Real Madrid Femenino have had a good start to life in European competition in comparison to their domestic season. They’ve managed to win their opening games with an aggregate score of 6-0 while facing Kharkiv-WFC and Breidablik in their debut season in the Champions League. Las Blancas’ first big test comes in the form of French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG, who finally put an end to Lyon’s monopoly over D1 Arkema, are a side with lots of firepower up front. The trio of Sandy Baltimore, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, and Kadidiatou Diani combined to score 42 league goals in 2020/21. While PSG have lost key players on the defensive end of things (Endler departed for Lyon and Irene Paredes joined Barcelona) and have seen a managerial change at the helm, the attack has continued to look just as threatening.
PSG come into their encounter vs. Madrid with two wins in two in the UWCL and an aggregate score of 7-0. In the domestic league, their record is flawless, having conceded 0 goals in 7 games and scoring 23 times in the process. The Parisian outfit will be a major threat to Aznar’s side, who have really struggled to get a good string of results domestically. This game will help Las Blancas gauge how they stack up against the European elite.
PSG normally set up in a 4-3-3 formation under head coach Didier Ollé-Nicolle; one holding midfielder (Kheira Hamraoui), one controller (Grace Geyoro), and one midfielder with the creative gene (Sara Däbritz). The lineup is completed by the front three of Baltimore-Katoto-Diani.
When building out from the back, the principals are very much typical of a 4-3-3 system. The CB’s split wide with the FB’s pushed up high. Sakina Karchaoui (LB) likes to join the attack a lot and Hamraoui often drops back as a passing option. A lot of the play flows through the wide areas due to the abundance of wide talent the Parisian side possesses.
Hamraoui provides the screening presence while Geyoro is great at circulating possession and keeps things ticking. Additionally, Däbritz has the creative flair to unlock defenses.
When the ball is out wide, PSG do quite well to put bodies in the box, with the far-side midfielder joining attacking the area. When in the final third, the ball-sided midfielder often helps out in creating numerical advantages out wide. These numerical advantages also come into play when PSG lose the ball and have to counterpress high up the pitch.
The weakest point in the side is their defense, which often leaves space in behind in an attempt to be expansive. The new CB partnership hasn’t really been tested yet and has looked vulnerable at times during league games. Madrid should try to exploit these potential vulnerabilities on PSG’s left side.
Five Players to Watch Out For
Kadidiatou Diani (26, Right Winger)
Diani is arguably one of the most frightening wingers in world football. She has incredible dribbling and carrying, really quick acceleration, and the ability to slice passes through defenses. She can also pin defenses through her movement and create opportunities for others and has a fantastic shot from distance.
Despite all her attacking prowess, Diani also works really hard off the ball. She is an intense counter-presser and is dominant in duels. Her finishing could be better but, coupled with the volume of chances she creates on a per 90 basis, it’s a net positive.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto (23, Striker)
Katoto is possibly the best U-23 striker in the world. The Parisian has already amassed 100 goals for PSG in domestic competitions and has recorded 20+ goal tallies in three of the last four league campaigns. She has big-game DNA as well, famously scoring against Lyon last season to hand her rivals their first league loss in almost four years.
With very potent creators and crossers in wide areas, Katoto comes alive in the box with her movements and awareness. She is just a “natural” goal scorer in the sense that her instincts inside the box are top drawer. She has all sorts of finishes in her repertoire and is a dominant aerial force at 5’8” (177 cm). Katoto is fantastic when playing off-the-shoulder of defenders as well, although she has more to her game than predatory skills alone, for her hold up-play is pretty good, too.
Sandy Baltimore (21, Left Winger)
The 20 year-old completes PSG’s elite attacking trio. Baltimore has shown remarkable growth over her short career and is fulfilling the promise shown at the youth levels. She finished last season with 12 assists in the league, putting on show her biggest strength: crossing. Baltimore can put service on a platter for targets in the box, be it a looping delivery aimed towards the middle or a powerful swinging ball. Her deliveries make her an capable creator from set-pieces as well.
Baltimore’s low center of gravity allows her to maintain impressive close control and dribble past players, and her rapid change of pace enables her to fashion separation with ease, giving her the room to cross. She’s a very potent ball carrier and often likes to drift inwards with the ball and attack the box, allowing space for the Karchaoui to overlap. Baltimore isn’t the tallest or most physically dominant player but her off-ball work-rate is fantastic.
Sara Däbritz (26, Central Midfielder)
Däbritz is a midfielder that couples creativity with a feel for how to dictate the tempo of proceedings. The arrival of ex-Barcelona and Lyon midfielder Hamraoui has reduced Däbritz’s defensive load, affording the German more freedom to venture forwards and operate between the lines, where she can be most devastating.
Däbritz is excellent in tight spaces and under pressure. Her dribbling ability makes her one of the toughest players to get the ball off of. She always looks to move the ball vertically in possession and is great at providing support and creating overloads in wide areas. Moreover, her ability to produce magic from dead ball situations is fantastic.
Ashley Lawrence (26, Right Back)
Lawrence is arguably the best fullback in the game. The Canadian is a dominant progressive force via her passing and carries. Her on-ball strengths allow her to invert into midfield at times. She is very secure in possession.
Ashley Lawrence vs WFC Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv— Yash (@Odriozolite) October 15, 2021
110 touches (most)
3/5 successful dribbles
9/14 ground duels won
The influence Lawrence has on games from RB is arguably the best in the game. So good in ball progression & a proper two way threat! pic.twitter.com/qQSYwJqCBL
Lawrence will initially position herself near the halfway line to act as an outlet out wide. She further grows in her influence when entering the final third of the pitch, often choosing to make underlapping runs as the winger holds the width.
She is a rock in 1v1 defensive duels and her pace allows her to quickly recover from advanced positions. Lawrence is another fantastic crosser of the ball in this PSG team, enhancing the deadly traits of Katoto and supporting midfielders. To cap it all off, Lawrence can take players on and beat them comfortably.
PSG vs. Real Madrid, as well as all UEFA Women’s Champions League matches, can be viewed for free on DAZN’s YouTube channel.