Jack Lang is expecting a thriller - and a minor upset - at the Bernabéu...
"It's hard to look at Madrid's form all season and have any confidence in them. They have struggled to contain sides far less potent than PSG, and may struggle if Neymar and Edinson Cavani build up a head of steam"
Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain
Live on BT Sport 3
Madrid's Jekyll and Hyde form
If Paul Merson had to pick one word to describe Real Madrid's recent form, he would almost certainly settle on 'Revely'. You never quite know which team is going to show up at the moment: the one capable of thrashing Sevilla, Deportivo La Coruña, Valencia and Real Sociedad, or the one frustrated by Numancia, Villarreal, Leganés and Levante.
Zinedine Zidane does not seem to know either, judging by his frequent bemusement this season, but at least Madrid do now seem capable of turning it on in the final third on occasion. A hat-trick for Cristiano Ronaldo against La Real on Saturday took his tally over his last four games to seven, and while Karim Benzema is still struggling, there have been goalscoring contributions from Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and even Nacho over the last few weeks.
Bale and Casemiro will expect to be recalled after being rested at the weekend, meaning there is probably just the one spot in the starting XI up for grabs. Lucas Vázquez, Isco and Marco Asensio all look better bets than Benzema on current form, but Zidane has shown consistent loyalty to his fellow Frenchman and so could pick the full BBC frontline in Madrid's biggest game in ages.
PSG look prepared
Anyone entertaining the notion that Ligue 1 represents a challenge for Paris Saint-Germain this season would do well to look at the table. Les Parisiens are 12 points clear at the top and have only dropped 10 points all season, the rest of their form card an enviable shade of green after cruising through the last few months.
Their Champions League group was also negotiated with ease, despite a minor scare away to Bayern Munich, meaning that, to all extents and purposes, Unai Emery and his charges have been preparing for this very match for most of the season. When you spend the kind of money PSG did on Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, the last 16 simply won't do anymore; these are the kinds of ties that simply have to be won.
Emery has three selection dilemmas, two of which are fairly mundane: who to pick at left-back (Layvin Kurzawa or Yuri Berchiche), and who to draft into midfield if Thiago Motta isn't judged ready to play (Lassana Diarra or Giovani Lo Celso). The final one has more riding on it: does the Spaniard dare to pick the in-form Ángel Di Maria over Mbappé, even given the latter's recent struggles with form and fitness?
PSG have unhappy memories of both their last trip to Spain (that staggering 6-1 defeat to Barcelona) and their last meetings with Real Madrid: they failed to score in two group-stage games against Los Merengues in 2015/16. Their squad has taken a quantum leap forward since then, of course, but the the truth remains that their knockout stage pedigree is still very much in formation, meaning Madrid might tempt in this first leg at [2.5].
That said, it's hard to look at Madrid's form all season and have any confidence in them. They have struggled to contain sides far less potent than PSG, and their cup knowhow will only get them so far if Neymar, Edinson Cavani and the rest manage to build up a head of steam at some stage in the match.
PSG do much of their best work at the Parc des Princes - Montpellier, Marseille, Monaco, Strasbourg, Bayern and Lyon have all tested them on their travels - so [2.9] on them to win is a risky bet, but one that could pay off handsomely. Although with goals also expected (see below), PSG backers should probably look at backing the French side with 2.5 goals in the match at 12/5.
26 of Real Madrid's 36 matches and 30 of PSG's 37 this season have gone over the 2.5-goal line, so it's no surprise that the overs are short at [1.55]. But given the sides have served up 15 and 21 games respectively with four goals or more, going over the 3.5-goal line could make more sense at [2.22].
It is hard to look past Neymar in the goalscorer markets. The Brazilian netted six times in six group games, will be on penalties and free-kicks, and could have extra motivation to impress at the Bernabéu, given the talk of transfer interest from Madrid. [2.36] looks a good price.
Jack Lang's Champions League P/L, 2017/18