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UEFA Champions League 2021-22: Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid Review

Hardly minutes after the draw for the round of 16 of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League was made, the football fraternity started a countdown for what was being dubbed as a ‘clash of titans’ fixture – Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid.

These two teams are poles apart, yet so very similar. The French giants and the Spanish powerhouse have together won 13 Champions League titles, except that all 13 of them were won by Real Madrid.

However, the tables have turned over the last few years and Paris Saint-Germain started this game as the favourites, mainly due to the fantastic squad they have assembled which features the likes of global icons in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

The first two are considered among the top three currently active footballers, but in this particular fixture, all eyes were on the third name – Kylian Mbappe. The French youngster is one of world football’s hottest properties with clubs circling him like sharks, given that his contract with PSG is up at the end of the season.

Real Madrid is being touted as Mbappe’s preferred destination, and as destiny and the football gods would have it, Los Blancos lost this game after fighting for 93 minutes, courtesy of a goal from their number one target for the summer transfer window.

The Parisiens took very little time to establish their dominance in the game and kept on knocking at Real Madrid’s door, but such was the resilience shown by Carlo Ancelotti’s men that the game almost ended in a goalless stalemate until a magnificent piece of individual brilliance helped the hosts take a lead into the Bernabeu.

Check out the highlights of the match:

 

POCHETTINO WINS TACTICAL BATTLE BUT REAL MADRID REMAIN COMPACT

PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino won the initial tactical battle with his formation. Though the formation was 4-3-3 on paper, his team lined up in what was a 4-3-1-2 set up on the pitch, with Messi being the free man operating behind Angel Di Maria and Mbappe.

This formation allowed the Argentine magician to take up any position he wished, but the Real Madrid players were up to the task. Di Maria got an early chance in the fourth minute, but he skied his shot over the crossbar.

Thirteen minutes later, a long ball from the deep found Kylian Mbappe inside the box but his shot was directed straight at Los Blancos’ custodian, Thibaut Courtois. The Belgium international was called into action was again barely four minutes later when he had to tip over a dangerous cross from Nuno Mendes.

In the first thirty minutes of the game, Real Madrid hardly troubled the hosts’ backline, except for when they got a freekick. However, their own backline should be praised for nullifying everything PSG threw at them, for indeed, the Parisiens were throwing the absolute kitchen sink.

 

FIVE MINUTES OF LOS BLANCOS UPSURGE

After soaking up the pressure for forty minutes, Real Madrid finally tried to up the ante in the last five minutes of the first half. Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr combined well and got their team a corner seconds before the lemon break. The delivery from the corner was menacing and Casemiro managed to head it towards goal, but his effort missed the target by only a whisker.

 

NEW HALF, SAME PSG

The fans of the thirteen-time European champions might have thought their team would play an attacking brand of football in the second half after their strong finish to the first period, but it was not to be.

The second half started exactly how the first half did – with PSG dominating the lion’s share of possession and the game being played out almost entirely in Real Madrid’s half. Mbappe got another good opportunity in the 49th minute, but for the second time on the night, Courtois denied him what would then have been his fifth Champions League goal of the season.

 

PENALTY TO PSG’S RESCUE, COURTOIS TO REAL MADRID’S

Ancelotti’s backline did all they could till the hour-mark, but Dani Carvajal’s callous mistake cost them a penalty in the 61st minute. Mbappe made a darting run down the right flank and was brought down by the Spanish right-back.

As he often does, Messi took the set-piece responsibility on his shoulders. He is usually a reliable player to convert a set-piece but fluffed his lines this time around, as Courtois did well to read his body language and dive in the right direction.

 

COMETH THE HOUR, COMETH THE MEN

Pochettino played his hand in the 71st minute of the game by bringing on Neymar and it will be fair to say that this substitution changed the complexion of the game. The hosts looked much more menacing with the Brazilian maestro pulling the strings, and Real Madrid’s defence was ultimately breached in the 93rd minute. It all started from a beautiful backheel from Neymar, but that still was merely 10% of what was an incredible goal. Having received the pass, Mbappe left two white shirts in Eder Militao and Lucas Vazquez for dead with his exquisite skills before pulling the trigger, and his shot took a deflection off Federico Valverde before nestling into the back of the net, thus giving PSG an immensely crucial one-goal advantage.

 

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