The years (and the millions) roll by and PSG still fail to scare us fully. We have the Ligue 1 giants slip up so many times in the Champions League for them to welcomed at the Bernabéu with the same sort of trepidation as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Atlético, despite the glittering names on the squad list. There is something artificial, something decorous, about PSG, a team that lacks the long tradition of other European clubs and year after year attempts to climb the summit in their desire to be considered among them. The Bernabéu will be full on Wednesday night (tickets were going for between €70 and €410, which is crazy) and there will be a feeling of that anticipated euphoria that used to accompany the Quinta del Buitre in the UEFA Cup: the more goals conceded in the away leg, the more guaranteed entertainment on the return.
On this occasion the deficit is just the one goal, the rest of the mountain to climb for Madrid is in the names of PSG’s three fabulous forwards. PSG are impressive on paper, but another matter is the side as a whole displaying enough organization and sacrifice to support such luxury. Leo Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé are an island up front, with little attention paid to what is going on behind them. They have to perform many miracles to compensate. When Ángel di María plays instead of Neymar PSG have more substance, but how can Mauricio Pochettino justify leaving the Brazilian on the bench on a night like this? And I doubt Mbappé will sit this one out either. He may be a little restricted, because pain-killing injections take a little feel out of the foot, but he is the player of the moment, as we saw in the first leg, and in practically every game he plays.
Real Madrid primed for PSG
Another matter is which version of Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid we will witness. His defensive system will be patched up and it remains to be seen if Toni Kroos is fit to play. Working in Madrid’s favour is the momentum gained from the game against Real Sociedad, in which the side played with positive energy and brought themselves and left the home side primed for PSG. The reverse leg in Paris was disastrous for Madrid, but Ancelotti’s side returned with minimum damage sustained, and even more so now that away goals count for nothing. And the Bernabéu will provide a huge push, borne on the wind of history. Despite the odds, which have PSG going through to the next round, I have the feeling that Madrid fans will be celebrating in the streets tonight.