Toni Kroos v Marco Verratti among key clashes as Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid

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An injury-hit Paris Saint-Germain host an injury-hit Real Madrid in a crucial Group A tie that could provide either team with an early vantage point in the Champions League group stages.

The two teams have faced each other twice in the knockouts in the last four years, with Madrid emerging victorious both times.

Injuries to Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric, Isco – and suspensions to Neymar and Sergio Ramos – have rendered this tie unpredictable.

Which key match-up do you need to keep an eye out for in their absence? We take a look.

MAURO ICARDI V RAPHAEL VARANE

VaraneRealMadrid (1)

Injuries to key players will mean that Argentinian gunman Mauro Icardi will be the focal point of PSG’s attack. When in form, the former Inter Milan striker can rip apart some of the best back lines.

But his goalscoring numbers took a massive hit last season, because of his off-field antics. However, a 10 out of 10 performance against one of the best teams in the world would be a perfect way to announce himself to the world again.

Despite being Madrid’s best defender, Raphael Varane was still some way off his best last season. Suspension to Ramos will mean that the Frenchman will be burdened with more responsibility.

This battle will see two world class players attempt to find their touch and gain some confidence ahead of the bigger games.

MARCO VERRATTI V TONI KROOS

marco-verratti

Two similar players in Marco Verratti and Toni Kroos will vie for midfield dominance with Marquinos and Casemiro providing assistance from the central defensive midfield positions.

The Italian has been one of PSG’s most consistent and reliable players in the last four years. He will play a crucial role in maintaining the tempo of the game and a good game from him could spell trouble for Madrid’s defence, by releasing Pablo Sarabia with an incisive pass.

Kroos endured a steady decline for a lot of last season. But he recovered well in the second half of the campaign and is now on a quest to re-establish himself as one of the best in the world. On his day the German remains a class act and his vast experience will be needed in Paris.

KEYLOR NAVAS V THIBAUT COURTOIS

A healthy competition, insists Thibaut Courtois

The duels from Madrid’s training sessions last season will be blown up to a continental stage when Thibaut Courtois and Keylor Navas go head to head on Wednesday.

Navas was the superior keeper at the Spanish capital last season but was never the favourite, and always seemed destined for the Bernabeu exit door. He will be determined to remind Madrid what they are missing when he takes guard between the posts.

Courtois will be under pressure knowing he has to live up to Zinedine Zidane’s faith in him and outperform the Costa Rican custodian at the other end. He had a poor debut season but a solid show against Levante on the weekend should boost his confidence ahead of the big tie.

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Sport360 staff 18/09/2019
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Eden Hazard is ready to make his debut for Real Madrid in the Champions League and coach Zinedine Zidane believes the Belgian will become a “very important” player for Los Blancos.

The La Liga giants are preparing for a tantalising Champions League group opener away to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night.

Asked about Real’s summer signing, Zidane said: “I always thought about Hazard that he is a determined player, who can make the difference in some situations.

“He showed it, and the fact that he is with us now, makes that he will want to show that. He is going to be a very good player. I don’t want to compare, because I don’t like comparisons, but I think he is going to be a very important player for Real Madrid.


“His future will be surely formidable. I said it in French, but it’s the same (in Spanish).”








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Cristiano Ronaldo "an animal in front of goal", says Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone

Sport360 staff 18/09/2019
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Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Atletico in the competition last season.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has called Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo “an animal in front of goal” ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League opener between the sides.

Simeone prepares his side for a shot at revenge for last season’s elimination at the last 16 stage by the Serie A giants. But the Argentine admits it is hard to plan to play against someone like Portugal powerhouse Ronaldo.

“It is hard to prepare something against such a player. He’s an animal in front of the goal,” said Simeone.

“He has an incredible record and in any situation near the box, he’s dangerous. He needs to be watched. He’s not easy to control, he has it all, what can we say about everything he has?


“We have suffered from him before, sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but he’s an animal in front of the goal.”








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