This is a big one.
Laurent Blanc and Paris Saint-Germain are feeling the pressure for Champions League success after being knocked out in the quarterfinals of the past three editions of the tournament, there’s no denying it. The sensation will be even more acutely felt on Wednesday, when they play host to 10-time champion Real Madrid.
Why? Well, to start, this match will mark the first time that Ángel Di María – who joined the Paris side on a £45m Euro deal this summer – will face off against Madrid since leaving for United. The last time he suited up for Los Blancos? When he led them to Décima glory, awarded Man of the Match for his tremendous efforts in the historic 4-1 win over Atlético de Madrid. Yeah. This means a lot.
Di María scored 22 goals in 124 La Liga games for Madrid, and in my mind, there’s absolutely no questioning his legend status. I loved watching his graceful movement spinning circles around defenders while sprinting down wings, consistently making my eyes melt with his magic. This will be an emotional encounter, no doubt, but thankfully (for madridistas) Ángelito has vowed not to celebrate if he scores against his former teammates.
“If I ever score a goal I won’t celebrate because deep in my heart, I’ll never forget what I experienced at Real,” he told French TV channel Canal+.
PSG are on a fantastic form, with 11 wins and two draws in 13 in all competitions this season.
Rafa Benítez, on the flip side, currently has Madrid at the top of the Liga table, with two UCL wins under his belt to boot. He’s no stranger to UCL competition, either; you’ll recall that the greatest moment of his career thus far was leading Liverpool to a comeback win in the 2005 final vs. AC Milan. This guy knows how to ball.
The good news for madridistas? Despite a relapse for Gareth Bale, Luka Modric might be back in action, and reports are coming in that Sergio Ramos – who’s been out for two weeks since injuring his left shoulder vs. Atléti – will receive a painkilling injection that will allow him to participate as well. Big Benz is desperate to get back into the fold, but only time will tell if he makes the squad. Pepe, Carvajal, and James will all still be missing in action.
By the way, do we even need to say it? Madrid’s defense has been fire, thanks to that otherworldly saint Keylor Navas. So good luck scoring Ángelito.