PSG and Real Madrid kick off their Champions League campaigns with this heavyweight clash at the Parc de Princes, with both having aspirations of lifting the title come May.
PSG sit top of Ligue 1 after five matches, however their potential vulnerabilities have been highlighted in a shock defeat to Rennes, and their attacking options have been depleted by injuries.
Real Madrid have started their La Liga campaign with two wins and two draws, and whilst goals haven’t been an issue, their leaky backline has seen them concede in all four games.
Real Madrid will be without defenders Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Nacho in an already injury stricken squad. Defensive problems have plagued their early season form, and despite equally alarming injury worries for PSG, they are expected to come to the fore once again. Ferland Mendy is an adequate replacement at left back, however it is the new look centre half pairing of Eder Militao and Rafael Varane that will worry Real Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane’s line ups have placed an emphasis on attack, especially in midfield so far this season, so it is no surprise to see they have been involved in high scoring games. Lining up 4-2-3-1, the holding midfield of Casemiro and Kroos has been left to work very hard to cover for the attacking front four, and the nature of the goals they have conceded have been indicative of this. Left vulnerable to counter attacks, as well as direct play over the top due to a high line, Real’s defence often gets overloaded by these quick transitions and struggle to cope. The full backs are also imperative to how Real attack, so the two centre backs are left isolated with opposition strikers.
Although opting to leave themselves open defensively, their attacking threat is not to be underestimated, scoring nine in their opening four league games. Lucas Vazquez and Vicinius Junior offer exciting attacking threat on the wings, whilst James Rodriguez’s reintroduction to central midfield was impressive on Saturday. Creating the most chances of anyone on the pitch, he will be integral to breaking down the PSG backline, and with his timely return to form, offers another element to Madrid’s attack.
It is the early season form of Karim Benzema that stands out, scoring four in four, including two this weekend. As the full back and wingers relationships look to
blossoming from an attacking point of view, this has led to Benzema being able to shine through the middle, and his first goal on Saturday epitomised this, heading home Carvajal’s cross. I expect to see Real have similar joy down the flanks once again against PSG, and priced at 2.2 to score anytime, Benzema represents good value given his early season form.
PSG come into this game with an attacking crisis of their own, Cavani and Mbappe are to miss out through injury, whilst Neymar is suspended. Although new signing Mauro Icardi is available, he missed pre-season for Inter Milan so will not be at full fitness. Choupo-Moting is therefore expected to lead the line, and their attacking problems were highlighted as they struggled to break down a resolute Strasbourg side on the weekend.
PSG do still possess enough attacking talent to break down the leaky Real Madrid defence, with Di Maria in particular impressing so far this season. Averaging 2.4 key passes a game, he will be imperative to breaking down the Real defence, alongside Pablo Sarabia, who hasn’t settled as quickly as PSG would’ve hoped.
The injury worries in defence are particularly what stand out, and given the predicament both sides find themselves in, I can see Real approaching the game in an attacking sense, believing they can outscore their opponents rather than shut them out. Thilo Kehrer is to miss out through injury, as is full back Colin Dagba, who has featured in four of PSG’s five league games this season. Real’s wingers will be relishing the opportunity to come up against full backs without much game time this season, and as a result I can see this being an area where Real continue to target, as per their early season form.
As a result, I believe Real Madrid represent good value at 7.00 to win and both teams to score, in a game I can see them taking the attack to a vulnerable PSG side.