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Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid, Champions League 2015-16: Match Preview

Champions League football returns after nearly a month gone.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

A match which neutral supporters will have a hard time watching because most people who aren't Real Madrid or PSG fans frankly loathe these clubs. But such is not the case for us! Champions League football is back!

Paris Saint-Germain have won five games on the trot, and will certainly send out more pure attacking talent than anyone Real Madrid's faced this season. Headlining their attack are household names Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, who have six goals apiece this season. Zlatan, 34 now, is not the physical specimen he once was, but the man still holds his unreal ability to find the net from nearly anywhere. Meanwhile Cavani has taken a dip of form following an electric start to the season, having not scored since September.

PSG's midfield is really where their magic happens. With Matuidi, Motta, and Verratti, PSG's had no problems creating chances (6 per match) for their targetmen. But PSG, too, felt the undying wrath of the international break, with Matuidi, Verratti, Angel Di María, and keeper Kevin Trapp all nursing injuries. Though the severity and duration of their players' injuries pales in comparison to Real's. Trapp will miss the match for certain, and the rest of them should be ready to go.

Where to even start with Real Madrid's injuries? Gareth Bale has been ruled out with a thigh injury. Luka Modrić and Karim Benzema are hopeful to play against PSG, but one could argue it might be better to let them take their time. Modrić and Benz are vital to Real Madrid, and to rush them back from muscle and hamstring injuries, respectively, would be short-sighted. Pepe and James are unlikely to make the trip. Sergio Ramos seems to be ready to go, so yay, I guess. Gerry wrote a tremendous piece about the nature of all these injuries earlier.

Benítez may send out a similar midfield to the one he played against Levante. Kovacic has been plugging along happily in Luka's absence, while Toni Kroos continues to be Toni Kroos. Casemiro's job this season has essentially been to make opposing midfielders' lives miserable, and he's gotten quite good at it. His physicality would serve Real Madrid well against PSG's loaded midfield.

Without Bale or Benzema, Jesé will likely find his way into the starting lineup, especially after his sublime finish at the weekend. Who else would move in up front? Benítez hasn't yet shown that he trusts Cheryshev (which is a bummer because I think Denis is a fantastically fun player), and everyone else is hurt.

For Angel Di María, well, the real emotion will really set in in two weeks when he makes his return to the Bernabéu. Di María told Canal+, should he score against Real, "I won't celebrate because, deep in my heart, I'll never forget what I experienced at Real."

A matchup to watch will be Cristiano Ronaldo against PSG right back Serge Aurier. Aurier has arguably been PSG's most dynamic player this season, as he's used his scorching pace and ball skills to provide the French side with some instant-offense when needed. Aurier's solid in defense, and will have his hands full with the world's best coming at him.

Paris Saint-Germain will be eager to prove they're at Real Madrid's level, and the racous Parc des Princes crowd will be a factor. Even though Real have to send out a patchwork 11, they still expect to give PSG all they can handle.

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