Champions League

‘We know we are going to suffer in Paris’: Zidane warns Real despite emphatic 1st leg win

The Frenchman wants his side to play with a lot of intensity to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Zinedine Zidane warned his Real Madrid players that they can expect to suffer in the return leg of their Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain despite seeing Cristiano Ronaldo inspire a 3-1 comeback victory on Wednesday.

The reigning European champions stunned the PSG of Neymar in the last 16, first-leg showdown with two goals in the final seven minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu from Ronaldo and Marcelo. Ronaldo had earlier drawn Madrid level with his 100th Champions League goal for the club from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time, cancelling out Adrien Rabiot’s opener for the French side.

“We can afford to have a bit of euphoria tonight. We have to be satisfied, and enjoy this,” said Zidane. “But there is a second leg to come where we will need to play with a lot of intensity. We know we are going to suffer.”

Real had already suffered for large spells of Wednesday’s match, before PSG collapsed defensively in the closing stages, unable to adjust after Zidane sent on Marco Asensio. Striker Asensio set up the two late goals, and Zidane will take plenty of credit for the impact his substitutions had on the game just when it looked as though PSG would leave the Spanish capital with the edge in the tie.

Zidane, under pressure because of Real’s indifferent domestic form, again saw the Champions League bring the best out of his team and Ronaldo. “With Ronaldo it’s difficult to always say the same thing. He has shown once again that he always turns up in the big games,” said Zidane, after the Portuguese became the first player to score 100 Champions League goals for the same club.

He has scored 11 this season in Europe in just seven matches, and he won the battle of the superstars at the Bernabeu with PSG’s Neymar. “Real Madrid love the Champions League and as players we can feel that on the pitch,” Ronaldo said after collecting his man of the match prize.

“Today things worked out for me, scoring two goals and helping the team win, but we know the tie is not finished yet.”

Soft penalty, say PSG

Image credit: PSG
Image credit: PSG

While Real are looking to win the European Cup for the third year running – something no club has done since Bayern Munich in 1976 – and the 13th time overall, PSG risk seeing their wait for a first Champions League crown go on.

A year after they fell apart in historic fashion to lose 6-1 in Barcelona at the same stage of the competition after winning 4-0 at home, here was another late collapse on Spanish soil.

Coach Unai Emery surely needs to win this tie to remain in the job, but he took big decisions that backfired. Captain Thiago Silva was left out, 21-year-old Giovani Lo Celso started in midfield and Angel Di Maria stayed on the bench even when Edinson Cavani came off in the second half.

“The team played well and deserved better. We have to be optimistic and positive for the match in Paris. We still have a good chance of getting through,” claimed Emery, who has drawn once and lost 10 times in 11 visits to the Bernabeu as a coach.

Emery tried to turn the focus on Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi, saying the penalty the hosts got for a Lo Celso challenge on Toni Kroos was soft. He also felt his side should have had a spot-kick for a Sergio Ramos handball. “When we play against a big team, it’s the same, always,” bemoaned PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi.

“Last year against Barcelona, this year against Real Madrid. OK, Real Madrid are a big club, but that’s enough now. UEFA have to do something.”

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