augier will look to get forward as often as possible, attempting to keep Bale and Ronaldo as honest as possible. Matuidi may end up man-marking the three-time World Players of the Year, giving his outstanding athleticism and discipline. I feel that Blanc may leave Lavezzi on the bench and see how the match pans out, potentially utilizing the speedy Argentine should the game go against them. As I said earlier, PSG are the prototypical counterattacking unit, almost perfectly designed to surrender large tracts of possession whilst remaining potent on attack.
Verdict: Draw 29/10
Real Madrid 1- PSG 1- Both teams should effectively cancel each other out in what should be a proverbial cat and mouse match.