Real Madrid head into the second leg of their round-of-16 Champions League tie against PSG with a couple of distinct advantages. While Real stars return, the Parisians will be without the world's most expensive player.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will like his team's chances as they head to the French capital to complete the job of advancing to at least the quarterfinals of the Champions League for an eighth year running.
Not only does his team carry a 3-1 advantage into the second leg at the Parc des Princes, but it looks like midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who haven't played in nearly three weeks due to injury, are again at his disposal. Both Modric, who had been out with a muscle problem, and Kroos, who has recovered from a knee injury, trained with the team on Sunday. Zidane has included both in the list of 24 players to travel to Paris.
Left back Marcelo is also available. The Brazilian returned to action in Real's 3-1 win over Getafe on Saturday after sitting out a fortnight due to a muscle injury, while right back Dani Carvajal is back after serving his suspension.
'A different intensity'
However, the former star midfielder, whose team last season became the first to win two Champions League titles in a row, will not be taking Paris Saint-German lightly.
"I will prepare for the game in the same way I always do. We know how difficult it is going to be. We will have to be at our very best to win," Zidane said after Saturday's win in La Liga. "We will have to play in that game with a different intensity certainly, but we are ready for Tuesday."
No Neymar, no chance?
What also plays into Real's hands is the injury to the most expensive player in the world. Neymar, who famously moved to PSG for a record-breaking €222 million ($273 million) after the Paris club triggered his release clause last summer, sustained a cracked metatarsal in his right foot during a game against Marseille in late February – putting him out of action for up to three months.
Paris, though are not prepared to give up without a fight.
"With Neymar PSG are stronger, and without 'Ney' we are still strong because there are other players," veteran right back Dani Alves told the prematch press conference on Monday. "For sure, we will feel his absence. But I insist that between sitting down and crying and getting up and getting on with it, I always opt for the second option."
"When one player is missing, it opens the door for someone else, and I know that whoever comes in through that door tomorrow (Tuesday) will do so with all their force," coach Unai Emery said.
PSG have lost just one of their last 46 home games in Europe and they may feel they have something to prove, having blown a 4-0 first-leg advantage over Barcelona at this stage last season, only to bow out 6-5 on aggregate. However, overturning a 3-1 deficit against a Real side – who have only the Champions League to play for after falling 15 points adrift in La Liga and having been eliminated from the Spanish Cup – promises to be a very tough nut to crack.
In Tuesday evening's other match, Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool are all but through following their 5-0 away win in Porto in the first leg. Still, he has said he intends to field a full-strength side in the second leg, despite the fact that the Reds have to travel to Old Trafford on the weekend.
"They will strike back, that's what they want. They are Portuguese and proud and will give a fight," Klopp said.
"If anybody here thinks they can come here and give the game up, leave their star players at home or whatever they are mistaken. It's Champions League and the whole world is watching."
Champions League round of 16 second-leg fixtures
Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. CET
Paris vs. Real Madrid
Liverpool vs. Porto
Manchester City vs Basel
Tottehnham vs. Juventus
pfd/jh (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)