The first half of the first leg of Champions League Last 16 is well behind us but Paris Saint-Germain supporters still have a tough time removing that bitter feeling following the 3-1 disappointing loss at the hands of Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu.
French heavyweights kicked off the heavy-duty encounter with reigning European champions in full throttle.
Their high-flying trident up top – Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani – fired up to tear through the defensive line of out-of-form Champions League title holders still fell short, having failed to exchange a single pass among each other in what turned out to be a disappointing display from the Ligue 1 champions.
With only 4 shots towards Keylor Navas during the full 90 minutes, it’s fair to say the attacking potential of Paris Saint-Germain was left wildly unused.
The club’s most expensive stars ended up being on the receiving end of criticism, with the barrage thrown towards them quite deservedly. Handsomely paid superstars such as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were brought in to make a clear difference with their performances on the pitch but the game at Santiago Bernabeu unearthed the unlikely hero – Adrien Rabiot – the only bright light in otherwise dim display in Madrid.
The 22-year-old central midfielder Adrien Rabiot is the odd man out of the expensive collective in Paris Saint-Germain squad.
A homeboy nurtured from a young age and a player who went through all club selections – U-17s, U-19 – and took a long road across the Toulouse loan to settle into the first team oh his parent club is like a wooden doll in a window shop studded with a selection of expensive crystal ones.
Often taken for granted and never fully appreciated, Adrien Rabiot stepped up the plate against Real Madrid to shine through Unai Emery’s poor tactical choices and produced a top-notch performance for the French giants.
Slotted in a slightly more advanced midfield position in front of Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot was equally impressive in attacking exploits and defensive duties. He slotted the only goal for his team with a cool-headed tapping finish from inside the box, while also showing the admirable level of determination in hold-up play in the midfield.
Rabiot was the one to put in a dogged shift at the centre of the park at times looking extremely physical in his advances against the Real Madrid midfield line – all in an effort to cut Los Blancos’ attacks early on and prevent them from developing their recognisable style of play.
Adrien Rabiot has averaged a 92% pass accuracy this season and came close to reaching the mark last night with 89% which put him well behind Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos, Isco and Luka Modric leading the line but on par with teammate Giovani Lo Celso who was yet another bright spark in PSG’s underwhelming display with 96%.
Rabiot also made three saves, two of which were parried and one collected ball which is on level – and a notch above – his average percentage of two defensive actions per game. His contribution at the back is also counted by countless track-backs and runs deep into his own half which was well beyond the duties he was assigned to perform against Real Madrid.
The Frenchman was setting the tone in the middle of the park with his physicality despite the opposing side throwing numbers towards him and was deservedly frustrated with his teammates after the match.
Right to Criticise
Rabiot took aim towards PSG’s frontline following the match – and for a good reason.
Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have scored over 70 goals between them but misfired on the big night in Madrid, thus making their collective price tag of €450 million look silly and overvalued.
Rabiot acknowledged that the likes of Neymar and Mbappe are given ‘certain privileges’ at the club but attempts not to be bothered by that. Any signs of preferential treatment could disrupt the atmosphere within the squad and Rabiot – as a homegrown player who spent all of his career at the club – has every right to criticise.
“I am disappointed. We started producing the match we needed to. We always say the same things, we always do the same things, and in the end, we are always floored in the same way. It’s all well and good putting eight goals past Dijon, but it’s in matches like this that you have to stand up and be counted.”, he said after the match.
PSG will need to pick up the pieces and will have plenty of time to do so as Unai Emery gets back to the drawing board.
French champions are given 11/5 betting odds to qualify for the next stage of Europe’s elite club competition and it’s fair to say they will need a miracle to do so against the reinvigorated reigning champions.
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