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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Extra experience can see potent Real seize the initiative

PSG could struggle to handle the enormity of the occasion

Cristiano Ronaldo scored nine of Real's 17 Champions League Group H goals
1 of 1

Champions League round of 16 first leg
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Wednesday

Big-spenders Paris St-Germain have assembled the most talented team in their history but it still might not be enough to match 12-time European champions Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

From the moment the draw was made the clash between Real and PSG stood out as the tie of the round.

The French champions have spent vast amounts of money in an attempt to conquer the elite of European football and stunned the football world by capturing Neymar from Barcelona last summer.

Neymar's first season in Paris has not gone entirely smoothly.

The Brazilian hasn't always seen eye to eye with manager Unai Emery and had an on-pitch disagreement with teammate Edinson Cavani over penalty-taking duties.

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But the Brazilian's goalscoring statistics this season - 19 from 18 appearances in Ligue 1 and six from six in the Champions League - speak for themselves and are a major reason why PSG are being spoken of as genuine contenders.

It is hard to judge the Parisians on their league results because the French league has become much less competitive as key domestic rivals Monaco and Lyon are frequently weakened by the sale of their top players.

Real Madrid team profile

PSG team profile

But PSG impressed in Champions League Group B, pipping Bayern Munich to first place, and look a more formidable side than the one who famously lost 6-5 on aggregate to Barcelona in last season's Champions League round of 16.

PSG's 6-1 loss in the second leg at Camp Nou was influenced by some questionable refereeing decisions but it was a poor, nervous performance from the French side, who struggled to cope with the enormity of the occasion.

Of the starting line up that night, only Lucas Moura has moved on and it will be fascinating to see how the players handle the mental challenge of another tough game away to a La Liga heavyweight.

Real are having a poor season and trail rivals Barcelona by a whopping 17 points.

They also underwhelmed in their Champions League Group H, finishing second to Tottenham, but are still capable of turning it on for the very biggest games and the tie with PSG is sure to get the juices flowing.

There have been signs of a more familiar Real returning over the last few weeks.

They have taken ten points from their last four La Liga games, scoring 18 goals in the process, and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo warmed up with a hat-trick in Saturday's 5-2 success at home to Real Sociedad.

Gareth Bale was restricted to a cameo substitute's role at the weekend but has had a bright start to the year - scoring five goals in seven appearances.

Karim Benzema, the third member of the 'BBC', is having a tough season but his role as a foil for the other attackers is often under-estimated and, as a package, Real's attack remains one of the most potent in world football.

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Racing Post football writers' verdicts

PSG might feel that their attack - Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani - is superior but of the trio only Neymar has a Champions League winners medal in his collection.

Many of Real's players know how it feels to win a Champions League on multiple occasions and that extra experience could make the difference on a special occasion in the Spanish capital.

Real Madrid
2pts 29-20 Betfair

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Team news
Real Madrid
Dani Carvajal is suspended and Dani Ceballos (ankle) is a doubt. Jesus Vallejo (hamstring) is out.

Paris St-Germain
Layvin Kurzawa (thigh) and Thiago Motta (match fitness) are doubts.

Key stat
Paris St-Germain have lost their last three matches away to Spanish opposition.

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Paris St-Germain have lost their last three matches away to Spanish opposition
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