Having fallen at this point several times before, Luis Enrique’s men return to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage on Wednesday. We look ahead to Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad with our prediction and preview.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad: The Quick Hits
- Paris Saint-Germain have a 55% chance of taking a first-leg lead to San Sebastián according to the Opta supercomputer.
- PSG have been eliminated at this stage in the last two UEFA Champions League campaigns.
- La Real went unbeaten in their Champions League group this season, winning three and drawing three.
Paris Saint-Germain must banish their UEFA Champions League last-16 demons if Luis Enrique’s side are to deliver their main ambition of European success, starting with the first leg of their round-of-16 tie against Real Sociedad at Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
Paris, the so-called city of love, will fittingly play host to the European encounter on Valentine’s Day, though the mood in the French capital could quickly turn to misery if the Ligue 1 giants fall short of expectations yet again in the first knockout round of the Champions League.
After defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final and being eliminated by Manchester City in the 2021 semi-finals, PSG have been not made it past the round-of-16 stage in either of the last two seasons of UEFA’s premier club competition. A woeful second-leg collapse against Real Madrid proved their undoing in 2021-22 before falling to Bayern once again in 2022-23.
Luis Enrique’s team almost missed out on last-16 qualification entirely this time around, failing to win any of their last three group games as they drew with Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United after losing 2-1 away to Milan in early November. Somehow, PSG still scraped through Group F in second place, overcoming Stefano Pioli’s Rossoneri by virtue of their favourable head-to-head record.
It could have been so different, with Luis Enrique’s future at the club most likely in danger if Milan had lost at Newcastle on the final group-stage matchday. Now, the French champions must look to capitalise on their good fortune. They’ll fancy their chances against Real Sociedad come Wednesday’s kick-off despite their three-game winless run in the Champions League being their longest in one campaign since going five without a win between Matchday 6 and the quarter-finals in 2014-15 (D2 L3).
The success of PSG may be influenced by the likes of Ousmane Dembélé, Achraf Hakimi and Marquinhos – as well as teenage star Warren Zaïre-Emery – but the burden will largely fall on Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappé. The France star has scored 43 goals in 67 appearances in the Champions League and, should he find the net in this game, he will overtake Raúl (43) for the second-most goals scored in the competition while 25 or under, with only Lionel Messi (59) netting more.
As for team news, PSG will be without the injured Nuno Mendes, Layvin Kurzawa, Presnel Kimpembe, Milan Skriniar and backup goalkeeper Sergio Rico. They used their 3-1 victory over Lille on Saturday to rest Mbappé, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Marquinhos, with the trio all expected to return for Wednesday’s game.
While PSG’s hopes mainly rest on French superstar Mbappé, La Real have also relied on their own countrymen, with all seven of their goals in the Champions League this season scored by Spanish players. Brais Méndez (3), Mikel Oyarzabal (2), Mikel Merino and Ander Barrenetxea (both one) helped propel them to the Champions League knockouts for the first time since 2003-04.
Back then, La Real were eliminated by Lyon after making the last 16 in what was their first and only previous appearance in the Champions League knockouts before this season.
Their performance in the group stage may provide Imanol Alguacil’s men with the belief they can pull off an upset against PSG. They went unbeaten to top Group D ahead of Inter after two wins over Benfica, victory over Red Bull Salzburg and three draws. Their success was at least partly down to their bold and aggressive approach off the ball, with no side making more high turnovers than their 70 in the competition this term, while only PSG have a lower PPDA average (opposition passes per defensive action) than Alguacil’s team (9.6), which highlights how high up the pitch they press teams.
However, Alguacil may be without a few key figures from his lineup on Wednesday. Oyarzabal, Sheraldo Becker, Álvaro Odriozola, Kieran Tierney, Aihen Muñoz and Carlos Fernández all missed Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Osasuna in La Liga. Club captain Oyarzabal was the biggest miss and remains a doubt for Wednesday, though Hamari Traoré and Takefusa Kubo have both started since their respective returns from the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup. Aritz Elustondo is suspended.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad Head-to-Head
This is the first ever competitive meeting between PSG and La Real, though the Ligue 1 club have been eliminated on five of the last six occasions they’ve faced Spanish opposition in the Champions League knockout rounds.
PSG’s only success against teams from Spain came when eliminating Barcelona in the 2020-21 round of 16, with Mbappé’s hat-trick inspiring a 4-1 first-leg victory that teed up their 5-2 aggregate triumph in March 2021. The France forward is the last player to manage a treble against a Spanish side in the knockout stages of the competition and has netted in each of his last five Champions League matches with La Liga teams, scoring seven times.
While PSG have struggled against Spanish opposition in recent years, La Real have also lost three of their six meetings with French opponents in all competitions (W2 D1), while they’ve lost both such games in the Champions League – going down 1-0 in both legs of a last-16 tie against Lyon in 2003-04.
Real Sociedad kept more clean sheets (four), conceded fewer goals (two) and faced fewer shots on target (12) than any other side in this year’s Champions League group stage.
Alguacil’s side may have fended off Inter, Salzburg and Benfica but their form has not translated to La Liga, where they sit seventh in the league table, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Atlético Madrid and qualification for next season’s Champions League.
Unlike Wednesday’s visitors, PSG are – unsurprisingly – cruising at the Ligue 1 summit, sitting 11 points clear of second-placed Nice as the French champions appear set to defend their title with ease.
Opta Power Rankings
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.
Ahead of kick-off on Wednesday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides:
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad Prediction
Despite Real Sociedad’s commendable performance in the group stage, the Opta supercomputer sees PSG as considerable favourites for this one, with the Parisians winning 55% of the 10,000 pre-match simulations.
Nevertheless, the prediction model calculates a reasonable possibility that La Real take a positive result back to Anoeta, doing so in 45% of the simulations, odds that Alguacil will presumably like the look of.
An away win is rated as having a 21.3% probability, and what a boost that would be for Real Sociedad if they’re able to pull it off.
PSG struggled their way out of the group stage but their chances of winning the competition have risen to 6.4% in the Opta supercomputer’s season projections.
That makes Luis Enrique’s side sixth favourites behind Inter, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
PSG progressed to the quarter-finals in 64.5% of the last-16 simulations, making La Real big underdogs for this tie.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad Squads
Paris Saint-Germain: Keylor Navas, Alexandre Letellier, Arnau Tenas, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Lucas Hernández, Nuno Mendes, Nordi Mukiele, Lucas Beraldo, Milan Skriniar, Manuel Ugarte, Fabián Ruiz, Danilo, Vitinha, Lee Kang-in, Warren Zaïre-Emery, Ethan Mbappé, Senny Mayulu, Kylian Mbappé, Gonçalo Ramos, Ousmane Dembélé, Marco Asensio, Randal Kolo Muani, Bradley Barcola.
Head coach: Luis Enrique
Real Sociedad: Alex Remiro, Unai Marrero, Aitor Fraga, Álvaro Odriozola Aritz Elustondo, Urko González, Kieran Tierney, Hamari Traoré, Jon Pacheco, Robin Le Normand, Javi Galán, Eneko Astigarraga, Jon Martin, Jon Aramburu, Martin Zubimendi, Igor Zubeldia, Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal, Arsen Zakharyan, Jon Ander Olasagasti, Beñat Turrientes, Brais Méndez, Jon Magunacelay, Pablo Marin, Jon Gorrotxategi, Alex Lebarbier, Alberto Dadie, Ander Barrenetxea, Carlos Fernández, Sheraldo Becker, Takefusa Kubo, Umar Sadiq, André Silva.
Head coach: Imanol Alguacil