The knockout stages of the Champions League begin Tuesday with what's arguably the most eagerly anticipated Round of 16 matchup ever — a clash between the club that never settles for anything less than lifting the trophy, record 13-time winner Real Madrid, and the club whose entire apparatus is hellbent on making that happen for the first time, PSG.
If you're looking where to watch PSG vs. Real Madrid, the match kicks off at 3:00 p.m. ET on CBS. The nation will be witness to Lionel Messi taking on a familiar foe as it's the Argentine's first match against Real since joining PSG from Barcelona, where he played Los Blancos 45 times in total, scoring 26 goals and providing 13 assists.
Sergio Ramos is also now on PSG but won't be available for selection because of a calf injury, but 23-year-old French sensation Kylian Mbappé is looking to play an influential role for the home side (before assuming that role for years to come at the Santiago Bernabéu if rumors of his impending summer transfer are true).
Where To Watch PSG Vs. Real Madrid First Leg
Stadium: Parc des Princes (Paris)
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV: CBS, TUDN USA, Univision USA | Stream: Paramount+, FuboTV, TUDN.com, Univision NOW
Real Madrid Preview
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 13, 2022
Injuries and suspensions: Karim Benzema remains a doubt after injuring his hamstring against Elche on Jan. 23.
The prematch focus has centered around Benzema's status and rightfully so. Real has only managed one goal in three matches without him, getting bounced from the Copa del Rey and drawing with Villarreal in the process.
The positive impact Benzema has on his attacking partners (eight assists across LaLiga/UCL), particularly Vinícius, can't be overstated. The Brazilian's breakthrough season has been built on a devastating partnership with Benzema, and Vinícius hasn't looked nearly as effective when playing off Marco Asensio or Gareth Bale.
But all signs point to Benzema's return on Tuesday.
"He hasn't played for almost a month, but it's Karim we're talking about," Carlo Ancelotti said on Monday. "If he's OK, he has to play."
Benzema actually took part in Monday's press conference, saying, "I'm always going to fight for my team, if not I'd have stayed in Madrid, but I don't want to get injured anymore... In my head I'm ready but now I have to see physically. It's a big game and if I have to play tomorrow I'll give everything."
Real will also improve on Saturday's LaLiga draw, which allowed Sevilla to move four points back in second, with the return of Luka Modrić. The 36-year-old started on the bench with one eye on this game, but the midfield triumvirate of Modrić, Casemiro and Toni Kroos remains untouchable on its day.
Predicted Starting Lineup: Thibaut Courtois; Ferland Mendy, David Alaba, Éder Militão, Dani Carvajal; Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modrić; Vinícius, Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio
Injuries and suspensions: Sergio Ramos is out with a calf injury. Ander Herrera is out with a thigh complaint. Neymar has returned to training after suffering a serious ankle injury against Saint-Étienne on Nov. 28 but the Brazilian isn't expected to start.
After a slow start to his Ligue 1 career, Messi appears back to his best with one goal and three assists in his last three appearances. As Benzema said last month, "He who criticizes Messi knows nothing about football."
"Messi is in good shape and really looking forward to the game," Mauricio Pochettino said Monday. "In matches like this his experience is very important and he can play a fundamental role in transmitting that to his teammates."
And while Messi's return of five goals in five games during the group stage shows he's still the star of the show, the 34-year-old has been more than happy to step back and simply create for Mbappé.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 14, 2022
The 23-year-old has 21 goals across all competitions this season, but Mbappé's reluctance to sign a contract extension at PSG has clearly spelled out a desire to move to Real in the summer. It's an interesting subplot, but Mbappé is dead set on winning a Champions League trophy for Paris before departing.
"Every player in the game will be 100% focused on knocking out a team who can compete with them to win the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "Mbappé will be thinking the same as Karim Benzema or Vinícius. Everyone has the same aim."
Benzema, who already plays alongside Mbappé with France, can't wait for the duel: "All I can wish him is that he has a good game. It's a very big game and playing against Kylian is special because we play in the national team together. As you know, he could one day come to Madrid but now we are both here to win the game."
Predicted Starting Lineup: Gianluigi Donnarumma; Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Achraf Hakimi; Marco Verratti, Idrissa Gueye, Georginio Wijnaldum; Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María
Prediction: I'm sticking with what I said in our Round of 16 predictions. PSG wins this first leg 2-1, but I think Real overturns to deficit in Madrid on Mar. 9, 3-1.