Sunday, March 26, 2023

Fate gives Di Maria the chance for Real Madrid revenge in Neymar´s absence

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 6 Mar 2018


It is a match which has been forgotten by many due to the historic and unlikely nature of Barcelona’s 6-1 triumph in the second leg, but a little over a year ago, Paris Saint-Germain thumped the Catalans 4-0 in the Parc des Princes.

Although their collapse in the second leg of that round-of-16 tie overshadowed the win at home, PSG’s triumph over Barca in Paris might just provide them with the inspiration they need as they look to defy adversity and pull off a comeback of their own.

The Ligue 1 pacesetters host Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, seeking to overturn a 3-1 deficit without their star player and talisman, Neymar.

The fractured foot suffered by Neymar against Marseille on February 25 could well keep him out for the rest of the season, but, unsurprisingly, the main focus in the wake of his injury was the tie with Madrid.

‘Au revoir Paris’, read the front page of French newspaper L’Equipe on Friday, the country’s own media conceding defeat to Madrid in response to the news Neymar required surgery that would rule him out of the return leg.

But, appearing from the shadows and ready to prove a point to detractors all over Europe is Angel Di Maria, the main man in that 4-0 demolition of Barcelona 13 months ago.

Following his difficulties at Manchester United, Di Maria, previously considered a world-class player, has perhaps been dismissed by some.

But that night on February 14 last year, birthday boy Di Maria showed just how good he can be, taking centre-stage with a tremendous performance that yielded two goals and general adoration, appearing to do enough to break Barca hearts on Valentine’s Day.

He started as he meant to go on, creating an early chance for Edinson Cavani with an incredible exhibition of his vision, before then opening the scoring with a lovely free-kick.

Julian Draxler – who later scored PSG’s second – was the next to benefit from the Argentina international’s craft, but he was ultimately thwarted by Marc Andre ter Stegen. The German goalkeeper was powerless to stop Di Maria putting the Parisians 3-0 up, however.

Despite Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba trying to make things difficult, Di Maria dropped his shoulder and jinked left, taking both out of the equation in a single movement before bending a sumptuous left-footed effort into the top-left corner from 25 yards.

It is a poignant game to look back on, as Di Maria was arguably ‘the star’ in that PSG side, before the arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe forced him to take something of a back seat. 

But it also helps to underline a key point; a PSG side prior to Neymar’s arrival thrashed a Barca team that was far better than this Madrid side, and it was Di Maria who led the way.

If ever there was a chance to send a message to Unai Emery, PSG’s chiefs, the fans and his critics, this is surely it. And, rather fittingly, Di Maria has the chance to sink his former club Madrid – vengeance is there, he need only to reach out and take it.

Di Maria played at the Santiago Bernabeu for four years from 2010 before, as he claims, being sold to United despite wanting to stay.

The build-up coverage will have you believing this match is all about the future Real Madrid star ruled out through injury.

But with redemption waiting to be grasped, Di Maria can make it all about the former Real Madrid star who was discarded too soon.


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