Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has challenged Angel di Maria to have a decisive impact when he returns to Real Madrid in Tuesday’s Champions League clash.
Argentina star Di Maria will face Madrid for the first time since he ended a trophy laden four-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu by joining Manchester United in a British record transfer in August 2014.
The 27-year-old’s spell at Old Trafford was considerably less successful as he fell out of favour with manager Louis van Gaal and sought an escape route to Paris.
Di Maria volleyed the only goal in PSG’s sixth consecutive Ligue 1 win over Rennes on Friday but he has continued to struggle for his best form in the French capital and he responded to his critics by declaring “I am not PSG’s saviour” in an interview with beIN Sport over the weekend.
Speaking ahead of the Madrid match, Blanc confirmed the midfielder would start at a ground where he forged many of his fondest career memories.
“Angel will begin the match,” he said. “It will be a special event for him because he spent several seasons here.
“He is a player that has been enjoyed here. He should be ready, focused and have the right attitude to bring us what he can do.
“This would be a nice for him to realise a good performance here.”
PSG and Real shared a goalless draw at the Parc des Princes in the reverse fixture and Blanc conceded that the tactics employed by opposite number Rafael Benitez caught him off guard last time around.
“Before the first leg, everyone saw Real Madrid as a rather defensive team adept against attacks,” he explained.
“It proved otherwise at the Parc des Princes. Madrid were good in their use of the ball and relied on very fast players.
“We were surprised by their philosophy, but it will be a different game on Tuesday.”
Blanc added that he would make a late decision on whether to include David Luiz in his starting line-up, with the Brazil defender plotting a return from a month on the sidelines with a knee injury.
“We have one training this Monday night,” he said. “This final session should give us clues about the presence or absence of David Luiz.”