The last time Neymar was on the same pitch with PSG players and a top-level Spanish football club,  he put in one of the best performances of his career.  On that mind-boggling night in March 2017, he scored 2 goals including the 90th-minute penalty to equal the scores on aggregate and provided the assist for Sergi Roberto’s winning goal. He will be hoping to have a similar impact over 180 minutes as Real Madrid face off against Paris Saint Germain. A knockout round winning performance against the team PSG wants to become is the level expected from Qatar’s national bank executives or whoever runs PSG on behalf of the Gulf State.

Real Madrid are the Kings of Europe, yesterday, today and for the next five years at least. But Zizou’s team hasn’t been in top form this season, their league title defense looks like its been manned by Titus Bramble and a 100 level University of Lagos law student. In the Champions League, they got just a point from a  possible 6 against the only coherent and decent team in their group, Tottenham. PSG are cruising in Ligue Un, 12 points ahead of second-placed Monaco. It is easy to point out that consistently winning against grape farmers from Bordeaux and defeating the reigning European champions are different expeditions. However, PSG dropped only 3 points in the group stages and it was in a dead rubber game against Bayern.

In the build-up to this encounter,  the goals have started drying up for Kylian Mbappe, there are calls for him to be replaced in the starting XI by the in-form former Real man, Di Maria. Cavani isn’t pulling up trees either as the M and C of the MCN have scored just 3 of PSG’s last 19 league goals.  In defence,  Dani Alves isn’t as spritely as he was in 2009 as evident in his struggles against the Pacy Max Gradel over the weekend. He’s still a formidable attacking presence from right back. In midfield, Lassana Diarra and Giovanni Lo Celso are in contention to start at the base of the midfield three in the absence of Ex Barça man, Thiago Motta. Marco Verrati is one of the best midfielders in European football with the markings of a good travel agency-efficiency and a love of bookings. His partnership with fellow tyro Adrien Rabiot against Madrid’s Casemiro-Kroos-Modric triumvirate should be exciting.

Real Madrid’s BBC are expected to start in attack with the accompanying limitations it places on the team in terms of making the team predictable and one dimensional in attack, exposing the very attack minded full backs. Although with Nacho expected to start in place of the unavailable Carvajal the right back position may be less attacking than usual. Pressure on the midfielders to help out in defensive wide areas may leave Madrid stretched in midfield. If this happens,  Real’s chances of winning will be slim as Verrati and co, run riot.

Aside from the quality talent on show and the intrigue of watching the world’s two most expensive players linking up for the same team on Europe’s grandest stage, and that team not been Real Madrid, there is a lot to look forward to: Sergio Ramos’ proclivity towards engaging match officials in a discourse on Hegelian dialectics during the game,  Marco Verrati and Casemiro’s borderline of the rules tackling, Bale Vs Alves,  Cavani and Benzema’s gripping contest for world’s most frustrating elite level number 9 etc. And of course,  countless pundits, commentators, and columnists telling you how many fighter jets,  public schools, bottles of Heineken and other important things the worth of both squads can buy.

Welcome to El Cashico.

What?  El Cashico

When?  14/02/2018 at 8:45 pm,

Where?  Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

 

Article By: Ernest Oryiman Bosha

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