Thomas Tuchel is anticipating a "special" experience for Chelsea ahead of their tie against Real Madrid and the Blues rates Karim Benzema as one of the best players in the world.

Chelsea host LaLiga leaders Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. Tuchel's team beat Los Blancos 3-1 over two legs in the semi-finals last season en route to becoming European champions for a second time.

The holders could become the first English team to eliminate Madrid from the knockout stages of the competition on multiple occasions.

History is certainly on Chelsea's side, with Madrid having faced the team from west London more times without winning than they have against any other side in European competition (five).

Madrid have been crowned European champions a record 13 times, and under Zinedine Zidane, won the Champions League for three straight seasons between 2015-16 and 2017-18.

While Tuchel is relishing a memorable occasion when his side faces a heavyweight of world football, though he is confident Chelsea will not be overawed.

"It's hard to keep that record," he said of Madrid's recent failure to reach the Champions League final, which they last did in 2018 when Gareth Bale inspired them to victory over Liverpool.

"They won it three times, this competition [in a row], they did it with a very similar squad over a long period of time which is absolutely impressive, outstanding.

"I think it's normal that cycles like this change at some point, in terms of winning streaks, reaching the final, and this is what happened to them. We should be very aware that teams with this type of flair, experience and quality can produce special moments and nights and occasions.

"For us it's also a pretty special occasion – to play against Real Madrid in a quarter-final – and so that's why we feel pretty excited and we don’t lose too much sleep to think about where they are in Europe.

"We want to prove a point, prove it to ourselves, that's the target. The occasion is special and the opponent is special and that's why we are very excited about it."

Asked whether last season's tie has any bearing on this month's matches, Tuchel replied: "I think it has nothing to do with last season's game. Honestly. I did not look at it in the preparation."

Benzema netted Madrid's only goal in that tie and the striker is the reason that Carlo Ancelotti's team progressed to the last eight this time around, with his hat-trick dumping Paris Saint-Germain out in the last 16.

The 34-year-old has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season, which is already his most in a single campaign. If he scores in this game, he would set a new season-best for goals by a Frenchman in the competition.

"I said maybe two years ago he was one of the most underrated players in world football," Tuchel said of Benzema.

"I think maybe not anymore, which he absolutely deserves because he plays for so many years as a number nine for Madrid, speaks for itself, and what he did in the last stage for them, how he carried the responsibility and what a key part he plays for them as a captain now, is very impressive.

"For sure a standout personality but again right now, in this very moment, very unfair to Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, all the guys who have carried this team so successfully almost a decade now."

Chelsea's preparations for the first leg could hardly be considered positive, given they lost 4-1 at home to Brentford on Saturday in the Premier League, and Tuchel is expecting better from not only his players, but the Stamford Bridge faithful too.

"We need it and we need to be better on the pitch. We're the first to admit it, but we need the crowd to be better. We need everybody on the front foot," he added.

Kylian Mbappe could help Real Madrid score "triple" the amount of goals if he were to join from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Los Blancos striker Karim Benzema.

France superstar Mbappe is nearing the end of his PSG contract and has been continually linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, a transfer that would see him link up with Les Bleus team-mate Benzema.

Mbappe has 28 goals and 20 assists from 38 appearances across all competitions this season, while Benzema is top of LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 24.

Speaking with L'Equipe, Benzema said he is excited by the prospect of playing alongside Mbappe at Madrid.

"I like to play with [Mbappe] in the national team, and I would like to play with him in the club," he said.

"I think [Madrid] would score twice as many goals – or maybe even triple."

Benzema also discussed his goals with the national team after returning from a six-year exile last year.

"[Playing for France] is a pride for me, and I am happy," he said.

"There is a good adaptation, the level is very high, and that is what I like the most. Now I want to win a trophy with the France team."

Benzema missed Real Madrid's 4-0 El Clasico humbling at the hands of Barcelona and said it was not just the margin of victory that was concerning but the manner in which it took place.

"El Clasico, from the stands, I had a bad time," he said. "We were on a good run, and we had everything [in place] to continue.

