Bet of the Day: PSG to defeat Real Madrid in Champions League group matchPublished on: September 18, 2019Author: Antonia Kelly
Tonight’s stand-out Champions League fixture is a testament to what can be achieved with a little effort, a smattering of ingenuity and an awful lot of cold, hard cash. Real Madrid, the plaything of princes and home to the galacticos, arrive in Paris to take on PSG – who are basically the French version of themselves. The rouge-et-bleu come into this game, somewhat hilariously, without any of their three first-choice forwards. Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani are absent through injury, while Neymar serves a suspension following his side’s exit at the hands of Manchester United last season. In the aftermath of that game, the Brazilian forward accused UEFA of corruption in the kind of social media tantrum only someone with obscene wealth can ever manage. In his absence, PSG must make do with two-time Serie A top scorer Mauro Icardi. Austerity is clearly biting deep in Paris.
Real are not without injury issues, their preferred midfield being broken up thanks to fitness concerns over Isco and world-class Croatian playmaker Luka Modric. For inspiration, they will find themselves leaning on James Rodriguez, returned from two years on loan at Bayern Munich, while they may also offer a full debut to Eden Hazard, expensively acquired from Chelsea. The last meeting between the sides came in the knockout stages of the 2017/18 tournament, and ended with Real winning 5-2 on aggregate. Tonight, PSG will seek to lay to rest the nagging (and, so far, absolutely true) sense that they may be too good for Ligue 1, but they still aren’t good enough for the top table in Europe.
Attacks set to dictate the game
With PSG unable to call upon Neymar (€200m+), Mbappe (€135m) and Cavani (just the €60m), they are likely to start tonight’s match with Icardi through the middle. The striker, on loan from Inter Milan, is a natural goalscorer who will be delighted to line up alongside fellow Argentinian Angel di Maria. There’s every chance that PSG will score two or more in this game, not least in light of Madrid’s weakened defence (Sergio Ramos and Nacho are suspended). So that’s good news if you’re a fan of the home side. The less palatable news is that Real can field an attack of Hazard, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, and Paris are missing German defender Thilo Kehrer, while Marquinhos must move into midfield – so the home defence will scarcely be any more settled than the visitors’.
Simply put, this is not likely to be a game where either side sits back and seeks to absorb pressure before looking to sucker-punch on the counter. These are two lop-sided teams and the likely outcome of this game is a high-scoring contest that’s won by the team making the fewest mistakes. 888 have a price of 11/8 on there being more than 3.5 goals – and we fancy that it could have passed that mark by half time, given both the attacking, and the defensive, players who will be on show in this contest.
Not a vintage meeting
Every summer, PSG delve into the transfer market with the backing of the oil-rich Qatari princes who own the club, and sign players who ordinarily wouldn’t even look in the direction of Ligue 1. Every summer, the idea is that these players are the ones who will take the club to the next level – reaching the final stages of the Champions League, not just cakewalking the domestic scene. Every summer, they seem to forget that it’s all very well and good buying players who stand out, but until they find a way of playing that balances the fancy stuff with some decent game management, they’ll keep getting knocked out before the showpiece ties.
In a way, tonight’s game might be the best chance PSG have to beat one of Europe’s elite sides. It’s the first game of the group stages, and Madrid can afford to lose this one. With half a team out injured, maybe the Spanish side will be vulnerable – and at 11/10, Paddy Power consider them favourites for tonight’s game. They’re probably just about correct in that – the game is in Paris, and also history dictates that it’s usually in either the quarter-finals or the last 16 that the whole expensively-assembled edifice comes crashing down and they get pounded by a side that has actually heard of little-known football tactics such as “tracking back” or “marking at corners”.
PSG to weather loss of MCN?
To lose one incredibly expensive forward is unfortunate – to be without three with a combined market value over €400million looks careless. And yet, PSG are able to reach into their locker and pull out a striker with the sheer ruthlessness of Mauro Icardi, whose last three seasons have seen him score 64 goals in Serie A; more than one every other game. Along with Di Maria, Icardi will be joined in the PSG attack by Eric Choupo-Moting, who has somehow ended up leading the line for the French champions off the back of a few frustrating seasons with Stoke City.
Icardi has been described as the ideal striker – he attracts little attention when on the field, isn’t the fastest or the most skilful player, and defences almost forget he’s there. He has a tendency to remind them by picking that one pocket of space, moving into it and burying the resulting chance, and with Real fielding a makeshift defence tonight he may just be a great bet to score the game’s first goal. Grosvenor have priced him at 4/1, and that’s a pretty decent price given the danger he poses in the penalty area.
Bets of the Day
PSG to win (Paddy Power, 11/10); Icardi to score first (Grosvenor, 4/1); More than 3.5 goals (888, 13/8)