Football Espana caught up with Ed from PSG Talk to get the lowdown on Real Madrid’s opponents in the Champions League last 16, Paris Saint-Germain. The pick of the round kicks off at 21:00 CET at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday evening.
What player should Real Madrid worry about the most?
It might surprise you, but the Paris Saint-Germain player that Real Madrid should worry about the most is not arguably the best footballer of all time. Lionel Messi will certainly start and we know his track against his former La Liga nemesis, but Kylian Mbappé is the most in-form superstar in the French capital right now.
He’s coming off a stoppage-time winner against State Rennais in his last match and this season, the France international has delivered to the tune of 12 goals and 9 assists in Ligue 1 and four goals and six assists in the Champions League. Real Madrid has no answers for Mbappé—few teams do—and if he’s on his game, things could get ugly for Los Blancos at the Parc des Princes.
Describe PSG’s current form.
PSG’s entire season has been slow monotonous march just to get to this point. If you look at their domestic record, they only have 1 loss and 5 draws, however, many of those games could have easily gone the other way if not for a moment of brilliance from Mbappé or one of the other superstars in the squad. Supporters haven’t seen a cohesive unit for the most part, but against Lille recently, PSG did look like the world-beaters we all thought they would be when they ran away with a 5-1 victory.
Moments like that have been few and far between though. Overall, the squad is relatively healthy. The main concerns are obviously Neymar Jr., who hasn’t played since his ankle in late December. He’s back in training but he’ll be a game-time decision. Leandro Paredes is a question mark and I don’t think we’ll see Sergio Ramos. Other than that, the squad is healthy and playing decently well, but certainly not up to where we all thought they would be at this point in the season.
Predict PSG’s starting lineup.
I would play a 4-3-3 formation with Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal. You could make the case he’s the best goalkeeper in the world right now. On defense, Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes will give Real Madrid’s defense fits with their pace. Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe will anchor the defense from the center-back position. The midfield is where Mauricio Pochettino will earn his wages with his decision-making.
Marco Verratti is a no-brainer, but who does Pochettino pair with him? I would go with Idrissa Gueye and Danilo Pereira. If Gueye isn’t fit from his time at the Africa Cup of Nations, I would slot in Georginio Wijnaldum, Ander Herrera, or Paredes if healthy. The attack is where it gets fun. Mbappé will start on one wing and I think Messi will play a false 9. This may be hopeful thinking, but I think Pochettino rolls the dice and starts Neymar on the wing opposite Mbappé. You do risk injury and he is rusty, but this is Neymar we’re talking about. He doesn’t need a month of games to get up for moments like this.
PSG defeated Manchester City 2-0 at the Parc des Princes earlier this season and I think they win by that scoreline once again against Real Madrid. I think if Karim Benzema plays he won’t be 100% and if he doesn’t play at all, that’s an advantage to PSG. Vinicius Junior will be a problem, but I think PSG has enough speed on defense to keep him off the scoresheet. Look for Mbappe to score and then a late goal from Messi or Neymar.