Real Madrid vs PSG | Wednesday 9th March 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport
After the initial draw for Champions League Round of 16 knockout stages was declared void by UEFA due to a “technical failure”, many neutrals were left salivating when the redraw paired 13-time champions Real Madrid with the French powerhouse Paris St-Germain.
However, fast forward from that farcical December day to Paris, not quite in the Spring, and Carlo Ancelotti went full on party pooper mode for the first leg – seemingly opting to shut up shop from the get go and look to take a goalless stalemate back to Spain.
Seeing just 43% of the ball Los Blancos only managed three off target shots at goal, forcing a solitary corner and producing a pitiful xG of 0.1 – all while Thibaut Courtois was kept busy, making a total of eight saves, before his resistance was finally broken deep in to stoppage time meaning his side have a one goal deficit to overcome here.
Madrid will certainly take confidence from the fact that since that defeat, they have won all three games, a 1-0 defeat of Rayo Vallecano sandwiching victories over Alaves and most recently a 4-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad – a performance their legendary Italian manager described as “near perfect”.
Scratch under the surface though and I’m not sure that result was as convincing as the 62-year-old would have us believe, scoring an equalising goal in the 40th minute with their first shot on target, one of two strikes from distance to go alongside a second half Karim Benzema spot kick and their xG only totaled 1.7 – discount that strike from 12-yards by their leading scorer and they had a non-penalty xG of just 0.9.
In contrast to their hosts, Les Parisiens have lost two of their three games since the first leg, both of those being away from home, with Christophe Galtier, coach of last weekend's conquerors OGC Nice, admitting PSG were a different prospect without the suspended Kylian Mbappé – allowing his side to play a higher line and secure a third clean sheet of the season from three contests against the runaway Ligue 1 leaders.
The 23-year-old, who scored the only goal of the tie so far, is a doubt for the second leg after injuring his foot in training on Monday morning but his club say his condition is “reassuring”.
It would be a surprise to me if Mbappe didn’t start and as a result will certainly lead to Real being conscious of leaving any space in behind for him and any two of Neymar, Lionel Messi or Ángel Di Maria, to exploit.
The scrapping of the away goals rule, something that has been used since 1965 to decide drawn two-legged games by favouring the team that scored the most away goals, in my opinion will see a more pragmatic, cautious approach from Ancelotti, shorn of the services of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Ferland Mendy – akin to that first leg showing, knowing he has 90 minutes to at least secure a single goal victory, with the possibility of an extra 30 minutes with home advantage to deliver the knockout blow.
This has led me to our first two bets.
A starting base for a Bet 365 Bet Builder of under four goals which as it drops just beneath my minimum odds for bets in these previews of 4/5, I will add over 0.5 Neymar shots – something he has managed in all of his last 15 starts for his club so far this season (1-3-4-2-2-2-3-1-2-2-1-3-3-3-2).
It would be no surprise to see this tie go the full distance and as already mentioned in previous years that meant it would have to end 1-0 – here any single goal win for the hosts after 90 plus the additional 30 minutes would allow this bet to be a winner – so I think “match to go to penalties” is worth a small investment at 7/1.
As already mentioned, I am expecting Kylian Mbappé to make the starting lineup, although one man who will definitely be hoping I am wrong is Dani Carvajal, who has possibly not slept much since their last encounter.
The French international terrorised Madrid’s right back, tormenting him early on to create a chance for Ángel Di Maria, beating him constantly throughout the first half on his way to picking up a deserved Man of the Match award.
Carvajal was eventually hooked after 72 minutes but not before hauling Mbappe down in the box midway through the second period, only for Lionel Messi to miss the resulting penalty and so had a ring side seat to see the 23-year-old forward slalom past Eder Militao and Lucas Vasquez before firing his side in to a priceless 1-0 win.
If selected here, the 30-year-old Spaniard looks a prime candidate to see a card from referee Danny Makkelie, who has booked eight Madrid players on his last two visits to the Bernabéu and although a best price of 9/5 is plenty short enough, it still looks a good bet.
For those of you looking for more bang for your buck, lower stakes, higher odds options are for Carvajal at 8/1 to be the first name in to the Dutch official’s notebook or 22/1 to be sent off.
Real Madrid vs PSG – Under 4 Goals and Over 0.5 Neymar Shots (4/5 Bet 365)
Real Madrid vs PSG – Match to go to penalties (7/1 William Hill)
Real Madrid vs PSG – Dani Carvajal to get a card (9/5 Unibet)