Real Madrid visit Paris on Tuesday for their profoundly expected UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain (3 p.m. ET | CBS and Paramount+). Los Blancos, the best group throughout the entire existence of the opposition, enter the principal leg as the slight longshots against natural enemy Lionel Messi. Everyone’s attention is on whether French striker Karim Benzema will play in home soil as he works his direction back from a hamstring injury.
Underneath you’ll find our Real Madrid-themed storylines, how you can watch the match and that’s only the tip of the iceberg:
The most effective method to observe Real Madrid, chances
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 15 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Area: Parc des Princes – – Paris, France
Television: CBS | Live stream: Paramount+
Chances: PSG +100; Draw +260; Real +260 (through Caesars Sportsbook)
Real Madrid team news
Benzema has missed three games and has been out 21 days because of a hamstring injury. In spite of the fact that his status stays up in the air, he addressed the media on Monday and said he felt better. On the off chance that he can’t go, we will probably see Vinicius Junior in assault close by Marco Asensio. Reinforcement striker Mariano Diaz is very nearly getting back from a pelvis injury, however he’s set to pass up this match.
“Investing energy in the sidelines is troublesome. I’ve been working morning, early afternoon and night at home and at Valdebebas to be good for this one,” Benzema said Monday prior to preparing. “I’m intellectually ready, however presently I need to take a quick trip and perceive how I get a handle on the pitch. I’m here to help my group, it’s a gigantic match and on the off chance that I play I’ll be doing my absolute best out there. I’ll continuously constrain myself for my group, however I will not proceed to compel things and wind up getting a physical issue since that’d be awful information for the group.
“I’ve invested a great deal of long stretches of effort in and I’m feeling much better. We have an instructional meeting now and I’ll perceive the way I’m feeling and on the off chance that I’ll have the option to play. I’ve made considerable progress with my recuperation and I’ll need to perceive how I’m getting a handle on the pitch and we’ll settle on a choice in the wake of preparing. It’s an extraordinary game since it’s the Champions League. I feel good when I’m in France with the public group and I’m here today addressing my club. Individuals treat me well and I need to go out and perform on the pitch, which individuals need to see from me.”
An intriguing dynamic with regards to this game is seeing Real face who may simply be their next hotshot, Kylian Mbappe. The French striker is out of agreement in the late spring and has been connected with a transition to Real for some time now, with that normal to be his objective. Florentino Perez is in Paris for this match, which I’m certain he’ll need to get a very close glance at his expected objective. So how might he act in such an interesting spot? He’s the essence of this assault, and he’s kept on working on his science with Lionel Messi, as we saw last end of the week with the Argentine setting up the Frenchman for the late champ. Genuine’s safeguard, drove by Eder Miitao, should endeavor to twofold him in the crate reliably and safeguard that far post. If not, it very well may be a drawn out night.
After a two month hiatus the Champions League is back on Paramount+ and CBS. To be frank, precious little has changed at the top table of European football but then, whenever does it? Manchester City once more bestride the winter months like a colossus, the sheer weight of talent they have across the squad allowing them to reel off a string of victories as others limp their way through the festive fixture list.
Much as City have seemingly wrapped up their Premier League title, so Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have streaked away from the competition. The former look to be the most likely side to stop Pep Guardiola winning his first European Cup in the decade. The presumptive Bundesliga champions and Liverpool exist in the highest of echelons not least because these two teams know exactly what is required to claim this prize. At both Anfield and the Allianz Arena, there is something of an institutional composure when this time of the season rolls around. These teams know what is required to cross the finishing line in Saint-Petersburg three-plus months from now.
The same cannot be said of City nor Paris Saint-Germain, for whom this particular competition has become an obsession now that they have nuked the competitive landscape of Ligue 1. The same question — is this team battle hardened enough for the business end of the European calendar — will hover over their head for however long they are in this competition. Against a Real Madrid team managed by Champions League master Carlo Ancelotti, it is up for debate just how much of PSG we will see in this competition.
At the start of the season, the Parisians sat firmly near the top of our rankings but their squad has rarely, if ever, played football as enticingly in real life as it does in the virtual world. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are a “FIFA 22” player’s dream. In the Champions League, Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France, Mauricio Pochettino has struggled both to get them all on the pitch at the same time and to balance a side whose attacking trident offer so much with the ball and so little without it. Recent games have offered a glimmer of a suggestion that this team might start moving through the gears — not least a 5-1 win over Lille — but there will be many who reserve judgement until PSG show what they can do against the best teams.