"In fact, you can lose a match 4-0, don't worry. But not like that. 

"We didn't show anything, we didn't try, we didn't show who we were. We let them play."

Real Madrid will be back in action on Wednesday in Champions League quarter-final action at Stamford Bridge, with Benzema saying: "Chelsea are a great team, and we will try to get a good result in London."

Real Madrid secured a hard-fought 2-1 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday as Karim Benzema's two penalties extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to 12 points.

The victory owed immense credit to the fact Madrid were awarded three spot-kicks at Estadio de Balaidos, with Benzema missing once but making sure with his other two attempts.

Nolito had equalised Benzema's first penalty early in the second half and the hosts pushed to win the game themselves, only to be undone at the other end.

Celta Vigo were furious with the referee, particularly for the third spot-kick given just minutes after France international Benzema had seen one saved by Matias Dituro, but Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti will not mind as he saw his team return to winning ways in the league following their Clasico humiliation last time out.

Madrid had their first penalty in the 18th minute when Nolito clipped the ankle of Eder Militao, with Benzema calmly rolling his effort to Dituro's left.

The hosts had made a good start despite the penalty, and Iago Aspas nearly equalised with a free-kick, only for Thibaut Courtois to make a superb save diving to his right, denying the former Liverpool man.

Celta Vigo thought they were level when Thiago Galhardo's header hit the inside of the post and rolled into the far corner of the net, but Aspas was judged to have been offside as well as stopping David Alaba from clearing the ball off the line.

Nolito made up for the penalty concession with the equaliser early in the second half as he swept home a cross from the left by Javi Galan.

Madrid had another chance from the spot just after the hour when Rodrygo was felled by Jeison Murillio, but Dituro made the save to deny Benzema down to his right.

However, the goalkeeper could do nothing about Los Blancos' third penalty of the game, with Benzema slotting this time after Ferland Mendy went over the trailing foot of Kevin Vazquez.

France head coach Didier Deschamps is focused on the present and not concerned by the future after calling up Olivier Giroud to replace Karim Benzema.

Giroud has not featured for Les Blues since their exit to Switzerland at Euro 2020 last June, but the 35-year-old has come back into contention after an injury to Benzema.

The Milan striker sits just five goals behind Thierry Henry in France's all-time scoring charts after netting 46 times in 110 games.

Though Giroud was omitted from Deschamps' recent squads, he now has a chance to impress in friendlies against Ivory Coast and South Africa.

Deschamps, speaking at Monday's news conference, was keen to turn the attention away from Giroud as he insisted the former Arsenal and Chelsea forward does not have to prove himself.

"The most important thing for me is to be consistent and fair in my speech with the players, whether it's Olivier or others," he told reporters.

"Olivier is going to join us, and he doesn't have to do more or less. He was part of this team that was successful, it was also without him, and he remains selectable, as I have always said. 

"But don't ask me about the future. Of course, his presence is linked to Karim's injury. But there is no particular attention around him, he is part of the group."

Asked whether Benzema and Giroud could feature together down the line, Deschamps added: "It's not a question of relationships, there's competition, too, but it goes further than that. 

"History shows it is always a great difficulty for a player who has a status that he deserved to have, to no longer have this status. 

"It is very difficult to live with, not to say impossible. But it's human and it's not specific to Olivier. It's more complex. I did not call him to tell him that he will have 30 per cent playing time and see how he reacts. 

"He can accept anything, it's only ten days, but again, I don't want to make a case apart, and there have been quite a few in this case. 

"A player who has status needs to have an important role. I am convinced of that."

Arsenal's William Saliba, who is currently on loan at Marseille, has also been handed a late call-up after Bayern Munich's Benjamin Pavard withdrew.

"We have been following him for a while, I talk a lot with Sylvain Ripoll [France's Under-21 coach], who has known since the weekend, just in case," Deschamps said of Saliba. 

"The schedule meant that William was playing last night [Sunday], so I waited until after the match to make his call-up official, but what he does in the Under-23s and for his club, in a system that is not identical but similar, is interesting. 

