There are some truly mouth-watering ties in this year’s Champions League Round of 16, but none of them top Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid.
This is a clash between France and Spain’s top sides right now, each stacked with some of the world’s best players. Real Madrid are the historical kings of Europe; PSG are the upstarts still desperately looking to seal their first title. While neither are among the outright favourites, just imagine how invincible the winning side from this battle will feel.
2021/22 Champions League outright odds with William Hill
- PSG – 9/1
- Real Madrid – 16/1
All odds accurate at the time of writing. You must be 18 or over to gamble. For more information, visit begambleaware.org
Favourites or not, a look at the two starting XIs these giants could field will give you an indication of the magnitude of this fixture.
PSG are without Real Madrid legend Sergio Ramos due to a calf injury, but can still field a centre-back duo of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe.
The biggest news, however, is that Neymar may be fit enough to feature in the squad as he closes in on recovery from a ligament injury.
“We’ll see if it can happen,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “That’s the idea. All the big guys want to play in the big games. He already knows what it’s like to arrive injured at these games and has the maturity to channel his energy and play in the best conditions when he’s available.”
- PSG predicted XI: Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bernat; Perreira, Paredes, Verratti; Di Maria, Messi, Mbappe.
Real Madrid have been given a boost of their own, with Carlo Ancelotti saying Karim Benzema is ready to return — albeit delivering the news out of his car window. Los Blancos‘ only other major concern is Mariano Diaz, though he likely wouldn’t have started anyway.
- Real Madrid predicted XI: Courtois; Mendy, Alaba, Militao, Carvajal; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
With all that in mind, shall we take a look at the key narratives and history of this massive fixture?
Lionel Messi’s record vs Real Madrid
As soon as this draw was made, all eyes were on Lionel Messi. The Argentine has played more games against Real Madrid (45) than any other opponent, often proving their scourge with 26 goals and 14 assists. Only a handful of sides have felt his wrath more in either metric.
Only two of those appearances came in the Champions League back in 2010/11, but Messi made the most of it, scoring both goals in a 2-0 first-leg win over Los Blancos in the semi-finals. Barcelona went on to win 3-1 before beating Manchester United at Wembley in the final.
However, in Messi’s last seven El Clasico appearances — all following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus — he failed to register a single goal or assist, only coming out on the winning side twice.
Lionel Messi's last 21 shots vs. Real Madrid in LaLiga:
He failed to find the net with any of his seven attempts this evening. pic.twitter.com/2itMsUo9gh
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 10, 2021
Messi has struggled to get going at PSG but really only by his own standards; he’s still managed five goals in five Champions League appearances this season, for instance. He’d love nothing more than to remind Real Madrid who’s boss.
Past UCL meetings between Real Madrid and PSG
- 26/11/19: Real Madrid 2-2 PSG – Group stage
- 18/09/19: PSG 3-0 Real Madrid – Group stage
- 06/03/18: PSG 1-2 Real Madrid – Round-of-16
- 14/02/18: Real Madrid 3-1 PSG – Round-of-16
- 03/11/15: Real Madrid 1-0 PSG – Group stage
- 21/10/15: PSG 0-0 Real Madrid – Group stage
PSG and Real Madrid have met six times previously in the Champions League, with the Spanish side comfortably holding the upper hand. To date, Los Blancos have won three times and drawn twice — including an entertaining 2-2 stalemate in the last fixture back in November 2019.
Les Parisiens‘ one win came in that 2019/20 group stage campaign, but what a win it was! PSG gave Real Madrid a real bloody nose, with a brace from former Madrid star Angel Di Maria and a late strike from Thomas Meunier sealing a resounding 3-0 victory at Parc des Princes.
Carlo Ancelotti: The catalyst for PSG’s post-takeover success?
Carlo Ancelotti is loved in Madrid for delivering ‘La Decima’ in 2014. But it’s easy to forget that before he’d even considered the home dugout at the Santiago Bernabeu, he enjoyed a spell in charge of PSG, delivering their breakthrough 2012/13 title that opened the floodgates in Paris.
Unfortunately, Ancelotti wasn’t around for long after that and never had the chance to add to his trophy haul, but it’s interesting to look at how the managers since have benefited from the foundations he laid:
- Carlo Ancelotti (Jan 12 – Jun 13): 1x Ligue 1
- Laurent Blanc (Jun 13 – Jun 16): 3x Ligue 1, 2x Coupe de France, 3x Coupe de la Ligue, 3x Trophee des Champions
- Unai Emery (Jul 16 – Jun 18): 1x Ligue 1, 2x Coupe de France, 2x Coupe de la Ligue, 2x Trophee des Champions
- Thomas Tuchel (Jul 18 – Dec 20): 2x Ligue 1, 1x Coupe de France, 1x Coupe de la Ligue, 2x Trophee des Champions
- Mauricio Pochettino (Jan 21 – present): 1x Coupe de France, 1x Trophee des Champions
Shared alumni of PSG and Real Madrid
Right now, PSG have some pretty big former Real stars in their ranks. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas enjoyed a glittering spell at the Bernabeu despite being massively underrated, while Achraf Hakimi came through the ranks but never got his chance. Ramos is, of course, a legend, while Angel Di Maria never quite showed his best in Spain but had his moments.
They would all walk into a combined XI of players to have represented both clubs (managed by Ancelotti, of course). But who else would make the grade? Well, it needs a little shuffling around, with Lassana Diarra filling in at full-back — as he did 16 times across his career — but there are some huge names in there. With each player in their prime, this would be a formidable side capable of challenging for a Champions League title in its own right.
Alphonse Areola would sit alone on the bench, unless you wanted to be really cheeky and call in Neymar as a wildcard; he did play in a youth match for Los Blancos, after all.