Why Real Madrid's do-or-die PSG Clash is the Perfect Stage for Cristiano Ronaldo - and the Stats that Prove It
Zinedine Zidane’s side are 17 points off Barcelona in La Liga, are out of the Copa del Rey, and the Frenchman knows he will likely lose his job if they’re dumped out by Les Parisiens.
It is a season which has been described by a group representing the club’s 100,000 members as “possibly the worst in the club’s history – an absolute failure of monumental proportions.”
Zidane however was relaxed on Tuesday when he readily declared, “it’s not a final for me,” but there is no doubt that defeat in the last 16 will see change either immediately or in the summer.
A 5-2 win over Real Sociedad at the weekend, with Cristiano Ronaldo bagging a hat-trick, augurs well for Zidane however.
And if Los Blancos are to see off the Qatari-backed French club, then the Portuguese will prove pivotal.
Now 33, Ronaldo has adapted his game in recent years. No longer is he the dazzling forward who one minute is torturing a fullback and then nailing one into the back of the net from 25 yards.
He has become the ultimate big game player, the master predator, with 114 goals in Europe’s premier club competition; 64 of those have come since the beginning of the 2013 season (54 matches).
Last season he became the first player to bag back-to-back trebles (vs Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid) in the knockout stages since the Champions League era began. The previous year, he also bagged a treble against German side Wolfsburg, as Los Blancos overcame a 2-0 first leg deficit.
What makes his trio of trebles more impressive is that there have only been two others in the knockout stages in the last five years: Robin van Persie for Manchester United vs Olympiacos in 2014 and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Benfica last term.
In the last four years, Ronaldo has scored 28 goals in the knockout stages alone, including a brace in last year’s final in Cardiff.
“Cristiano has achieved extraordinary things,” said Zidane and the Frenchman will be desperate for another on Wednesday night.
PSG and their obsession with continental dominance have been warned.