"He is a good defender, fast, who has a good heading game, and exudes a lot of calmness in his play."

Deschamps stressed that France's upcoming friendlies are important, while he was glad to not be in the position of Portugal and Italy, who will battle for World Cup qualification in the play-offs.

"I know that many players have had very important matches before and will have very important ones after," he added. "It will be full in Marseille, full in Lille, and it is our duty to be efficient. 

"You think that these two friendlies have little value, but I know very well that we have to win them, because otherwise, they will increase in importance. 

"And I prefer to be in my place than in the place of my Italian and Portuguese counterparts. I am happy to be among the 14 nations that have already qualified [for Qatar]!"

Olivier Giroud has been handed a recall by France and a chance to put himself firmly back in Didier Deschamps' World Cup plans.

The Milan striker has not featured in a match for France since Les Bleus exited Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland last June.

He has 46 goals for his country in 110 games, which puts him only five strikes behind Thierry Henry on the team's all-time list.

It appeared Giroud's international career might be over as coach Deschamps opted against calling him into recent squads.

However, a calf injury sustained by Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, ruling him out of Sunday's game against Barcelona, has led to Giroud landing a summons to join up with France for the upcoming friendlies against Ivory Coast and South Africa.

The French Football Federation announced the news on its website, adding that the France staff wished Benzema "a swift recovery".

Deschamps spoke about Giroud after excluding him from a 23-player squad on Thursday, pointing to the 35-year-old's impressive form for Milan.

Giroud has helped Milan top Serie A, scoring eight goals in 20 games in the league, ahead of Saturday's trip to face Cagliari.

Assessing Giroud, Deschamps said: "It's going well for him at the moment. He's scoring important goals with Milan. I'm happy for him.

"I've got decisions to make. I know what Olivier is capable of doing with us. He remains available to France even if I haven't called him up for this get-together."

Now, though, Giroud comes into the picture once again, eight months out from the World Cup in Qatar.

France play Ivory Coast in Marseille on March 25, and South Africa in Lille four days later.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Karim Benzema will miss Sunday's Clasico clash with Barcelona.

The top scorer in LaLiga this season with 22 goals, Benzema will not be available to face the Blaugrana at Santiago Bernabeu.

The France international netted twice in Monday’s 3-0 victory over Real Mallorca, but limped off towards the end of the contest indicating a problem with his calf.

Ancelotti, who is also without Ferland Mendy, revealed that Benzema will also not link with Les Bleus during the forthcoming international break.

Addressing the media during his pre-match conference on Saturday, the Italian said: "Both [Benzema] and Mendy can't play and won't go to France either. They stay in Madrid.

"He hasn't trained with the group. He still has some discomfort.

"Karim is a very important part, because he finishes all the work, but without him, you have to keep that work and look for different solutions.

"It is already decided who is going to play [in his place]. But I'm not going to tell you."

Benzema's league goals have come at a rate of one every 93.55 minutes, while he also leads the assists standings with 11 to his name already.

Asked if he is concerned by Benzema's latest lay-off, Ancelotti said: "He is a player who is 34 years old and sometimes it can happen to him. 

"They are very minor annoyances and he has recovered very quickly. When he has come back, he has made a difference. 

"We have another two weeks to work with him and then he will make a difference again. 

"It doesn't worry me that he won't play tomorrow because we have time for him to play at the end of the season and make a difference."

Madrid sit comfortably top of LaLiga, armed with a 10-point lead over second-placed Sevilla. Barcelona, in third, are 15 points adrift of Madrid with a game in hand.

Karim Benzema is set to be ruled out of Real Madrid's plans for Sunday's Clasico clash with Barcelona.

The captain and leading goalscorer in LaLiga this season did not train on Saturday as head coach Carlo Ancelotti completed his preparation for the clash at Santiago Bernabeu.

Spanish news agency EFE reported Benzema would miss the game, with Ancelotti expected to confirm that at a news conference in the Spanish capital.

Benzema scored twice in five second-half minutes in a 3-0 win against Real Mallorca on Monday, but he looked in discomfort while celebrating Los Blancos' third goal.

