I feel this game deserves its own thread. I've been looking forward to this game for weeks and it's not often I find myself looking forward to Valentine's Day!
RTE will be showing Porto vs Liverpool and I get why that is due to the big following Liverpool have over here, but unless you're a Liverpool or Porto fan, imo this is really the game to see.
There are so many fascinating subplots to this tie. Unai Emery - the Spaniard - whose future at PSG depends on his ability to advance the club in Europe, having to eliminate the Spanish giants; Zinedine Zidane - French international legend - having to eliminate France's last hope.
Then there's the Ronaldo vs Neymar dimension. Ronaldo by his own lofty standards has had a disappointing season but last season he produced superb performances in the knockout stages to help his team win the competition. His Ballon d'Or win was largely based on this. The league is gone for Madrid this year so if Ronaldo is going to bag another accolade he either must help his team win the Champions League again, or help Portugal win or reach the World Cup final.
Neymar, for his part, left Barcelona to emerge from the shadow of Messi and further his chances of winning the Ballon d'Or (plus a staggering amount of money to be fair). And for Neymar this tie is crucial to his hopes. The Ligue 1 title is practically secure but it's unlikely to help his cause of being considered the world's best. He has to do something truly historic. Like Ronaldo, he must either help his side win the Champions League or help Brazil win or reach the World Cup final.
Reports from Spain suggest Madrid's probable XI will be: Navas - Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo - Casemiro, Modric, Kroos - Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.
It is the reports from France today however that are causing most discussion as L'Equipe have claimed that Emery will drop captain Thiago Silva and instead start the highly rated Presnel Kimpembe alongside Marquinhos, the latter being the new captain. If true this is a hugely ballsy call. Most of the pre-match talk had been whether the in-form Di Maria would start over the out of sorts Mbappe. The impression now is that PSG's XI will be: Areola - Alves, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Berchiche - Diarra, Verratti, Rabiot - Mbappe, Cavani, Neymar.
Of course this could all be mind games and we'll have to wait a few hours to know the teams.
Personally I'm not too concerned about who starts in PSG's central defence as I think Kimpembe is a great talent and Marquinhos has been excellent when I've seen him. My big worry for PSG would be Diarra if he features. He played against Toulouse recently and looked poor and he was let go by Marseille last season and they have looked much better without him. I would worry about this guy against two of the best midfielders in the world. I'd also be slightly concerned about Areola who has done better than last season, but he rarely comes under sustained pressure in France. This is for sure the biggest test of his career (it was Kevin Trapp who played in goal against Barca last year).
For Madrid, defensively they've conceded a lot of goals and while they had a nice confidence boost with a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad, the goals conceded will be a concern. Madrid have conceded twice in each of their last three league games. If it's Nacho tasked with stopping Neymar then I don't fancy his chances. Neymar has been superb of late and I can see him causing a ton of problems. Wide areas could be the biggest headache for Madrid; if it's Mbappe that gets the nod on the right he will look to exploit Marcelo on the counter and with his pace you'd fancy he can do it. Cavani's movement is as good as anyone in the world so he should get a couple of chances, it's whether or not he can take them.
I'm hoping this lives up to the big billing and I think it will. Both sides love to attack and there will be several world class talents on show including arguably two of the world's top three. I think it's going to be fantastic.
What do you predict for the scoreline? I would like to see PSG do the business but I'm concerned they will lose the midfield battle and this is going to cost them. I will say 3-2 to Madrid in this first leg.
Update - Confirmed line-ups:
Nice game thread , 1-2 or 1-3 to PSG , Madrid has rarely kept a clean sheet this season, especially at home. Just 5 times out of 18 games .
I'm going PSG win and Zidane sacked first.
Emery sacked before the end of the season though.
May they both lose graciously.
Who the feck is watching this when RTE have Porto v Liverpool?
Its a cliche but this could go anyway.
Few months ago I would have said PSG would have steam rolled them, I'm not so sure now but I'd still slightly fancy PSG to out score if it comes down to it.
PSG have pace and techinal ability to burn in their forward line and Real have been undone against quick and less talented players in La Liga in recent weeks, if they defend as badly as they have usually done this year, they'll be torn apart but with Ronaldo in the side, anything is possible.
I'd be playing Isco over Bale too all day, although if Zidane was willing to try something different, he should bench Benzema, play Ronaldo through the middle and flank him with Isco and Asensio, much has been made about Ronaldos "decline" but more worryingly, Benzema has had a rather s**t 18 months.
Despite Madrid’s poor domestic form, i’m extremely confident they’ll knock PSG out. It wouldn’t surprise me for them to then go out in the quarters.
I fancy Real Madrid to win tonight and reach the next round over two legs.
Their squad, despite playing poorly, is more than capable of beating PSG. They are European champions for a reason.
Excellent game thread OP, thanks for putting all that effort in
Madrid to stifle PSG and take the first leg relatively comfortably. 2-0
If Ronaldo turns into a knockout round machine like last season then Madrid might win but can't see past PSG really
Some drama as Emery makes a late change and puts in Lo Celso instead of Diarra. Lo Celso has been in terrific form but he's an attack-minded player. Should bode well for the spectacle at least.
Would love PSG to win this but this is the only route for Madrid to save their season and I think their big players will turn up and take the victory
Looked like a dive from Kroos trying to win a pen.
ah man this is epic so far
Great start so far.