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

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 09:56 18/09/2019
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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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