PSG and Real Madrid will come face to face in a clash of the titans in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 encounter.

The knockout stages of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League commence this midweek, and fans will be treated to a blockbuster encounter when La Liga leaders Real Madrid square off against Ligue 1 champions-elect Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes on Tuesday night.

PSG made it through to the Round of 16 after finishing second in Group A behind English champions Manchester City. Les Parisiens were not exactly convincing during the group stage, winning half of their games while losing one (D2). They head into this encounter on the back of consecutive wins against Lille and Rennes, and manager Mauricio Pochettino will be aiming to bag another crucial victory.

Real Madrid qualified to the knockout stages as Group D winners, besting Inter Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Sheriff Tiraspol. Los Blancos won five of their six group stage matches (L1) but have been in dodgy form ahead of this key clash. Carlo Ancelotti’s side has picked up just one win in their last four games in all competitions, most recently being held to a 0-0 draw by Villarreal and will need to turn things around.

The last time PSG and Real Madrid faced each other was in the group stages of the 2019/20 Champions League, with the latter failing to win either of those clashes (D1 L1). Ahead of this latest heavyweight encounter from Parc des Princes on Tuesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

PSG

The big news, though, is that Neymar, who has been out since late November, has returned to training and could be in contention to start against Real Madrid. On Tuesday night, the Brazilian is expected to get the nod on the left flank with former Barcelona captain Lionel Messi and Los Blancos’ transfer target Kylian Mbappe completing the loaded PSG attack. Angel Di Maria will be an option from the bench.

At the back, Gianluigi Donnarumma is expected to feature ahead of ex-Real Madrid man Keylor Navas, who started at the weekend. Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe ought to form the central defensive partnership, with Nuno Mendes and former Real Madrid prospect Achraf Hakimi lining up as the full-backs. The former will have a point or two to prove against the Spanish outfit.

Danilo Pereira should return to the starting XI after being left out in the last game. The Portuguese ought to take up the defensive midfield slot, with support coming from Leandro Paredes as they look to stop Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Marco Verratti will occupy the third slot in the middle of the park and look to spray-piercing passes forward for Neymar and Mbappe to chase.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes; Paredes, Pereira, Verratti; Mbappe, Messi, Neymar

Real Madrid

Fellow Frenchman Ferland Mendy is also back in the reckoning after completing the full training session on the eve of the game. Carlo Ancelotti has a fit and healthy squad to pick from ahead of his return to PSG.

Thibaut Courtois will guard the Real Madrid goal and hope to keep out the deadly PSG trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappe. He will need all the protection he can get from the backline comprising Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, David Alaba, and the fit-again Mendy. The full-backs, in particular, will need to be wary of the pace of the PSG forwards.

Marco Asensio, who has been in good nick of late, should get the nod over Rodrygo Goes on the right flank while there is no looking past the lively Vinicius Junior on the left.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius

Key Stats

  • PSG and Real Madrid have met on ten previous occasions in European competition, with the Spanish side just edging the head-to-head record (W4 D3 L3).
  • This will be the fourth time that PSG and Real Madrid have clashed against each other in the knockout stages of a European competition.
  • PSG won 3-0 against Real Madrid the last time they played the Spanish giants at Parc des Princes in the Champions League in 2019.
  • Real Madrid won all three of their away games in the group stage of this season’s Champions League. They did so while keeping a clean sheet in each of those contests.
  • Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema has scored in each of his last four Champions League appearances, racking up a total of five goals in total. He could become just the third player to score in five games in a row for the club in the competition after Cristiano Ronaldo (four times) and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Neymar, there is no shortage of superstars who can turn the match on its head in this blockbuster encounter.

Also, Messi has been part of some historic El Clasico moments in the past and enjoys a healthy record of 26 goals and 14 assists from 45 matches against Los Blancos. However, his time at PSG so far has been well below the level expected. The 34-year-old has taken time to get going but has shown signs of finding his rhythm of late.

Prediction

PSG 1-1 Real Madrid

It will be a match with many small stories within – Achraf Hakimi wanting to prove himself against his former employers, the ex-Barcelona duo of Lionel Messi and Neymar keen to assert themselves, Kylian Mbappe coming up against his potential future club, Karim Benzema gunning to prove that he belongs among the most elite footballers in the game, Vinicius Junior continuing his rapid rise to stardom.

PSG has been a daunting opponent to face at home this season, winning 14 in 16 across all competitions. They have momentum on their side as well, with Real Madrid faltering in their recent matches. However, the return of Benzema and Ferland Mendy should help the visitors up to their game a notch.

It promises to be a tightly-contested affair with neither side unwilling to concede too much ground. As a result, The Hard Tackle predicts this one to end in a scored draw, setting things up for a blockbuster second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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