CL: Showdown of superstars as Real Madrid face Paris St Germain
World's best Ronaldo and most expensive player Neymar go head-to-head as European heavyweights Real Madrid and PSG clash in Champions League Last-16 first leg tonight
Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo during a practice session yesterday on the eve of their Champions League tie against PSG tonight. Pic/AFP
With Cristiano Ronaldo on one side and Neymar on the other, tonight's heavyweight Champions League showdown between Real Madrid and PSG sees two of the game's biggest global superstars collide. Ronaldo, the current world player of the year, has rediscovered something like his best form just at the right time for Real. PSG, meanwhile, are placing their hopes in Neymar, the world's most expensive player and a Ballon d'Or winner of the future, as they chase the European glory that has thus far eluded them. The Brazilian is already being talked about in the Spanish capital as a possible successor to the Portuguese.
Ronaldo back in form?
Ronaldo back to his best? So far Neymar's route to the Ballon d'Or has been blocked by the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly — they have won the prize five times each in the last 10 years. If Neymar inspires PSG to victory in this tie, and then on to glory in the final in May, he will stand a good chance of ending their domination. But while Ronaldo turned 33 last Monday, he is far from finished. He scored just four times in Real's first 18 La Liga games, his slow start to the season following a summer overshadowed by accusations of tax evasion. But a weekend hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad took him to seven goals in his last four league outings. Suddenly, CR7 now has 23 goals in all competitions this season, more than at the same stage a year ago.
"I am always looking to perform at the highest level and sometimes things don't work out the way we would like," Ronaldo told realmadrid.com. He may be beginning his decline, but there is life in him yet. And Ronaldo also lives for the Champions League, a competition he has won four times before. The Portuguese scored nine times in this season's group stage and his next goal will be his 100th in the competition for Real.
Neymar's tumultuous start
Meanwhile, Neymar's first six months in France have at times been overshadowed by reports of an uneasy relationship with Edinson Cavani, the other idol at PSG and the club's all-time record goal-scorer. But Neymar can almost do what he wants, as long as his performances on the field satisfy PSG owners after they invested a world-record 222m euros to sign him. And he is delivering on the pitch, scoring a goal a game. "We have lots of great players, but our leader is Neymar," said PSG coach Unai Emery recently.
No. of games Real Madrid are unbeaten in 17 Champions League games at home
No. of goals Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in all competitions this season
Record no. of goals PSG has scored in Champions League group stage this season