Champions League - Football: PSG and Real ready to renew rivalry

07 March 2022 22:35:20 GMTPlus10
Pochettino's PSG will hope to do the double over Real Madrid

Of all the match stats from Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 last-16 first-leg victory over Real Madrid last month, one stands out more than the rest.

According to UEFA's own stats on their website, the French giants managed 22 goal attempts on the night at the Parc des Princes, compared to Real's paltry three.

PSG dominance

To the casual observer, PSG's narrow victory, secured thanks to a very late Kylian Mbappe goal in Paris, looks like a tight game that could have gone either way which was settled by a dramatic bit of brilliance by the France international.

However, the reality is it was a clash Les Parisiens largely controlled pretty much from the off. It was only their profligacy in the final third - which included a Lionel Messi missed penalty - which ensured they did not end up with a much more comfortable scoreline in their favour.

Indeed, had they taken just one more of several very presentable chances they would be heading to the Bernabeu with a healthy 2-0 lead that Real would surely struggle to recover from.

As it is, despite registering an xG of 2.6 in the first leg, compared to Real's 0.1, Mauricio Pochettino's side know their lead is a delicate one as the two European heavyweights scrap for a place in the last eight.

Can Real respond?

If Real do manage to overturn the deficit and progress on aggregate, Pochettino will have to reflect on another missed opportunity for the Paris giants in the competition they want to win more than anything else.

Even if Real respond in the second leg and win by a couple of goals or more, it will be PSG's failure to punish Los Blancos when they had them on the ropes in the first game that will be responsible for more disappointment in the latter stages of Europe's premier club competition.

As well as the telling shots and xG stats, PSG also enjoyed 57 per cent of the possession on the night, they recorded 74 attacks, compared to 31 from the visitors, and comfortably had more corners (seven to one) and completed more passes (628 to 442) than their opponents.

The counter-argument to those damning metrics in PSG's favour is that Real defended superbly to keep the hosts out and it took a fantastic bit of individual craft and guile by Mbappe in injury time to break their stiff resistance.

Carlo Ancelotti will demand more from his players in the home leg and they must offer much more going forward if they are to get back into the tie.

However, with PSG boasting the talents of Neymar and a certain Lionel Messi - on top of the aformentioned Mbappe - in their ranks it would take a brave analyst to suggest the French side will be nullified completely this time around.

The two sides' respective form since the first leg does offer Real hope but it's with the caveat that PSG have such a big lead at the top of their domestic division - 13 points - that they know a couple of defeats here and there probably don't matter in the grand scheme of things and they may well have been saving themselves for the trip to the Spanish capital anyway.

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Two Ligue 1 defeats out of three for PSG

Since the first leg, Real have won three times in La Liga - 3-0 at home to Alaves, 1-0 at Vallecano and 4-1 at home to Real Sociedad, whereas PSG have lost two of their three Ligue 1 games.

A 3-1 defeat to Nantes was followed up by a 3-1 home success against Saint-Etienne before a 1-0 loss most recently at Nice.

They missed the suspended Mbappe in the Nice defeat at the weekend and there is a sense that those league games were being used as glorified warm-up matches for the main event with it being fairly obvious the club's super-rich owners value European success more highly than Ligue 1 glory.

PSG are 31/20 to win the second leg and 1/3 to qualify from the tie, Real are 6/4 to win on the night and 9/4 to go through.

City got job done in Portugal

The other game on Wednesday night is Manchester City's home clash with Sporting Lisbon that is effectively already all over after City ran out 5-0 winners in the first leg in Portugal.

The Etihad tie may offer some of the fringe players in Pep Guardiola's squad the chance to impress and the Premier League leaders are short at the back with Kyle Walker suspended, while Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake are injured and Joao Cancelo is struggling with illness.

Guardiola, speaking in his press conference on Tuesday, suggested he only had 14 senior players available so he will certainly dip into his reserves and give some of his talented youngsters the chance to shine on the European stage as well althought he stressed it will be "a top side as much as possible".

Fernandinho could well operate as a makeshift right-back and it's likely Kevin de Bruyne will be rested while teenage trio Luke Mbete, James McAtee and Liam Delap will all hope to be involved.

City are 2/9 to win the second leg, Sporting are 10/1 and a draw on the night is 6/1.

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