PSG vs Real Madrid Champions League second leg preview
When the draw was made, this tie was the pick of the round. The first leg lived up to the hype in terms of intrigue, tactics, quality, and drama. Both sides have had intriguing campaigns. The French side are fourteen points clear in Ligue 1, while Real trail their rivals Barcelona by the same margin. Ironically, each manager faces the very real prospect, depending on what they fail to achieve, of losing their job this summer.
Unai Emery has been at Paris Saint-Germain for nearly two seasons. Considering the money lavished on his squad, he’s the easiest scapegoat for failures outside domestic competitions. His superb Europa League record works against him even though the Champions League is a wholly different level. His three consecutive continental trophies at Sevilla are anchors around his neck. He’s struggled in the Champions League becoming the only manager to have witnessed his side throw away a four-goal first-leg lead. That won't be his fate in this match.
First leg report
The opener at the Santiago Bernabeu was quite the tactical chess game. The first half saw honours even. Real started brightly. Ronaldo was guilty of missing two clear-cut chances. As the half wore on, PSG gained the upper hand. Rabiot's goal looked important until Real wrestled their way back to go in at half-time level.
The second half was a different story. PSG dominated but failed to take any from a myriad of chances. Still level after 70 minutes, the contest looked like it would peter out. Emery made substitutions to consolidate the result. Zinedine Zidane went looking for the goal that would give his side the advantage heading into the return leg. His positive approach paid off.
Zizou won out in the end with two inspired substitutions. Gareth Bale came on for Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio for Isco. The changes tilted the tie in Real’s favour and possibly kept the Frenchman in a job.
Asensio had a big hand in both goals scored. He ran down Bale's through ball, delivered in a cross, recovered the clearance, sent the ball back in, forcing a desperate save from Alphonse Areola. Ronaldo got his knee to the parry, and Los Blancos were ahead. Three minutes later, Asensio crossed for Marcelo's finish.
The last time Real were turned over after winning the first leg was in 2004. Coincidentally, it was against a French side.
Second leg predictions
The first leg was finely poised at 80 minutes, but when the final whistle blew, it was advantage Real Madrid. When Neymar was injured in domestic action, the advantage increased. The Brazilian had surgery over the weekend and won't be back until late April or early May. By then it may well be too late for Unai Emery.
A 3-1 scoreline can realistically be overturned. Les Parisiens have the away goal. They can win 2-0 to go through. With Neymar unavailable and Kylian Mbappe a major doubt, it's easier said than done. Their boss must find a way. His job depends on it.