PSG counts on Mbappé while Madrid waits on Kroos for 2nd leg
MADRID (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain expects Kylian Mbappé to play against Real Madrid in the second leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday, while the Spanish powerhouse still waits on whether Toni Kroos will recover in time to make it to the decisive match.
Mbappé had been listed as doubtful after hurting his left foot in training on Monday, but he practiced normally with the rest of the squad in the team’s last training session on Tuesday.
“We spoke and he is fine,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said. “He yelled in pain when he received the knock, but a couple of hours later he was feeling better and could walk normally.”
Initial medical exams had already discarded any serious injury for the France forward, who scored the stoppage-time winner in PSG’s 1-0 win in the first leg in Paris.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is certain to have some tinkering to do with his squad as he already knows two regular starters won’t be available because of yellow-card suspensions — Casemiro and Ferland Mendy. And it’s still uncertain if Kroos will recover from his muscle injury.
Setting up the midfield will be no easy task for Ancelotti, as Casemiro plays a key role in keeping the Spanish team balanced. The absence of Kroos would hurt the team more offensively than defensively, as the German veteran helps the team transition into attack. Kroos returned to training but a decision on whether he will play likely won’t be made until Wednesday.
“A player who is not at 100% can’t play in this type of game,” Ancelotti said on Tuesday. “If I think Kroos will be at 100%, he will play. If I think he will be at 95%, he won’t play.”
Young Frenchman Eduardo Camavinga will likely go into the midfield alongside Luka Modric and possibly Federico Valverde, who missed the Spanish league game against Real Sociedad last weekend after a bout with the flu. The 19-year-old Camavinga played well in that match, scoring a superb opening goal in the 4-1 victory that increased Madrid’s lead in the league. He had Casemiro by his side, though, which will not be the case against PSG.
“Casemiro’s absence is certainly important for us,” Modric said. “We will have to give even more of ourselves to make up for his absence, especially defensively. But we have players who can replace him well, like Fede or Edu, and hopefully Toni will make it to the match as well.”
Madrid’s midfield issues will likely make it easier for Lionel Messi, who gets another good chance to finally come through with a big performance for PSG and live up to his status after joining from Barcelona.
Mbappé, who has been linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the season, has been in stellar form with 24 goals and 17 assists in all competitions.
He was suspended over the weekend when PSG lost at Nice 1-0 in the French league. Pochettino used former Madrid forward Ángel Di María along with Neymar in attack. The Argentine played under Ancelotti in the coach’s first stint with Madrid.
“We will prepare for the match as if Mbappé will play,” Ancelotti said. “But our preparation is not only to face Mbappé, it’s to face Neymar, Messi and all the other good PSG players.”
Neymar said the match in Madrid will be “special” for him and Messi, his former Barcelona teammate.
“I have a lot of good memories from the Bernabéu,” he said. “We played great matches here. It’s a stadium with great history and it’s a pleasure to play here.”
Pochettino is set to be without former Madrid defender Sergio Ramos and Spaniard Ander Herrera because of injuries, and Achraf Hakimi, another former Madrid player, was listed as doubtful. Ramos made the trip to the Spanish capital despite not being available.
Madrid eliminated PSG at this stage in 2018 en route to winning the title for the third year in a row. The Spanish powerhouse is the record 13-time European champion, while PSG is seeking its first Champions League trophy.
A crowd of 60,000 — the biggest since the coronavirus pandemic started — is expected at the Bernabéu, which remains below its full capacity because of renovation work.
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