PSG vs Real Madrid: Three key battles

Sudip Banerjee

Bengaluru, September 17: For the first time since 2015, Real Madrid kick off their Champions League campaign knowing they are no longer holders of Europe's most-coveted prize.

Zinedine Zidane won back to back three Champions League titles before his departure from the club and now he is back at the club after the Los Blancos failed to shine under two different managers after the Frenchman's exit.
Zidane's side face arguably their toughest fixture in the group in their opening match against French champions PSG, who were boosted by the return of want-away star Neymar at the weekend.

But the Ligue 1 holders have plenty to be concerned about ahead of Wednesday's game with none of their famed attacking trio available.

Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani are both injured for PSG while Neymar is serving a three-game ban, so Mauro Icardi could make his full debut for PSG after joining on loan from Inter Milan.
Zidane also faces an injury crisis with seven first-team players unavailable but his headache will be much lesser than his counterpart Thomas Tuchel.

Here are three key battles those could decide the fate of the game:
Mauro Icardi vs Raphael Varane
Mauro Icardi joined PSG on loan from Inter after a troublesome time at San Siro following years of his heroics for the Italian giants. We all know the quality he has on offer and PSG will hope that the Argentine makes a great impact against Real Madrid with their star trio of Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar all missing.

Icardi is a lethal forward and needs to be marked tightly with skipper Sergio Ramos suspended for the game and Raphael Varane needs to do that job. In absence of Ramos, the French World Cup winner with pair up with new boy Eder Militao who is a quality player but is yet to gel in at the Spanish capital club.
Karim Benzema vs Thiago Silva
Karim Benzema has transformed his game completely since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid and was one of the only few positives last season.

He has scored four goals this season in four outings already and will be keen to do the damage to PSG but will be up against experienced Brazlian superstar defender Thiago Silva who still looks excellent at the age of 34.

It will be a battle of experience as well as abilities with the star duo both being seasoned professionals and excellent servants to their respective clubs.
Marco Verratti vs Casemiro
With both sides facing severe selections issues, the midfield battle will be even more vital for the outcome of the game. Marco Verratti will be given the license by Tuchel to do the damage from midfield as much as he can in the absence of his star triumvirate and Zidane will rely on his Casemiro to stop Verratti.

Casemiro is one of Zidane's favourite players thanks to his excellent commitment to the game and the club. He can do absolutely everything to help his side win the game and never hesitates to play the dirty game when needed and that kind of game could be needed like someone as graceful as Verratti.

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