Yesterday’s game at the Bernabéu had a prologue - one in Toulouse in which PSG also warmed themselves up for Wednesday’s battle in Madrid, a crucial game for both clubs. As it happens, the meeting falls on Valentine’s Day, and also Ash Wednesday. We’ll see which one of those anniversaries best sums up the game. Emery showed that he is taking the tie seriously by resting several of his key figures. Cavani and Kurzawa are recovering from injuries and were not in the squad list. Nor was Thiago Motta, who won’t be at the Bernabéu; and Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti started on the bench. Despite all of that, PSG won the game with Neymar grabbing the decisive goal in which the in-form Di María played a key part in a wonderful build-up. The Argentine is looking so on song that even Mbappé’s place isn’t assured.
Zidane rests trio
Zidane rested players too - Nacho, Casemiro and Bale. Nacho is certain to start at right-back on Wednesday in place of the suspended Carvajal. Casemiro doesn’t have anyone who can cover for him because Marcos Llorente’s gone off the boil. As for Bale, lately he too has looked a little deflated... So yesterday afternoon we saw Kroos in the centre, Lucas Vázquez and Asensio flanking him on wither wing, Benzema as centre-forward and Cristiano free to roam wherever he wished. It worked. One thing you can say about Real Sociedad is that they are a side who like to play and let their rivals play but they were simply outclassed by Madrid. The enthusiasm shown by the usual suspects together with a determined Cristiano, who’s back among the goals, ensured Zidane’s team went in at the break with a comfortable 4-0 lead.
Madrid reliant on Cristiano
But who knows how it will all turn out on Wednesday – maybe the team will depend on their star Cristiano to lead the charge. Whether they’ll admit it or not, Madrid have spent years depending on Cristiano grabbing at least a goal per game – or better still, two or more. This season he has struggled in front of goal in a few games and that was highlighted with his misfiring in the meeting with Barça just before Christmas. But he’s still knocking them in in the Champion League – the competition where Madrid haven’t come unstuck. The problem now though is that Cristiano is the only hand Madrid have to play, while PSG have Mbappé, Cavani, Neymar and at a pinch, Di María…