Real Madrid host PSG at the Santiago Bernabau in a heavyweight clash in Group A on Tuesday night as they look for revenge from the 3-0 thrashing back in September.
PSG sit top of the group with a 100% record and have already qualified for the next round, as they search for the point that would seal top spot for Thomas Tuchel’s side. Fresh from a routine 2-0 win over Lille on Friday night, the French champions will be full of confidence heading into this game.
Real sit second on seven points, and they themselves require two points from the final two games to qualify, and will be keen to get the job done in Madrid on Tuesday night with victory. A win over high-flying Real Sociedad on Saturday has left them joint top of La Liga, and Zidane’s side will be keen to make a statement that they can compete at the highest level in the Champions League.
Zinedine Zidane’s side were taken apart in Paris two months ago by a PSG side that were without star players Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, but since then Zidane has found a greater balance in his midfield, as the summer signings have started to bed in. Croatian midfielder Luka Modric has returned from injury, putting in a match-winning performance against Real Sociedad on Saturday, and the newly found balance to Los Blancos midfield will be key to getting a foothold in the game.
In the first meeting, fantastic performances from Marquinhos, Marco Verratti and Idrissa Gueye helped PSG to dominate the midfield, but the balance of Real’s midfield meant that the attack was disjointed, and they were easily overrun. Injuries disrupted both sides, with Sergio Ramos also missing at the back, so whilst some learnings can be taken from the game, it is important too much isn’t read into this game.
Real Madrid will line up 4-3-3, and will have to decide whether they risk playing the high line they like to employ, particularly against the quick, counter attacking threat of PSG’s front line. If they do, there will be a lot of space for the likes of Mbappe and Neymar to exploit, and this is further compounded by the attacking nature of Real Madrid’s full backs Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy, who look to provide width in attack and an out ball, which allows the likes of Eden Hazard a license to move centrally and more of a free role. With PSG only requiring a point, it would be no surprise to see PSG allow Real plenty of the ball before utilising their counter attacking talent to exploit these spaces, and these tactics in particular highlight some interesting betting angles.
PSG will look to set up 4-3-3, with Mauro Icardi, Neymar and Mbappe leading the line. As touched on above, it would be no surprise to see PSG take a more reserved approach than normal and look to hit Zidane’s side on the break, especially given that a point will be enough for Tuchel’s side to secure top spot. Verratti is a doubt and would be a huge miss, as his work rate and tenacity, alongside Gueye, will be key to keeping Modric quiet in the midfield, as well as Hazard. However, in Ander Herrera, they do have a capable replacement, and the depth in midfield for PSG is excellent. However, it is worth noting that they were able to play with Di Maria further forward in the 3-0 win with a midfield of Marquinhos, Verratti and Gueye, so whether Tuchel opts for the same cautious approach and move Di Maria into a front three and drop one of Icardi, Neymar or Mbappe awaits to be seen, as if he wasn’t to, it could see them easily overrun in midfield.
PSG’s full backs Juan Bernat and Thomas Meunier will have a tough task up against the impressive flanks of Real Madrid’s attack, and Real Madrid have so far built a lot of their attacks wide. 41% of their attacks are built down the left, and 35% down the right, and it would be no surprise to see the overlapping full backs of Real cause problems away from the congested areas as they look to target PSG in these areas.
The defensive work of Mbappe and Neymar can sometimes be questionable, so Tuchel’s selection needs to take account of this. Carvajal in particular has impressed in an attacking sense for Real Madrid, and he has contributed four assists this season, whilst topping the expected assist charts for Real with 3.10, which accounts for 0.31 per 90. Eden Hazard impressed for Madrid on Saturday as he begins to settle in Spain, and a timely upturn in form could lead to a long evening for Belgian counterpart Meunier, who could be left exposed by the attack minded wingers in front of him. Tuchel’s team selection will be key, and is certainly an area to keep an eye on.
Karim Benezema is Real’s top goal scorer this season, and it will be an interesting battle against the imperious Thiago Silva. The 35-year-old Brazilian centre half is susceptible to pace at the back, which would further reinforce a deep PSG backline, however Real themselves don’t offer much threat of pace in central areas, which should help Silva cope. However, with attacks out wide expected, and the crossing ability of both Real Madrid full backs evident, expect to see the Brazilian dealing with a high volume of crosses into the box throughout the night. Benzema will try target Presnel Kimpembe in the air as a result, and the French defender’s aerial statistics highlight a much weaker presence, with only 1.4 aerials won per match. Certainly an area Real Madrid can target, it promises to be an intriguing battle.
All in all a fascinating tactical battle awaits in Madrid, and the connotations of the game make it a tough one to call, as well as the options Tuchel has at his disposal from a tactical stand point.
The game could be perfectly suited to the attacking talents of Kylian Mbappe, particularly on the counter attack, and as a result he does take appeal on the goal scoring markets. With Real Madrid full backs expected to push high and offer an attacking outlet, it should leave the Frenchman plenty of space to exploit on the counter attack. With a high line also expected, it brings into play Real Madrid cards, and as a result leads me to two angles. Priced at 13/8 (Betfred) to score anytime, the French striker is in excellent form, and has proved he can deliver in the biggest of games at ease.
Portuguese referee Artur Dias Soares takes charge, with a record of 54 yellow cards and one red in 12 games, although its worth noting his two Champions League games have only provided three yellow cards. As explained, the Real Madrid backline will be open to counter attacks, and they have shown time and time again that they aren’t afraid to take on the tactical fouls to break up the play. Sergio Ramos isn’t shy of these particular fouls, and he is available at 6/4 (Betfred) to be booked, and up against Mbappe, it would be no surprise to see this being the case. However, the stand out option is Real Madrid over 10 booking points, available at 8/11 (Betfair).