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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s loss at PSG

There’s a lot to discuss after that poor showing in Paris.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid: Round Of Sixteen Leg One - UEFA Champions League Photo by Aurelien Meunier - PSG/PSG via Getty Images

Real Madrid lost 1-0 in their first leg away at PSG and they should be glad that it was only 1-0. The Ligue 1 side dominated from start to finish, with their goal coming right at the end as Kylian Mbappé finally found the breakthrough they deserved. This was a poor performance and poor approach from Real Madrid, so there’s a lot to discuss. Through three pre-match questions and three post-match questions, that’s what we do here.

Three answers

1. How significant would removing the away goals rule be?

This was the first night of the Champions League knockouts since the away goals rule was scrapped by UEFA. It might not seem like such a significant change, but it actually could make a huge difference to how these ties are played. Here, it seems that it did. Had the away goals rule not been removed, would Ancelotti have still been so conservative – he claims in his press conference that he wasn’t, but that’s just not true – or would Real Madrid have had to be more expansive in search of an extra valuable away goal? It’s really hard to think that Real Madrid would have sat back as much as they did had this rule change not come into force. And, despite being dominated, this first leg result is actually half-decent for Real Madrid, as the lack of the away goals rule means any victory at the Bernabéu will at least earn them extra time. Genuinely, it seems the change to the regulations played a role here.

2. Would Benzema be fit enough to start?

Karim Benzema started this game, despite only just coming back from a hamstring injury suffered on January 23rd. That was a quick comeback for the Frenchman, but was he fully recovered? Or was he taking a risk by playing while not yet 100 percent? Well, we didn’t really get to find out, actually. Benzema hardly saw the ball, touching it just 38 times total, so he was never put in a position where he would have to test his hamstring. Even trying to gauge how Benzema was jogging was difficult, as Real Madrid were pinned so deep that the No.9 was rarely ever in shot when watching on TV.

3. What would the Mbappé narrative be?

You knew that there would be a Kylian Mbappé narrative or storyline in this tie. But, what would it be exactly? Would he be a hero or be a villain? Would he be at the centre of attention or be anonymous? Would he be part of a winning project or be left frustrated at another PSG heartbreak? As good as he was for the 90 minutes of this game, it still wasn’t clear what the Mbappé narrative was. Until stoppage time. There, he produced an epic piece of skill and a finish to earn PSG the victory and to become the night’s hero. He may well end up at Real Madrid in the summer, but tonight he stood there at the Parc des Princes in front of his current adoring fanbase.

Three questions

1. How much better is Achraf than Carvajal?

Real Madrid have let some very talented full-backs depart over the years, Achraf Hakimi being one of them. While there have been various different reasons behind those departures, the Achraf one still stings for Real Madrid as he has gone on to become one of the most dangerous full-backs in the game. When the Moroccan shares the same pitch as a 30-year-old Dani Carvajal, he stands out even more. We all knew that Achraf had already become a better right-back than Carvajal, but here we saw just how much. It’s not just that Carvajal had to deal with Mbappé, but it’s that he was poor in every aspect of the game. The Spaniard was terrible from minute one to minute 72, when he was hooked for Lucas Vázquez. Achraf, on the other hand, managed to keep Vinícius in check and also contribute to his side’s attack. Different levels.

2. How frustrated must Courtois be?

If there was one Real Madrid player who can come away from this performance with his head held high then it’s Thibaut Courtois. Not only did he parry the penalty from Lionel Messi, but the Belgian made eight total saves in this game to keep his side in it. The goalkeeper revealed after the game that he had studied Messi’s penalty taking patterns and that he’d spotted a recent trend of shooting to the spot where he saved it tonight. He did his homework and he did his part. But, his coaching staff and teammates weren’t at the same level. That must be frustrating.

3. How significant will the losses of Mendy and Casemiro be?

There were two players one booking away from suspension coming into this match in Ferland Mendy and Casemiro and they each collected a yellow card at the Parc des Princes, ruling them out of the second leg. That’s frustrating too and that’s a huge blow. Not only are these two excellent players, but neither has a reliable backup. Marcelo and Eduardo Camavinga are the likely candidates to come in and start, but they are nowhere near as reliable due to their old age and lack of experience respectively.