Sunday 20 January 2019

PSG learn you can’t buy experience in clash of titans

Real Madrid remain tough to beat even when off form, says Miguel Delaney

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Getty
Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Getty

Miguel Delaney

Before Paris Saint-Germain fell in on themselves, and before Real Madrid roused themselves, a former Bernabeu president had raised a point about the two clubs that effectively predicted the 3-1 home victory.

"That quality (of prestige) is like wine," said Ramon Calderon, who was in charge at Real between 2006 and 2009. "It's a question of time.

"PSG have a built a fantastic team through a lot of money and it's a very good team. Now they have to show they can win.

"I think what happened last year with Barcelona is instructive. No team that has that prestige, that has that culture from its history, loses in the Champions League like that - conceding three goals in 10 minutes, or going out after winning 4-0."

It is a view that may well be properly tested, because this PSG need something from Real that is at least similarly submissive to that to go through to the quarter-finals, and prevent their season being a wash-out after making such waves.

PSG are also fighting the waves of history as they try to build the future.

There is a reason Real have always been the club of the famous continental 'remontada' rather than infamous collapse.

In 47 previous seasons in the European Cup and Champions League - and countless more ties - there have only been six occasions when Real have been eliminated after winning a first leg. And that hasn't happened in 11 years.

There have been only two occasions when they have been eliminated after winning a first leg by two goals. One of them was 1979-80 to Grasshoppers, but the other provides more solace for PSG.

It was in 2003-04 to another French side in Monaco, and involved Zinedine Zidane (right) when he was a player.

Back then, there was similar end-of-an-era talk about the indulged original Galacticos. They didn't have a proper defensive midfielder or a commanding coach to put tactical discipline on those stars - and it told.

The only problem is that description better serves PSG right now.

And there's also the sense that there's a more profound quality to this Real, something that the French really need to learn.

It is why PSG's initially solid display was rendered irrelevant, and why it would be foolish to overstate the surprising lack of quality in Wednesday's game at the Bernabeu as a reason why the winner of the Champions League will not come from this tie.

The defending champions just have an accumulated nous, and experience, that sees them through such tests.

They know how to handle themselves, how to remain assertive and focused and not lose their heads when it looks like they might lose the game.

That was exactly the case between the 60th and 83rd minutes on Wednesday night.

Look at the way Sergio Ramos got the defence to marshal Neymar's runs into safe alleys and the highly cynical foul that Cristiano Ronaldo committed in the build-up to his goal.

That is the type of calculation that comes from calm minds that have been in these situations before, and know how to assess what's happening and adapt.

This isn't something that can be imported; it is something that teams must learn on the job together.

Wednesday's evidence suggests that PSG don't have enough experience of matches like this.

And their cause isn't helped by the procession that Ligue 1 has become for them.

It sometimes looks as if a higher level of opposition can suddenly stun them.

They now need to overturn all of this in the second leg, and need to make Real Madrid second-guess themselves in a European tie.

The task facing them is about far more than just getting two goals.

Independent News Service

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