Special envoy to San Sebastian

PSG takes the quarter. Absent from the European Top 8 since 2021, the Rouge et Bleu won at Real Sociedad (1-2) on Tuesday, in the round of 16 second leg of the Champions League, confirming their 2-0 victory in the first leg. Doubled by Kylian Mbappé. Quickly anesthetized, Anoeta only had a quarter of an hour to dream. Easy.

La Real aimed to reproduce the first hour of the first leg to “dream”, as Imanol Alguaril put it. Missed. Dominant, aggressive and quickly dangerous, PSG attacked this meeting from the right end and with a hungry Mbappé. A first strike from “KM” above (5th), Mbappé festival to serve Barcola, who came up against Remiro (10th), a solo rush from Zaire-Emery (15th)… Apart from Mendes, a tone below and who was not far from scoring against his side (7th), all the Parisians were in tune, individually and collectively. And “Kyky” killed a lot of the suspense. Well served by Dembélé on the edge of offside, he made Zubeldia dance before crucifying Remiro (0-1, 16th). Ruthless. Remiro thwarted Mbappé’s plans, well found by Barcola (28th), and Real found a little color to finish the first act, with this beautiful strike from Kubo (45 3, 0-1 MT).

Still in control on the PSG side at the restart. And the stab by Mbappé, put into orbit by Lee, came into play to start the second act (0-2, 56th). All after collective class action. End of the story ? Yes and no. Paris no longer controlled much against Real driven by the energy of despair. Messy and feverish. Several (very) hot situations for the Basques, an offside goal (62nd) and an XXL save from Donnarumma (78th), who finally lost to Merino (89th, 1-2). Only downside? Warned on Tuesday evening, Hakimi will miss the quarter-final first leg.

Replaced here, replaced there… Kylian Mbappé has not had an easy life since he announced his departure next summer. Coach’s choice only? Club sanction? “Sooner or later we will have to get used to playing without him,” Luis Enrique repeats over and over again. Except that the present is with Kylian Mbappé. Especially when he plays at this level… Little in sight during his last outings, the Parisian captain was hungry on Tuesday evening. It didn’t take long for him to show it. Aligned on the left, he showcased his qualities of speed, percussion, finishing to regularly pose the danger in front of the opposing goal and of course, score, rather twice than once. In fact, Mbappé air-conditioned Anoeta. This time, Luis Enrique did not have to take it out at the break. The future will be written without him. The present is with it.

Luis Enrique’s choices are sometimes perplexing. He was right in San Sebastian. Deprived of Marquinhos and Danilo Pereira, he relied on a Hernandez-Beraldo-Mendes trio behind in the possession phases, with Achraf Hakimi in the middle and… Ousmane Dembélé who came down from his central position. In fact, the French international evolved as a true free electron, with Mbappé on the left and Barcola on the right. Consistent and so destabilizing for the Basque rearguard. Obviously, the scenario helped Paris, with this goal very early. But the Rouge et Bleu were simply a cut above their hosts, and it was also thanks to the guidance of their coach.

We only know two qualified for the quarter-finals, PSG and Bayern. For the rest, Manchester City (3-1 in Copenhagen) and Real Madrid (1-0 in Leipzig) are in favorable waivers. Suspense in the other posters, notably Dortmund-PSV and Barcelona-Naples (1-1 in the first leg). Unhappy finalists last year, the Interists got the better of Atlético (1-0) in the first leg, while Arsenal lost at Porto (1-0). The draw ? It will be March 15.