Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has hit back at the suggestion from Paris Saint-Germain counterpart Laurent Blanc that the Spanish giants are a defensive side under his leadership. The two European heavyweights will meet in the French capital on Wednesday looking to put themselves in prime position to take top spot in Group A of the Champions League.
Like PSG, Real Madrid have won both of their opening fixtures. They also sit joint-top of La Liga, yet Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti this summer, has continued to face criticism for his perceived cautious tactics and the failure of his attack to start fully firing. On Monday, Blanc appeared to, perhaps unwittingly, stumble into the debate, when stating that Real Madrid are “quite defensive, but very effective.”
Asked about those claims in his later press conference, as well as comments from his predecessor, Ancelotti, that Real Madrid “have some problems in attack,” Benitez mounted a verbal defense.
“We are an attacking team, we go out and play to score goals and win all our matches,” he said, reports Spanish sports daily AS. “Chelsea, Napoli [his former clubs] and Real Madrid’s numbers are my response. Here we score more, we shoot more and concede the least. We always try to score goals and play on the offense. Look at the numbers. They’re spectacular, even with all the injuries. They say it’s results that count but here they don’t seem to matter.”
Real Madrid’s attack will continue to be impacted by injury problems in Paris. Gareth Bale suffered a calf injury in a 3-0 win over Levante on Saturday, while Karim Benzema has failed to recover in time from a hamstring injury. Those aren’t the only fitness issues, with James Rodríguez , Pepe and Dani Carvajal also ruled out. Better news comes from the return to the squad of Luka Modric, while captain Sergio Ramos will be able to play with the aid of painkilling injections.
PSG have their own fitness concerns. Defender David Luiz is ruled out, while key midfielder Marco Verratti remains a doubt. Blanc will, though, be able to field former Real Madrid star Ángel di María. The Argentina international, who helped Madrid win their 10th European Cup in 2014, was signed for big money from Manchester United this summer in another move designed to help PSG make a further step toward Champions League glory.
Boosted by huge investment since the takeover of Qatari Sports Investments, PSG have won three straight Ligue Un titles. Yet they have lost for three successive seasons at the quarterfinal stage of the Champions League. And, despite beating Barcelona and Chelsea in the competition last season, Blanc has claimed that PSG aren’t yet at the same level as Real Madrid.
“This match will be special and great for the prestige of our club: we're playing against one of Europe's greatest clubs,” he said, according to Uefa.com. “When you compare our squads, it's difficult to say it's equal. Just look at their trophy room: Madrid are a top team in Europe; Paris are not there yet. But we can win. Because we're at home, because we have quality, because we already beat one of Europe’s greatest -- Barcelona.”
D: Auroer, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Maxwell
M: Verratti, Motta, Matuidi
F: Di María, Ibrahimovic, Cavani
D: Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo
M: Modric, Casemiro, Kroos
F: Isco, Jesé , Ronaldo
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Deportes