Football

Champions League anthem transforms Real: Di Maria

Forget their patchy form this season, Real Madrid are a team transformed once the Champions League anthem plays.

That's the view of Paris Saint-Germain's former Los Blancos star Angel di Maria.

Ahead of the clubs' Champions League last-16 clash at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow morning (Singapore time), he told PSG's club website: "The Champions League anthem transforms Real Madrid.

"They are a great team regardless of the circumstances, but they always perform at their best in this competition - it's totally different from league competition.

"It is very hard to control matches against Madrid as they do not set out to control possession and space, so we must focus on playing our natural game."

While Real Madrid have won Europe's premier club competition a record 12 times, PSG defender Marquinhos is uncowed. He believes that this season his team have entered a "new dimension".

The French side have never won the Champions League and not made it past the quarter-final stage.

The Brazilian told Goal.com: "PSG have entered a new dimension and we have even more potential than the last few years.

"We finished first in our group, whereas last year we had to settle for second place."

A key part of that increased potential is the fact that the French side now boasts Neymar in their ranks.

Having faced the Brazilian superstar several times when he donned Barcelona colours, Dani Carvajal admits "there's no magic formula to stop Neymar".

He told Spanish daily AS: "There's no magic formula to stop Neymar. We just have to hope that he has an off-day.

"Criticism? We haven't been stung by it. We're self-critical and we know that we haven't had our best season."

Real's disappointing season sees them fourth in La Liga, a whopping 17 points behind leaders Barca.

But midfielder Toni Kroos believes the most important thing for Real is to trust in their talent.

He told Spanish daily Marca: "The important thing for us is to trust in ourselves and our own ability.

"PSG's team is fantastic, every player is and their team is hugely complex - their attack is incredible, yet they are about much more than that."

With PSG boasting Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani and Real having their own trio of attacking superstars in Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, there will be no shortage of attacking talent on show.

But Cavani is not convinced that will translate into a high-scoring affair.

He told Marca: "I don't know if it will be a match with lots of goals. I don't think it will be.

"The first leg, at least, is always the tightest. They won't want us to score against them, while the away team usually tries to wait and counter attack...

"It will be an even match, in which there'll also be a need for lots of defensive work."

Football