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Fascinating Duels All Over The Pitch When Real Madrid Take On PSG

How will Neymar respond to the pressure cooker atmosphere of Santiago Bernabeu?
How will Neymar respond to the pressure cooker atmosphere of Santiago Bernabeu?

Some tantalising Champions League ties await, none more so than the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu between holders Real Madrid and pretenders to the European throne, Paris Saint-Germain.

All of the pressure is on Los Blancos heading into the first leg. Against the second highest scoring side in Europe, Real will need to keep a clean sheet if they want any chance at progressing across the two legs.

Given that they’ve let in two goals at home on five occasions already in 2018 alone, that seems a tall order.

More so when you consider that regular right-back Dani Carvajal is suspended for this one, and Marcelo on the opposite side is enduring his worst club form since joining Real.

Either Nacho or Raphael Varane will deputise at right-back, with the other partnering captain Sergio Ramos in the centre. Along with Keylor Navas in goal, they’re tasked with keeping the best front three in world football – Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani – in check.

Zinedine Zidane has had more than his fair share of critics this season, but if he’s able to engineer a passage through to the quarterfinals, he will have bought himself some more time in the Real hot-seat.

Lose and he will almost certainly be relieved of his duties at season’s end, as there’ll be nothing left for Real Madrid to play for – in February.

For the supposed ‘best team in the world,’ that’s far from good enough.

The one grain of hope they do have is that PSG are still brittle mentally when challenged. That much was in evidence when Bayern Munich tore them apart earlier in the group stages.

It may have been the only time in 2017/18 that the Parisiens have been ‘under the cosh,’ but it will give Zidane enough to work with and to know that if Messrs. Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo are in the mood, that they will trouble Unai Emery’s back line.

With Dani Alves spending more time attacking than staying back, there will be spaces for Bale and Ronaldo to exploit with their pace.

Emery himself has much to prove. After the debacle of the 6-1 loss to Barcelona last season, this is his last chance to prove he has what it takes to manage a club at this level. He too will be on his bike if PSG tumble out of the competition at this stage.

What makes this match so exciting are the duels right across the pitch. Verratti and Rabiot up against Kroos and Modric, Alves in direct combat with close friend Marcelo, a very physical Cavani up against Ramos… It genuinely is the heavyweight clash of the round with one about to hit the canvas.

Ring that bell!

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