Adrien Rabiot rises to the occasion, Giovani Lo Celso wilts at Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain have a tough task ahead of them after falling to a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Adrien Rabiot had put Unai Emery's men in front, but a Cristiano Ronaldo double and a late Marcelo effort ensured that the two-time defending champions capitalised on PSG's lack of second-half changes to take a two-goal lead to Parc des Princes.
Emery's questionable substitutions and reluctance to make early changes cost the French capital outfit in Madrid.
First of all, there is no need for complete despair. PSG return to Parc des Princes with an away goal and a sense of injustice at how their performance unravelled in the final 10 minutes against Real. It might be a slim ray of hope but it is hope all the same.
Despite a number of disappointing performances at the Bernabeu, Rabiot was not one of the them. The France international opened the scoring and although he did not look fully comfortable when moving, he still outperformed most of his teammates.
PSG showed themselves in this first leg that Real are vulnerable at the back and Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar could really do some damage in Paris with a more incisive performance in front of goal.
Until the final 10 minutes, Alphonse Areola and Marquinhos were on course to be man-of-the-match contenders. After a shocking end to an otherwise decent showing in the Spanish capital, PSG find themselves chasing Real by two goals after switching off towards the end.
Emery did not help matters. The Spaniard could have changed things up during the second half when it was obvious that things were going stale and instead made some baffling decisions, such as sending on right-back Thomas Meunier for striker Cavani and Julian Draxler for an overawed Giovani Lo Celso in midfield.
At the end of the day and as Rabiot pointed out post-match, it is the same thing with PSG. It was nearly a good first-leg display but nearly is no longer good enough and now Les Parisiens have a mountain to climb in Paris.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- Emery made some bold decisions pre-match, such as replacing captain Thiago Silva with Presnel Kimpembe and handing full Champions League debuts to Yuri Berchiche and Giovani Lo Celso. The decision to field Lo Celso in midfield was particularly costly but his poor use of substitutes also played a role in PSG's downfall.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 6 -- The Frenchman needs to look at his role in the two late Real goals but the youth academy graduate should also not be too hard on himself after some excellent saves during the other 80 minutes, which kept Real at bay.
DF Dani Alves, 7 -- The Brazil international stepped up when it mattered and showed his experience up against compatriot Marcelo. The Real man might have scored late on but that was once Alves had been pushed forward with Meunier on at right-back.
DF Marquinhos (c), 5 -- With Silva out of the starting XI, the Brazilian stepped in as captain and did an admirable job for the most part. However, like the majority of his teammates, he took his eye off the ball in the final 10 minutes and can be found partly at fault for Real's two late goals.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 6 -- The homegrown defender came in for Silva and did a good job overall but saw his and Marquinhos' hard work undone late on as PSG panicked. On an individual level, the Frenchman was guilty of a bit of that too.
DF Yuri Berchiche, 4 -- The Spaniard came in for Layvin Kurzawa at left-back and although he was not poor, he was not great either and looked shaky at times on his Champions League debut.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 3 -- Thrown in from the start by Emery, the Argentina international suffered in defensive midfield and should have been withdrawn far earlier than the 84th minute. The South American also picked up a yellow card.
MF Marco Verratti, 6 -- The Italian put in a tenacious display and although he was outshone by Rabiot in the middle, he fared better than Lo Celso on the night.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 7 -- The France international was mature and commanding, scoring the opener and generally being PSG's most consistent performer over the 90 minutes. However, he did pick up a second-half booking.
FW Kylian Mbappe, 5 -- The Frenchman was good in the first half and fell silent a bit in the second but to his credit, he kept creating chances until the end and looks like he will pose Real more problems at Parc des Princes.
FW Edinson Cavani, 4 -- The Uruguay international was invisible at times but that was unsurprising as he received little in the way of service. El Matador did force a good block in the first half but that was as good as it got.
FW Neymar, 6 -- The Brazilian superstar was in an unselfish mood at Santiago Bernabeu but only had a first-half booking to his name to show for it at full-time. Les Parisiens' No. 10 needs to be more involved in the second leg.
MF Thomas Meunier, 4 -- The Belgium international's bizarre introduction to the back four at Cavani's expense and with Alves still on the pitch was baffling and he picked up a booking to add insult to injury.
MF Julian Draxler, NR -- The former Wolfsburg man came on for the final six minutes or so in place of the struggling Lo Celso but added little.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.