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Five goals have come from five appearances in the competition, including a superb solo strike against Manchester City and a crucial brace against RB Leipzig as the Parisians came from two down at home to win.

Tuesday, meanwhile, reunites Messi with Real Madrid, a club against which he has made his name like no other.

This will be his 46th match against Los Blancos and he goes seeking his 27th goal.

Among his most famous contributions was a remarkable individual effort in the Champions League semi-final of 2011, when he carved through the Madrid defence to score past Iker Casillas.

From that day onwards Benzema, for Lyon and now Real Madrid, has lost just once in eight tussles with les Parisiens, despite scoring just one more goal since that summer of 2006, beating them in the league, the Coupe de France final and, ultimately, in the Champions League — a competition he’s won four times but PSG have yet to conquer. To Benzema, it’s “as important as winning the World Cup but more difficult to win,” to PSG it’s become their raison d’être, the holy grail that eludes them, taunts them and, right now, whose failure to win defines them.

Right now, on the edge of another chance for the Algeria-descended all-time great of French football to thumb his nose at the nouveau riche from his nation’s capital, things aren’t so easy. PSG have stopped feeling like his personal soft touches.

Up 2-0, both courtesy of Real Madrid’s No. 9, the man with 76 Champions League goals, PSG took revenge in November 2019, the last time these clubs met, with a pair of late goals that ensured Thomas Tuchel’s team, not Madrid, won Group A.

Earlier in that season, which PSG ended as beaten finalists, had come Benzema’s and Madrid’s last competitive trip to the Parc des Princes. They were walloped. If you watched that match, and it’s Madrid who own your heart, you’ll still be having nightmares.

PSG shredded Zinedine Zidane’s side, over and again, faster, more competitive, fitter, more aggressive, and the eventual 3-0 winning margin could have been double that. A night of mist, damp, embarrassment and pain.

Now Benzema, and los Blancos, are back; back for revenge, back to try to move forwards in the competition they treasure the most. But he’s not in shape. Whether this man — who requires 21 more goals to become the second all-time scorer for the most successful, grandest club in the history of football — makes the starting lineup is a matter for both speculation and nerves.

What appeared to be a manageable hamstring problem, incurred in the costly 2-2 draw with Elche, first took slightly longer to heal than expected and then, partly thanks to manager Carlo Ancelotti’s desire to have him back, suffered a setback. On Feb. 5, Madrid’s Italian boss announced that his talismanic French strike leader wouldn’t play against Granada, but commented: “He’s been training for a few days, he’s not in shape yet, we’ll have to wait two or three more days … but he’ll be back for the next match.”

The next match was at Villarreal, which is to say Saturday’s 0-0 draw in which not only did Benzema not make the squad, los Blancos dropped two points so that their LaLiga lead over Sevilla was cut.

In the days between the Granada and Villarreal tests, Ancelotti authorised Benzema to undertake sprint training on one of the specially designed uphill inclines at their Valdebebas training ground, and Benzema’s hamstring protested.

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That explains his inability to face the Yellow Submarine, and it explains the nerves over not only whether he’ll start in Paris but concerning what level of performance he can produce — either as part of the XI or as a substitute.

His importance to Madrid’s chances of eliminating the French champions is almost indescribably huge. In individual terms, he’s contributed 24 goals and 9 assists in 28 matches this season. Those are Herculean figures, especially achieved at the age of 34.

Better still, his partnership with Vinicius Junior is devastatingly attractive and dangerous. Between them, they’ve created or scored 58 of los Blancos goals this season. Stripped of Benzema, Vinicius is still potent, still potentially a tie winner, but he can occasionally look a little indecisive, short of a soulmate.

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