Aiming to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at the Parc des Princes, Real Madrid play host to Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.
A Kylian Mbappe strike in the dying embers was all that could separate the two sides in Paris as both capital giants prepare for another clash of the titans here.
Facing his biggest admirers – who tried and failed to prise him away from the Parc des Princes with a nine-figure sum in the summer transfer window – Kylian Mbappe may not be warmly embraced by all in Madrid if his strike proves to be the one which ended Los Blancos’ Champions League dreams.
Ahead of an anticipated free transfer to Carlo Ancelotti’s side for the 2022-23 season, Mbappe weaved through a sea of white shirts and slotted home calmly past Thibaut Courtois – who had kept out Lionel Messi’s penalty earlier on the night – to give PSG the upper hand in the behemoth of a tie.
Real Madrid’s European pedigree is not up for debate, though, and Ancelotti’s side have at least responded to that setback in ideal fashion by securing three La Liga wins on the bounce, including a 4-1 success over Real Sociedad on Saturday after going a goal down inside the opening 10 minutes.
However, recent history is not on the hosts’ side this week, with Real Madrid being sent packing in the last-16 twice in the last three editions of the Champions League and only progressing from one of their last 10 knockout battles when losing the first leg.
Ancelotti’s side are certainly welcoming PSG to the Bernabeu at a good time, with Los Blancos embarking on a 13-game unbeaten run on home soil since defeat to Sheriff Tiraspol back in September, and Les Parisiens’ did not prepare for the second leg in ideal fashion.
As Nice manager Christophe Galtier bluntly put it during his post-match press conference, there is a PSG with Kylian Mbappe and a PSG without Kylian Mbappe, and the Aiglons coach’s words did indeed ring true during their heavyweight clash at the weekend.
With the suspended Frenchman helplessly watching on from the sidelines, PSG fell to a second defeat from three Ligue 1 matches as Andy Delort came off the bench to net the only goal of the game in the 88th minute, with Mauricio Pochettino cutting a frustrated figure on the touchline.
It would still take a collapse of monumental proportions for PSG to lose their grip on the Ligue 1 title, but a few lowly performances on the road have done Pochettino no favours ahead of the second leg, with neither the Bernabeu pitch nor the Bernabeu faithful particularly welcoming.
PSG suffered three consecutive last-16 exits between 2017 and 2019 and won the first leg by at least two goals on two of those occasions, so Les Parisiens will be fully aware that the tie is not dead and buried just yet, especially with Pochettino failing to win any of his last four away games in the Champions League.
Furthermore, a wholly inconsistent PSG have only prevailed in four of their last 10 away matches in all competitions – two of which came against lower-league opposition in the Coupe de France – and Los Blancos are unbeaten in their last three homes games versus the French giants ahead of what promises to be a truly fascinating spectacle.
We say: Real Madrid 3-1 Paris Saint-Germain
With Mbappe fresh and raring to go, PSG can certainly carve their way through an unfamiliar Real Madrid midfield, and attack may be the best form of defence for the visitors as they attempt to build on their slender advantage.
However, Ancelotti’s men are enduring a golden spell at their headquarters while PSG are flattering to deceive on their travels, so we are backing the Benzema and Vinicius-inspired Blancos to turn the tie on its head and crush Les Parisiens’ Champions League dreams for yet another year.