Paris Saint-Germain take a slim lead to Real Madrid on Wednesday in an epic Champions League last-16 tie and a clash between potential winners of this year’s competition.
PSG have spent the last decade bedding in at the top of European club football, reaching the final in 2020 and the semis last year, and are definitely ready to win it now.
Like Manchester City they are a great example of how to restructure a club from top to bottom to operate at the highest level if you have unlimited money. They are the whole package.
They are a very different team now to the one that saw a 4-0 first leg lead wiped out by a 6-1 defeat in Barcelona five years ago.
For teams with aspirations of lifting the European Cup mentality is so important; they need to believe they can win it.
Last summer’s signing of Lionel Messi from Barcelona has helped in that regard, even if he hasn’t delivered the goals that were expected.
Don’t be fooled by their loss to Nice in the French league at the weekend. PSG all but have the title sewn up and will have already been thinking about the midweek trip to Spain.
They are set to face a Real Madrid team who are on course to win the Spanish league while undergoing something of a rebuild of their own under the unflappable Carlo Ancelotti.
Ancelotti is a fundamentally cautious coach who has been good at getting the most out of his team’s resident genius – in this case Karim Benzema, who is playing the football of his life at 34.
Benzema has 27 goals in all competitions this season while the improving Vinicius Jr, their other main goal threat, has 17.
Only one other player has more than three, though, which raises questions about the amount of variety in Ancelotti’s Real Madrid attack.
PSG look to me to have a better spread of goals throughout the team, making them harder to shut out.
Kylian Mbappe is the clear leading scorer 24, but Messi, Neymar and Angel di Maria all contribute, midfielders Marco Verratti, Danilo Pereira, Gini Wijnaldum and Ander Herrera chip in and even defenders Marquinhos and Achraf Hakimi have three goal apiece.
While in the past they have been more reliant on individual contributions, Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG are more of a team now and that’s something Real Madrid must be wary of.
They are also such a fluid team when playing on the counter-attack, which is likely to be a factor on a night when they are defending a 1-0 first-leg lead.
Ancelotti and Real Madrid have walked the walk in the competition many times, while PSG still have something to prove.
The Spanish club had to play away from the Santiago Bernabeu last season while it was redeveloped and I think that damaged their results.
They are back home now but have a huge task on their hands against a PSG team who are settled and primed for success in this competition.
That late win in Paris last month gives them a big advantage and, with the variety of attacking threat throughout their side, if I was Pochettino I would be very hopeful of leaving Madrid with a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. @TrevorSteven63.