The same might be said of Ajax, darlings of the analytics community before the competition started, now perhaps the great hope for anyone who wants to believe an underdog might make a major impact on this tournament. Their numbers are gaudy in the extreme — 102 goals scored in 31 games that have brought just three defeats — but many of those have been racked up against Eredivisie opposition. Even in the group stages of the Champions League, it might have been argued that Sporting and Borussia Dortmund were not serious tests for any team that might aspire to go deep in this competition. The jury is still out on them.
For a time Chelsea might have numbered themselves among the real contenders. They could again; at this stage last season no one had them down as winners before they swept the field. For the time being, a repeat triumph for Thomas Tuchel seems unlikely while Romelu Lukaku struggles for form and he has to come up with ways of replicating the success of his 3-4-3 system without its two most crucial components: Wing backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell. If the former returns, N’Golo Kante regains fitness and a consistent front three is stumbled upon this team could repeat last summer’s success in Porto.
Serie A may be relatively light on representatives in the last 16 at two, but both of them could represent intriguing dark horses. Inter Milan will need an almighty effort to overcome Liverpool in their first knockout round and the sheer unlikeliness of that sends them tumbling somewhat in our rankings. Still, the past few months have been kind to Simone Inzaghi’s side, who enter this competition with a top-five offense and top-10 defense in terms of expected goals (xG) across Europe’s top five leagues so far this season. The issue they have is that Jurgen Klopp’s side better them in both categories.
At the time the draw was made, many might have had Juventus’ tie with Villarreal as the most likely to produce an upset, that is if knocking off the faltering Old Lady of Italian football constituted one. Though they are certainly not yet the force of Massimiliano Allegri’s first spell in charge the Bianconeri are undefeated since the end of the Champions League group stage, their squad strengthened by the arrival of Denis Zakaria and Dusan Vlahovic, both of whom have settled swiftly into new surroundings. Suddenly, this team looks altogether more imposing with a solid defense, a midfield that can keep things ticking along and match winners at the top of the pitch. Their opponent, however, has also built a sense of momentum in the last few months, setting the stage for a high quality contest between two teams with a strong sense of identity.
That should make for a fun tie, but nothing like the drama of opponents suffocated by a sense of existential dread, desperate to just not lose, that Manchester United and Atletico Madrid have. The latter are in the midst of an identity crisis, the ferocity of past Diego Simeone’s team having somehow slipped away at home and in Europe. The fight seems to have gone out of them.
Identity crisis might be a generous definition of United’s difficulties, implying that there was some sort of governing principle about the way they play football that has disappeared. It did, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement was a very long time ago now. Ever since, they have been casting around for a big idea; Ralf Rangnick seems to have one and by many accounts that has gone down poorly in the Old Trafford dressing room.
A win might provide a welcome short-term fillip for either of these teams and perhaps convince some supporters that they could make a run at the big prize. They would have to move very fast indeed, however. Atletico, United and so many of the other clubs around them are returning to the European stage well aware of the chasm between them and the three or four teams that are leading the way.
The top tier: Title or bust
These teams should be disappointed with anything less than a semifinal berth and frankly even that might not be enough, such is their talent profile.
1. Manchester City (+2)
WWWWWWWWDWW. That is Manchester City’s run of form since the Champions League group stage came to an end, a period of time where they have scored 33 goals and conceded seven. In that time, almost every one of their attacking options has had a run of games where they have looked devastating, Riyad Mahrez building to a tally of 16 that is already the best he has had in a single campaign for City. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is back in the good books, Phil Foden continues to take vast strides on a monthly basis and Kevin De Bruyne looks back to his best. Be afraid.
2. Bayern Munich (–)
Bayern still might have City pipped for the most powerful offense in Europe. In domestic matches across the continent’s top-five leagues, they have the highest xG return at 64. The next best is Liverpool at 55.5. The twist is that Julian Nagelsmann’s side have played at least two fewer games than most non-Bundesliga sides below them.
3. Liverpool (-2)
One of the few sides in the upper echelon of Champions League contenders to have made a potentially meaningful addition to their squad this month at least if Luis Diaz’s impressive first start against Leicester is anything to go on. It is hardly as if Liverpool needed much more offensive firepower but they’ve certainly got it: Diaz is a devastating dribbler who averaged six take-ons per 90 in the group stage — the 13th highest tally — while successfully completing just over half. He could create yet more broken field for Mohamed Salah and company to thrive in.
Serious contenders: If things go right, why not us?
It certainly is not beyond the realm of imagination that any of these teams could be lifting the European Cup in Istanbul come May, though it may require a few fortunate breaks for the tournament to go their way.