Paris Saint-Germain take their slender 1-0 lead to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night as Real Madrid look to overturn the deficit and reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
The blockbuster last-16 tie saw PSG strike the first blow thanks to a 94th-minute winner from Kylian Mbappe in the first leg on February 15.
Since that match however, PSG have lost twice in Ligue 1 with defeats at Nantes and Nice coming either side of a home victory over St-Etienne. By contrast, Real Madrid are in form, winning their last three La Liga matches by an aggregate of 8-1 – a perfect response to the defeat in Paris.
It makes for an unpredictable second leg on Wednesday, with one European giant set to fall before the quarter-final stage.
We’ve asked Eurosport’s offices in Spain and France for the lowdown on form and fitness, and where the second leg will be won and lost.
Since the loss to PSG, Real have won three out of three, scoring eight goals and conceding one. Would you describe their preparation as the best possible?
Eurosport Spain’s Andres Weiss: Real Madrid headed into the first leg with doubts, but now the tables have turned and Madrid are in the best possible form.
The only possible problem is the physical tiredness of Carlo Ancelotti’s team.
Since the win over Real, PSG have won one, and lost two. How bad have they been since beating Real?
Eurosport France’s Louis Gilles: The loss against Nantes was a very intense game, but the loss to Nice is more of a concern because it highlights the PSG we know in Ligue 1 this season: dull, unable to create danger with the ball, and guilty of careless mistakes.
Overall, it shows once again a truth every PSG observer knows this year: without Kylian Mbappe, PSG are lost. He embodied the win over Saint-Etienne one week ago, and was absent in Nice this weekend. He’s the game-changer for Paris.
Do Real have any injury concerns?
Eurosport Spain: There’s a doubt if Toni Kroos will play, but Eduardo Camavinga proved that he can be a good choice if Kroos is not ready to be in the starting line-up on Wednesday.
Do PSG have any injury concerns?
Eurosport France: There has been a huge concern about Mbappe after he received a hard tackle in training on Monday by former Aston Villa and Everton player Idrissa Gueye. His left foot is hurt, and he was immediately transferred to the closest hospital for a better examination. He should be fine on Wednesday, but his absence would be a big worry for Mauricio Pochettino and his staff. Sergio Ramos and Ander Herrera will also be out for the trip to Madrid.
Who is in the best form for Real at the moment?
Eurosport Spain: Karim Benzema, without a doubt. He has scored three goals and has also assisted three times since his game against PSG.
The 34-year-old is now on 27 goals and 12 assists for the season, averaging just under a goal a game in the league – 20 in 24.
Who is in the best form for PSG team at the moment? Also who are the form worries?
Eurosport France: I already answered for Mbappe, but we are also tending to see a better Messi these past few weeks.
His first leg against Madrid was quite interesting, and he delivered two assists for Mbappe against Saint-Etienne. He seems to feel comfortable with Paris, but honestly the Nice game this weekend made us fall back on our hopes and expectations. We’ll see if it was just an accident…
Is there a feeling of confidence at Real going into the second leg?
Eurosport Spain: The good form of Madrid gives confidence to their supporters, but the physical power PSG showed in the first leg is still something to be cautious with.
Is there a feeling of confidence at PSG going into the second leg? Or a sense of doubt?
Eurosport France: That’s an interesting question, especially when it comes to PSG and its recent history. To be honest, the feeling is pretty confident ahead of the big game. I believe the first leg and the great performance of Paris Saint-Germain’s players showed us that they are able to elevate their level this season, which was one of the doubts we could have.
This domination on a club like Real Madrid was even a bit surprising at times during the game, but it’s worth reminding it’s only 1-0 up so far. There’s not a big mention of doubt or fear like there used to be at some times in the previous years.
Once again, Mbappe’s health will be key to this level of confidence. If he’s fit, Paris has less to worry about that’s for sure. There’s also the problem of the ‘impossible quartet’ in front for PSG: Messi, Mbappe, Neymar and Di Maria. It has almost never worked this season with the four of them on the field at the same time, and while Pochettino had the excuse of Neymar not being fit enough to start on the first leg, it’ll be interesting to see what he decides on Wednesday for the balance of his team.
Logically, Di Maria should start as a substitute, even though it’s more for the egos of all the stars than for a real sports logic. We’ll see…