PARIS,April 12 – Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain will look to their superstar strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in desperate bids to clinch Champions League semi-final berths against Wolfsburg and Manchester City on Tuesday.
The Parisians were held 2-2 at the Parc des Princes last Wednesday when Ibrahimovic missed a spot-kick and fluffed a one-on-one with Joe Hart, before ruthlessly exploiting a City error to net an equaliser.
A ‘Clasico’ hangover was the way many described Real Madrid’s shock 2-0 quarter-final first-leg defeat at Wolfsburg, which followed an away win in La Liga to arch rivals Barcelona.
Poor performances from Real’s stars were glaring as Gareth Bale was kept quiet and Ronaldo rarely shook off his markers.
The three-time Ballon d’Or winner did have the ball in the back of the Wolfsburg goal within 74 seconds, but the Portuguese then threw up his arms in horrified disbelief at an offside flag.
Never lacking in confidence Ronaldo, who has scored 13 goals in the competition so far this season, vowed his side would grind out a qualifying result.
“Tuesday has to be a magical night,” said the Portuguese.
“The key objective is getting through to the next round. It is the only option that will allow us players and the fans to leave the stadium happy.”
Regardless of his astonishing scoring record Ronaldo was kept quiet over both legs of last season’s quarter-final 1-0 aggregate victory over Atletico Madrid as Javier Hernandez grabbed the crucial goal from a Ronaldo assist.
Germany international Julian Draxler identified the Portugal captain as the main threat to Wolfsburg and also pointed out he has a habit of scoring against German sides.
“You can only be impressed with Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Draxler.
“But at the end of the day, this is about Wolfsburg versus Real Madrid, not Wolfsburg versus Ronaldo.”
PSG have hung their hopes on Ibrahimovic and have been rewarded with a constant flow of goals, assists and towering authority on the pitch and in the dressing room.
After a hat-trick in a 4-1 league win over Nice the weekend before last, the 34-year-old striker has equalled his best ever goals tally in a Ligue 1 season and has 39 for the campaign in all competitions.
But doubts linger over Ibrahimovic’s Champions League legacy as he has rarely shone against top competition in Europe.
He has 30 goals from 26 league games, but a more modest five in the Champions League this season.
But as with Ronaldo, self-confidence would not seem to be the issue.
“I have never played as well,” he said on Monday. “I’m in the form of my life. I was born old and I’ll die young.”
Out of contract with PSG this summer, Ibrahimovic will need to deliver something against City if he wishes to prolong his stay at the ambitious Qatari-owned outfit.