The Champions League is back!
Today's matches are highlighted by a great showdown between La Liga's Real Madrid and Ligue 1's Paris St. Germain.
The teams are tied atop the Group A table with 7 points and both teams look likely to move on to the knockout rounds when it's all said and done. That said, they are fighting for the vital top spot which will decide who they play in the first knockout stage. They may both move on, but this is a hugely important match. With the match taking place at the Santiago de Bernabeu in Madrid, Los Blancos surely have the advantage. Many would consider them the better team anyway, but with the added advantage of a home crowd, Madrid are certainly hopeful. They are boosted by the return of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who has played great this season in his first as Madrid's #1 keeper, plus midfielder James Rodriguez and defender Sergio Ramos. However, they will be without normal starters Gareth Bale, Álvaro Arbeloa, and Karim Benzema. Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the lines for Los Madridistas as they look to take an advantage into the final dates of the Group Stages.
For PSG, the main storyline is the return of winger Ángel di Maria to Madrid, where he spent several years growing and developing his game to the highest level. Di Maria left Madrid two seasons ago to join Manchester United, where he flopped famously. He moved on to Paris this summer and has looked great in the early stages and will surely want to prove to Madrid that they were wrong to sell him. David Luiz looks set to return after a few matches out for PSG and he will rejoin Thiago Silva at center back, making one of the most dominant pairings in all of the world. Javier Pastore and Marquinhos will not be ready to face Madrid today and PSG will have to manage without them. One of my favorite players in the world is Marco Verratti, a sensational young midfielder who is making a serious name for himself around the world. He is constantly linked with the truly massive clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid and is one of the key cogs in PSG's great form this season, as they are leading Ligue 1 by 10 points after just 12 matches. This form will have them confident that they can steal some points in what is sure to be a hotly contested affair.
Despite Madrid being at home, I love the form that PSG enter the match with. While I don't think they will run away with it, I expect this to be a great match with some real end-to-end action. PSG are making a claim to be considered as one of the world's top 5 clubs and this is a great chance for them to improve that case. With Madrid at home, PSG will be cautious to commit too many men to attack. With that said, I think they can get a goal or two and make this a real challenge for Madrid.