Real Madrid will play Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16 of the Champions League after the turn of the year, the side dubbed as the one to avoid in the competition.
The clash will see Neymar revisit old La Liga rivalries with Los Blancos, including the 2017 Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, as the two meet initially at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium before the return leg at the Parc des Princes.
However, despite Les Parisiens being seen as one of, if not the strongest force in this year’s competition, the Spanish capital side may not be too concerned about facing their fellow world-renowned counterparts, and here are four reasons why.
1. Real Madrid Hold the Advantage in History
In the competition’s current format, Real have never been beaten by PSG, with the two coming together in the 2015/16 season during the group stages.
On both occasions, Los Blancos were able to record successive shut outs against their French counterparts, recording a 1-0 victory in Spain while securing a goalless draw in Paris.
Although Les Parisiens are a more evolved beast today compared to that of two years ago, Madrid will certainly hold the psychological edge over their opposition – with several players still within Zinedine Zidane’s ranks evident during both nights.
2. PSG Have Shown Vulnerability
For long periods of this campaign it was difficult to see where Paris’ weaknesses lay, however recently have shown they are prone to the odd slip up.
This was no more evident than in their last Champions League outing with Bayern Munich, where the Bundesliga outfit, who were on the receiving end of a 3-0 steamrolling earlier in the term, dominated the 90 minutes and ran out deserved 3-1 victors.
The Bavarians’ victory also came just days after PSG came unstuck at mid-table Strasbourg, marking the first time Unai Emery’s side had suffered back-to-back defeats since 2014.
The fact that both an underperforming Bayern and a side from the lower echelons of French football have been able to overcome the big-money spenders will give Real confidence that they could also do the same to Paris.
3. No Last-16 ‘Curse’ for Seven Years
From the years 2004 to 2010 it was this very day Madrid fans feared most – the draw for the Champions League last-16.
For six seasons in a row Los Blancos were dumped out of the competition in the first knockout round following the group stages, with Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Roma, Liverpool and Olympique Lyonnais all getting the better of the Spanish giants.
However, since that point Real have not tasted defeat at this stage of the Champions League, unlike PSG who exited the competition during the round of 16 last year.
4. Real Remain Strong Against the French
Since the already alluded to last-16 exit against Lyon during the 2009/10 campaign, Real have come up against French sides on 12 occasions since in the competition, and claimed victory 11 times.
Although the only blotch on that record is their goalless stalemate with PSG in 2015, they still seem to have the perfect game plan for facing their Ligue 1 counterparts.
5. Can PSG Handle Pressure? History Suggests Not
Over the past two seasons, Paris have been placed in two high-profile precarious situations, where the odds were so much in their favour that it seemed impossible to see anything other than a win for the French side.
One of which being this year’s group stage, where despite Emery’s side coming out top of the pile, they showed complacency in their final fixture against Bayern.
Had the Bavarians tucked away just two more of their hatful of chances on that night at the Allianz Arena, PSG for the second season in a row would have surrendered the most unlikely of advantages.
Of course the second was 12 months previously, where Barcelona somehow performed the comeback of all comebacks, to book their place in the quarter-finals after overturning a 4-0 deficit from the first leg – claiming a 6-1 victory in the Camp Nou.
Ironically Neymar played a key role in that Barca comeback, however in recent times PSG have struggled to handle intense pressure when it’s needed most, and that is something that could well work in the favour of Real.