PSG and Real Madrid are set to lock horns on Wednesday night in their first Champions League game of the season and a lot has changed since then.
The last time PSG faced Real Madrid, it was a different Spanish outfit that was on its way towards lifting the Champions League crown.
Analyzing football through the prism of individual talent can often be reductive but in this case, it is fairly clear that the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo has had significant consequences for Real Madrid.
For several years, the Portugal international was the team’s main man and always seemed to come up with the goods when his team needed him the most. Able to score from anywhere, Real Madrid had come to fully rely on their talismanic attacker.
Since his departure, the goals have slightly dried up. While Karim Benzema has managed to score a few goals here and there, void is still there. Another aspect that’s missing is Ronaldo’s mentality as a leader that was passed on to the rest of his teammates.
Such leadership cannot be seen in the likes of Benzema or Gareth Bale regardless of their obvious qualities. Ronaldo was someone who scared opponents and often required two men on him to keep him quite. This gave the other players freedom to do what they want.
Now that Eden Hazard is here, the Belgian would be put to test against a PSG side that is not going to be an easy proposition.
While they get ready to take on the Ligue 1 giants, there is still a feeling that the club was never able to properly replace Ronaldo.
One must ask if there is a player who has improved following the Portuguese’s departure from Real Madrid? The answer is that only Benzema can look at himself in the mirror and feel that he has improved in the last 18 months.
The Frenchman has already scored four goals in the league and is leading the line effectively.
The same however, cannot be said about the other players. One has to look at Luka Modric’s form. The Croatian international has not been the same man since winning the Ballon Dd’Or in 2018.
Marcelo no more has the legs to cover distances the way he used to. Raphael Varane has all the talent in the world to become a great defender but the consistency just isn’t there.
It is often said that when a team wins, it has to be renewed in order to prevent players from going into their comfort zones and to maintain a sense of competition within the squad. At Real Madrid, this hasn’t happened. The squad needs a huge overhaul and what happened this summer should only be considered as the beginning.
James Rodriguez is back but the Colombian really needs to justify his place in the squad after spending the last two years away from the club.
Today, the starting XI for Real Madrid against PSG would be less stronger than the one that faced PSG a few years ago. The French giants on the other hand, boast the strongest starting XI in Europe and have great depth as well.