Zidane has fixed the machine

The 1-1 draw between Galatasaray and Club Brugge, which finished just before Real Madrid played PSG, meant that Zidane’s side went out onto the pitch knowing they had already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. But the aim of topping the group was still a possibility, plus the pride of getting a result against the French champions, so there was still plenty of interest in the match, on what was a cold, wet, star-studded big European night. And what a night it was, with Real Madrid playing some of their finest football of the season so far, with long spells of quick, exciting, precise football, with fine movement and understanding between the players. Great football that makes one think that Zidane has fixed the machine. They are the same players, but no longer seem stifled.

Real Madrid take control

Zidane started with four midfielders, looking to take control of the middle of the pitch, and he got it. PSG, who started without Neymar, threatened early on with runs from Mbappé past Marcelo, but the stunningly good play from Madrid took the wind out of the sails of the French outfit except for one: Keylor Navas. He made a number of saves and it was thanks to him that Tuchel’s side went in only 1-0 behind at the break. And it could even have been 1-1, if not for the referee (who we warned about by our resident referee Iturralde), who via VAR in the 44th minute turned a penalty and a red card for Courtois into a free-kick for Marcelo in the midfield. A free-kick he had previously waved away.

Madrid fans dreaming again

Neymar then came on, but he set himself up in the ‘demilitarised’ zones of the pitch: I’ll walk about, the rest can run. An out of place summer holidaymaker. Continuing to attack, Benzema (on such fine form) got Real Madrid’s second, although by now Hazard was off (thanks to a very nasty challenge) and so was Valverde, whose substitution threw Madrid’s structure into disarray. And suddenly PSG scored twice, leaving Madrid with no chance of first place in the group. Right at the death, Bale, who came on for Hazard, nearly made it 3-2 with a free-kick that hit the post. But what we can take from the game is that Real Madrid are back, with not just 11 players but close to 20, and their fans can truly start dreaming again.