The stars will be on display at the Bernabeu when Real Madrid and PSG clash in the Champions League round of 16.

By 90Min
February 14, 2018

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are preparing for arguably the biggest contests of their respective seasons so far, as the two meet at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday evening in the last-16 of the Champions League. 

Zinedine Zidane currently finds himself under intense scrutiny following his Los Blancos side's horror domestic campaign; sitting 17 points behind Premier Division leaders Barcelona as well as exiting the Copa del Rey to mid-table Leganes at the quarterfinal stage last month. 

Unai Emery's Parisians, however, are on course to secure their seventh Ligue 1 title, as well as finding themselves in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue, where they will tackle Monaco at the end of March, and the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France. 

However, the Qatari-owned money men will be returning to Spain for the first time since their calamitous exit from the Champions League at this stage of the competition 12 months ago, where they took a comfortable 4-0 lead to the Camp Nou, only to succumb to a shocking 6-1 defeat at the hands of Luis Enrique's outfit. 

But, since then, PSG have flexed their financial muscles considerably, changing the landscape of the transfer market in the process, and will take to the capital a more potent side than ever before in their history. 

So, ahead of Wednesday's true superpower clash, let's take a look at everything you need to know.


Classic Encounter

Real Madrid 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain (2015)

It may come as a surprise, but in Les Parisiens' 47-year existence, they have only come across Real Madrid competitively on two occasions, when they were drawn together in the Champions League group stages during the 15/16 season. 

In truth, both contests underwhelmed. However, the importance of Los Blancos' 1-0 win at the Bernabeu during their second meeting, which came via a rare striker from first-half substitute Nacho Fernandez following the injury to Marcelo, was crucial in Rafa Benitez's side's eventual qualification as group winners - a competition they would then go onto win under the stewardship of Zidane. 


Key Battle

Achraf Hakimi vs Neymar

As the French capital side descend on their Spanish counterparts on Wednesday evening, the majority of attention will be fixated onto one man; Neymar.

The 26-year-old has netted 27 goals in the same amount games across all competitions so far this season, with six in six in the Champions League, as well as provided 14 assists - three of those also coming in Europe's elite competition.

It will therefore be the responsibility of 19-year-old Achraf Hakimi, who will likely be called upon after UEFA upheld regular Dani Carvajal's suspension, for the most part to attempt to nullify the Brazilian's attacking threat, something only six opposition outfits have achieved all term. 

Neymar's potential threat becomes much greater when taking into account Los Blancos' struggles defensively this term, which have seen them, on average, concede over one goal per game. 

Also, the fact the Brazil international has found his name on the scoresheet three times and aided a teammate in doing so on five occasions from his previous eight meetings with Real Madrid shows he may well be the key to PSG's success. 


Team News

Aside from defender Jesus Vallejo, who remains sidelined with a muscle problem, Zidane is expected to have a full squad to choose from as he prepares for Wednesday's showdown, including midfielder Dani Ceballos, who is expected to have recovered from a sprained ankle - although it would be surprising to see the 21-year-old make the Frenchman's starting XI. 

From the visitors' perspective, Edinson Cavani could make a return to Emery's squad after missing his side's 1-0 win over Toulouse on Saturday, with his manager hinting a comeback could be imminent during his post-match interview. 

Veteran midfielder Thiago Motta, however, will not be involved from the outset as he continues his rehabilitation from a lengthy layoff and Layvin Kurzawa is expected to be fit once again. 


Potential Real Madrid starting Lineup: Navas; Hakimi, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.

Potential PSG starting lineup: Areola; Alves, Marquinhos, Silva, Kurzawa; Verratti, Lo Celso, Rabiot; Mbappe, Cavani, Neymar.


Prediction

Considering this clash is a two-legged affair, and the side currently possessing the better form are away from home, it is likely Wednesday evening with bring a tense, but tight contest.

Neither side will want to surrender too much before they meet again at the Parc des Princes early next month, especially Real Madrid, with the possibility of PSG snatching an all important away goal.

Although, Los Blancos' lack of defensive solidity should worry Zidane, with his side keeping just two clean sheets in their past 10 outings - one of which came when taking on second-tier side Numancia in the Copa del Rey. 

It is unlikely that the Spanish capital side will be able to hold out Les Parisiens for the full 90 minutes, even inside the fortress of the Bernabeu, however the home advantage could be the key for themselves in not heading to Paris empty handed.

Score Prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain

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