Twelve percent was the percentage of Paris Saint-Germain drawing Real Madrid in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. Lo and behold, after finishing first in their group, PSG was drawn against the one club they were probably hoping to avoid more than any other. As the great Ric Flair often says though, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man” and the back-to-back champions certainly qualify as “the man” no matter what their current standing in La Liga might lead you to think.
The first match of the tie will take place at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Valentine’s Day and the pivotal second leg will take place on March 6 at the Parc des Princes. Now that we’re only a week out though, the storylines are starting to develop. The job security for both Unai Emery and Zinedine Zidane is almost certainly on the line, with the winner likely to keep his job. Whether or not PSG can overcome their demons after last season’s brutal exit will be interesting to watch as well.
Before the first game kicks off, I wanted to take a closer look at three specific categories: offense, defense, and the impact of the result (both good and bad). To begin though, let’s look at the offense because if PSG has any hope to defeat Los Blancos, they’re going to have to rely on their potent attack.
Shots on Goal
Real Madrid averages 18.8 SPG (shots per game) during domestic competition, however, they see a jump to 20.7 when playing in the Champions League. When it comes to putting these shots on target, Madrid put 6.9 Shots OT PG (shots on target per game) in La Liga play, but in the Champions League, they see an increase of 8.7 shots OT PG.
Then there’s that Cristiano Ronaldo guy, who had six goals through the group stage. In six appearances, the Portugal international fired 7.5 SPG while averaging 1.4 goals per game. The next play on the list regarding SPG is Gareth Bale (3) and Isco (2.8), so Madrid’s scoring runs through Ronaldo, and that’s because of Karim Benzema’s difficult start to the season.
Therein lies the difference between the two clubs. Ronaldo is trying to overcompensate for the issues at striker and on the other wing with Bale often being injured. PSG has shown they can hurt the opposition with their attacking trio and when they’re on, it’s difficult to stop as we saw when FC Bayern Munich paid a visit to the Parc earlier this season.
Paris Saint-Germain averages 17 SPG while putting 6.9 Shots OT PG and they see an increase in Shots OT PG to 7.7 in the Champions League. Unlike Real, where Ronaldo’s shots are significantly higher than the next player on his squad, PSG’s attacking front three of Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé all share the wealth. The Brazilian fires the most SPG with 3.9, Cavani with 3.8, and the young Frenchman with 3.3. Neymar is the engine of the offense, but the team doesn’t rely on him to pepper the goal as they have other offensively-gifted players.
Accuracy and Creating Chances
As mentioned before, when comparing the teams, both tend to have the same number of SPG but the methods in which they shoot them is entirely different. One way of examining the effectiveness of their SPG is how accurate they are. A squad can take as many shots as they want but if they aren’t accurate, what’s the point?
It’s clear that Madrid tends to have a more precise SPG. In their six games during the group stage, Zidane’s men had more accurate shots with a 63 percent accuracy. On the other hand, their SPG remains the same in La Liga as they average 19 SPG but their accuracy takes a dip from 63 percent to 47 percent. For PSG, their SPG in the group stage and Ligue 1 mirror each other. Paris averages 17 SPG and their accuracy of 52 percent remains consistent for both of their European and domestic competitions.
Shots and accuracy aren’t the only way to judge the two team’s offensive attack. The passing game and chances created are also vital.
The sky is beginning to fall at the Santiago Bernabéu but let’s not forget, this team is still able to create offense. Madrid averages 14 chances created in La Liga and they created 15 chances per game in the Champions League. The passing remains precise as well as they complete 88 percent and 90 percent of their passes in both competitions–14 and 12 of these passes are key leading to goal scoring opportunities. PSG isn’t as dangerous in creating opportunities as their counterpart. In both competitions, Paris creates 10 and 11 chances per game. Their passing, however, is on par with Madrid as they complete 89 percent of their passes in both competitions–with 11 and 10 of them being key passes leading to potential scoring chances.
This is all fun information to have but what supporters really want to know is how many of these shots hit the back of the net. PSG scores more goals out of the two clubs, scoring three goals per game in Ligue 1 while in the Champions League they average four goals per game. Madrid may create a tone of chances and shoot more, but their scoring per game can’t compete with Paris. Through 18 games, they average a little over a goal per game in La Liga and two goals per game in the Champions League.
Both clubs can score at a world-class level but they do it differently. Madrid rely on Ronaldo while PSG has “MCN.” Over the summer, PSG paid the price to bring Neymar to Paris and will eventually pay another king’s ransom for Mbappé. One of the reasons for this was to win big games against the likes of Real Madrid and shed the years of Champions League disappointment. PSG is trying to break into the football hierarchy and defeating the reigning champions of Europe will go a long way in aiding their cause to become elite.