Madrid and PSG vie for 1st place in Champions League group
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 03, 2015 10:55 AM
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, plays with a ball during a training session in Valdebebas stadium, Spain, Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. Real Madrid will face Paris Saint-Germain in a Group stage of Champion's League Group A soccer match on Tuesday.(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — After a scoreless dud in their first meeting, expect more when Cristiano Ronaldo hosts Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Or, to be more exact, when Real Madrid hosts Paris Saint-Germain.
Ronaldo looks to be more than ready to add to his competition record 83 goals after scoring 13 times in as many games this season, helping Madrid overcome a spate of injuries that has knocked out Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
"Cristiano will be fundamental for us tomorrow," Madrid coach Rafa Benitez said.
PSG leads the group, level on seven points with Madrid. A victory would qualify the winner for the round of 16 if Swedish team Malmo fails to take points at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Here are some things to know about Tuesday's Group A matches:
WHO'S IN GOAL?
With Keylor Navas between the posts, Madrid has yet to concede a goal in the competition through three matches.
But the Costa Rica goalkeeper missed Saturday's 3-1 win over Las Palmas because of a muscle pull in his right leg. He was replaced by newcomer Kiko Casilla for an easy win that kept Madrid at the top of the Spanish league standings.
Navas' superb start to the season has so far made Madrid fans forget both the departed Iker Casillas and David de Gea, who the club tried but failed to buy from Manchester United.
"(PSG) has great players that can complicate the match for you at any moment," Navas said. "I hope I can keep my good run alive."
DI MARIA RETURN
Angel Di Maria will make his return to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for the first time since leaving Madrid two seasons ago for Manchester United. He is now finding his confidence and form after a second high-profile transfer to PSG.
His playmaking skills can be decisive, as they were in the 2014 Champions League final when the Argentine was named man of the match for Madrid.
"(PSG) is a team that grows each year and with Di Maria it has taken another step," Benitez said. "I hope that tomorrow they are not at their best, but we have the maximum respect for them because they are one of the best teams in Europe."
Since taking over from Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc has won everything with PSG on the domestic stage.
After achieving an unprecedented treble last season, Blanc and his players got off to an even better start this term, leading their closest rivals by 10 points after 12 league matches.
But the former France coach has no guarantee that his contract will be extended when it expires next June. PSG's Qatari owners have one big goal for their club — winning the Champions League — and Blanc has been unable to deliver what they want so far.
Even though Bale and Benzema are expected to return soon, Benitez has ruled them out for the PSG game with important league matches at Sevilla and against Barcelona looming.
Midfielder James Rodriguez did practice with his teammates on Monday. He has been sidelined for two months with a broken right foot.
On Saturday, Madrid was also without Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal because of injury.
For PSG, defender David Luiz is set to return after nearly one month, but a bout of conjunctivitis will likely rule out midfielder Javier Pastore, while defender Marquinhos has yet to recover from a thigh problem.
Shakhtar and Alex Teixeira just can't stop scoring ... except in Europe, that is.
Eighteen goals in only 12 league games for the Brazilian midfielder has propelled Shakhtar to the top of the Ukrainian league standings. At the same time, however, Shakhtar has failed to take a point or score a goal in the Champions League.
Tuesday's game against Malmo will be about gaining the upper hand in what is now a battle for third place and a ticket to the Europa League.