There is an undeniable anticipation among supporters of Paris Saint-Germain as they prepare for the first of two monumental games against Real Madrid. The result will tell us a lot about the squad and whether or not the club’s ambitions of Champions League glory are realistic.
A quarter of the way into the season, Paris Saint-Germain have had an expectedly dominant start—winning 11 of their 13 games and drawing the remaining two. However, the reigning French champions have faced a very uncompetitive Ligue 1 and although on paper they have had a near perfect start, there are definitely some issues that could have a major impact against Real Madrid. Here are three things that I’m looking forward to watching in what will be PSG’s toughest competition thus far.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Shaky Form
The first and probably most obvious concern is Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s form. Although he has six goals in his last five games, he hasn’t impressed with his overall play and many are beginning to speculate that he is too far past his prime to continue being the star of such a big club. Specifically, he has been very inefficient with his shots and has not controlled the game as well as he used to. With Pepe and Dani Carvajal both out with injuries, the big Swede and the attack should have many opportunities to do some damage and as long as he continues banging in goals it’s hard to heap to much criticism towards PSG’s all-time leading scorer.
2. Angel Di Maria’s First Outing Against Real Madrid
There are few things in football that can affect a player’s mentality more than returning to a previous club where they experienced so much success. While nostalgia and emotion may have a negative effect on some, others find extra motivation and play above their normal ability, as seen from David Luiz’s performance against Chelsea last season. Paris Saint-Germain fans will hope for the latter to take place for Angel Di Maria as the Argentine faces the club for which he played some of his best football for from 2010-2014. Since coming to PSG this past summer, Di Maria has played some great football, especially in European fixtures, and he will hope to continue that this week.
3. An Important Role for Marquinhos
David Luiz suffered a hamstring injury on international duty with Brazil, which means Marquinhos will likely start against Real Madrid. It will be important for him to keep the defense strong against a fearsome attack consisting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco, and Luka Modric among others. Their burden will be eased, though, by the absence of Karim Benzema, who has yet to recover from his hamstring injury. This is likely one of the lesser concerns for Paris however, as Marquinhos has proven many times that he can play well in big games.
Final Prediction: Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 over Real Madrid
PSG have a great chance to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League with a win over Real Madrid. Defensively, the team is solid even with the absence of Luiz. Kevin Trapp, who was feared to be out a month, will likely start against a Real Madrid attack without Benzema. Even with their other attacking options, it’s hard to imagine Madrid scoring more than once at the Parc des Princes. On the other side of the field, it all depends on how certain players play, however with a home-field advantage, I predict the French club should be able to edge their opponents and earn a vital three points and take control of their group.