IT'S the biggest night of the week. Reservations have been made, plans laid out well in advance. Forget Valentine’s Day, it’s Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
The holders against the favourites; the game of the round.
That has to change. The Parisians have backed coach Unai Emery with the world-record signing of Neymar and the expectation is the Brazilian superstar will deliver the club’s first European silverware since the 2001 Intertoto Cup.
That will not do and the Champions League, synonymous with Real, is their last hope.
Both squads are expensively assembled and boast some of the world’s finest footballers.
But what would a combined XI look like? Our friends at Football Whispers try to work it out.
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Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas
Signed after shining at the 2014 World Cup for Costa Rica, Navas joined Real from La Liga rivals Levante.
However, although the 31-year-old was first choice, he has had to contend with speculation David de Gea will replace him ever since.
But he remains No1 and has grown in stature between the sticks at the Bernabeu.
Right-back: Dani Alves
However, he snubbed his old Barcelona boss for a new challenge at PSG with countryman Neymar. A prolific winner, the 34-year-old has three Champions League winners’ medals from his time under Guardiola at Barca.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane
The Frenchman joined Real from Lens in 2011 for what now looks like a bargain fee of just £10m.
Injuries have interrupted his progress since but the 24-year-old French international is one of Europe’s finest young defenders and his form means he has been subject of Manchester United transfer rumours – it was Jose Mourinho who took him to Real originally.
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos
The Spain and Real Madrid skipper is the man for the big occasion.
A World Cup winner and two-time champion of Europe with La Roja, Ramos has made a habit of scoring timely goals for Real – not least in the 2014 final to force extra time.
He might not be the most reliable defender – 24 red cards prove that – but the 31-year-old is a fierce leader and has lifted an incredible 21 trophies with club and country during a glittering career.
The Brazilian international has quietly become one of the world’s best left-backs since joining Real from Fluminense in 2007, amassing more than 300 appearances.
His rampaging runs down the left-hand side have become a feature of Real’s play and this season he has managed 1.9 key passes per game in La Liga, as well as 1.5 shots and 1.3 dribbles.
Central midfield: Luka Modric
The Croatian schember is far from the most high-profile member of this Real side but he is hugely important to the Spaniards.
Cool, calm and collected on the ball, the former Tottenham midfielder keeps Zidane’s side ticking over in midfield with his vision, awareness and reading of the game almost irreplaceable.
Central midfield: Toni Kroos
Like Modric, the German World Cup winner is not a flashy player, but he is another integral part of the side who allows others to flourish.
The former Bayern Munich star moved to the Bernabeu after winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
There can hardly have been a better £20m spent by Real in recent years than on the 28-year-old midfield metronome.
Central midfield: Marco Verratti
The diminutive Italian midfielder was a Barcelona transfer target in the summer before PSG signed Neymar from the Catalan giants. That put paid to any idea of a move.
Since moving to the Parc des Princes from hometown club Pescara in 2012, the Italy international has grown in stature, becoming one of Europe’s best midfielders.
He has completed 91.8% of his passes in Europe this season.
Right forward: Edinson Cavani
One of the earlier signings following Qatar Sports Investments’ takeover of PSG, the Uruguayan recently became the club’s all-time top scorer, surpassing Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 156 goals.
Despite that milestone it has been a difficult season with Neymar’s arrival pushing the former Napoli forward to one side.
The two have not seen eye-to-eye with the Brazilian attempting to usurp Cavani as PSG’s penalty take earlier in the season.
Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo
With just 11 La Liga goals to his name this season, the Portuguese icon is on course for his worst return during his nine years at Real Madrid.
However, it’s a different matter in Europe where the 33-year-old has bagged nine goals in just six outings.
It’s little wonder the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is the Champions League’s all-time top scorer.
Left forward: Neymar
However, he is also a Real Madrid transfer target.
According to reports in Spain, president Florentino Perez wants to bring the Brazilian forward to the Bernabeu having lost out to Barca in 2013.
Time to shine.