MADRID (Dispatches) - Real Madrid face their most important game so far this season when they entertain Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday night in a game which could well determine the rest of their season and the future of both coaches.
With the club trailing Barcelona in the Liga Santander by 17 points and knocked out of the quarterfinals of the King's Cup by Leganes, Madrid's season will effectively be over unless they are able to get past the big-spending French side.
Failure to progress would certainly mean the end for Zidane in the Madrid dugout at the end of the campaign, if not before, and the Frenchman gave some indication of his intentions during Saturday's 5-2 win at home to Real Sociedad when he rested Casemiro and Gareth Bale, both of whom will return on Wednesday night and there are only the two doubts in his starting 11.
The first of those is who will replace the suspended Dani Carvajal at right back, with Nacho Fernandez likely to get the unenviable task of stopping Neymar, while there is a slight chance that Marcos Asensio or Isco could replace Karim Benzema, who was booed off the pitch over the weekend.
PSG travel to Madrid with a fearsome array of attacking talent with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani a major threat to the Madrid defense.
Nobody at the French club has forgotten how last season they defeated FC Barcelona 4-0 in the home leg at the same stage of the tournament only to crash 6-1 in the Camp Nou, and PSG coach Unai Emery also knows that despite his sides hegemony in France, he would not survive another early exit from Europe.
PSG will have to contend with an atmosphere in the Santiago Bernabeu that Real Madrid has been trying to build for several days, but their firepower gives them every chance of an away goal to take into the return leg in three weeks.
Two of the most expensive sides in the world go head to head, and depending on the result, one of the two coaches will not keep his job at the end of the season.
********Real Madrid versus Paris Saint-Germain. Cristiano Ronaldo versus Neymar