Real Madrid will host Paris St Germain on Wednesday night in a Champions League clash dripping with superstars and intrigue.
Here, FP examines five key talking points of the last-16 first leg battle.
Zidane downplays pressure over his future
Not even Zinedine Zidane can quieten the frustrations around Real trailing Barcelona by 17 points in LaLiga. But the former Real playmaker continues to insist his own situation is no distraction for his players. “I’m not thinking about my future, I’m just focused on tomorrow’s game,” Zidane declared in Tuesday’s press conference. “We don’t feel the pressure, we like playing games like this.” Whatever the outward projections, Zidane knows a victory over the in-form PSG would go a long way to securing at least a stay of execution in the Real hotseat.
Star billing has the neutrals excited
Former Barcelona forward Neymar will be back on enemy territory in different colours on Wednesday, attempting a smash-and-grab raid on his old rivals, but this time for PSG. The Brazil star has impressed steadily since his move to France, but will know the size of the challenge awaiting in Madrid. Any neutral football fan will relish Neymar pitting his wits against the likes of Real totem Cristiano Ronaldo, but Madrid boss Zidane has been at pains to remind his players the encounter will be about so much more. “Tomorrow is a case of Real Madrid against PSG not Neymar against Cristiano,” he said.
PSG seeking vindication in Madrid
The last time PSG pitched up at the Bernabeu, they dominated the tie but lost out 1-0, in Champions League group stage action back in 2015. Now Unai Emery’s men believe they are ready to rule the continent, thanks to acquisitions like Neymar and Angel Di Maria. The Parisians still have plenty to prove, but know full well there are precious few better places to flex some title-challenging muscle than in Real’s fortress home ground.
Madrid focused on performance not systems
Balancing all their attacking talents has long proved among Real’s toughest challenges. But under-fire boss Zidane insists his side’s system and formation should not matter. Instead he has challenged his players to perform to their best whatever shape they are asked to employ.
Cavani itching to dominate biggest stage
Uruguay hitman Edinson Cavani has been blasting goals for fun in France’s Ligue 1, and now has sights set on replicating those feats at European football’s club summit. With 27 goals in all club competitions so far this term, Cavani has been in prolific form, and would dearly love to make his mark at the Bernabeu.
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