Soon after, in the 85th minute, Benzema departed having indicated a problem with his calf, forcing Madrid to close out the match with 10 men having already used their five permitted substitutions.

It is the calf that continues to trouble the 34-year-old, who has scored 22 goals in LaLiga so far this season, eight more than his nearest challengers – team-mate Vinicius Junior and Enes Unal of Getafe.

Benzema's league goals have come at a rate of one every 93.55 minutes, while he also leads the assists standings with 11 to his name already.

Madrid sat comfortably top of LaLiga going into the weekend, armed with a 10-point lead over second-placed Sevilla. Barcelona, in third, were 15 points adrift of Madrid, with a game in hand.

Benzema has scored in two of his last three meetings with Barcelona in all competitions, the same number of goals as he did in his previous 16 appearances in El Clasico.

In 25 LaLiga games against Barcelona, his goal return is a modest seven, plus four assists. However, the loss of an in-form Benzema is undoubtedly a significant blow on the eve of Spanish football's biggest club clash.

Barcelona star Sergio Busquets has labelled Karim Benzema as a "luxury" for Real Madrid and the "most decisive player in LaLiga".

Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid sit 10 points clear at the LaLiga summit after a 3-0 win at Real Mallorca on Monday, with their next fixture the small matter of hosting Xavi's in-form Barca in Sunday's Clasico.

The league leaders have largely been inspired by Benzema and Vinicius Junior, who have been involved in 18 of the past 22 Madrid top-flight goals - with 10 strikes and four assists for the France striker in this time, and four goals and four assists for the Brazilian winger.

Indeed, Benzema - whose hat-trick guided Madrid past Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16 - has scored 32 goals this season in all competitions, his joint-highest tally for Los Blancos in a single campaign (also 32 in 2011-12).

He has also already equalled his best season in the Spanish top flight in terms of assists (11, as in 2012-13), and Busquets heaped praise on the forward in an interview with Vamos on Movistar Plus.

Asked whether Benzema was the best player in the league, Busquets said: "Yes, for sure, at a statistical level, in terms of goals, of confidence. For them, it is a luxury to have him."

Blaugrana midfielder Busquets also appreciates the quality of Casemiro, who leads Madrid in the league for both tackles won (47) and successful duels (206) while ranking fourth for completed passes (1,351).

"If he is not the best, he is among the best, you just have to look at the games and his career," Busquets said of Madrid's Brazil international.

"In the end, you look at the goals and assists. Our task is important, we are in the middle of the team, controlling everything and ordering. I admire him, really."

Barca moved up to third in LaLiga after a 4-0 thrashing of Osasuna, their fourth consecutive top-flight win, but Busquets is aware of the tough threat Ancelotti's Madrid will pose.

"Everything is different. The self-esteem, the state of mind, the confidence. A new coach arrived who made several changes and brought his philosophy that he gave us so many years ago," Busquets said.

"The new players have been understanding it little by little. We are a more complete team. We still have a long way to go, but this is the way.

"It will be a test [on Sunday] because Madrid are the leaders and compete with us to win all the titles. We have to be realistic, we are going to compete, but then hopefully the result will fall in our favour."

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti played down the injury concern of talisman Karim Benzema after the Frenchman appeared hurt soon after netting his second goal in a 3-0 win over Real Mallorca.

Benzema scored twice in five second-half minutes to put the game beyond Madrid's hosts on Monday, but he looked in some discomfort while celebrating Los Blancos' third goal.

Soon after, in the 85th minute, Benzema departed having indicated a problem with his calf, forcing Madrid to close out the match with 10 men as they had already used their five permitted substitutions.

The two goals moved Benzema's season tally to 22 in 25 LaLiga matches, and although Ancelotti admitted they are in "wait and see" mode, he does not expect anything serious.

A major problem for their key man would be a significant blow for Madrid ahead of Sunday's El Clasico.

"We have to evaluate him in the next few days – things don't seem very serious," Ancelotti said.

"Karim did not feel good after a jump – we have to wait until Wednesday [to learn more]."

Real Madrid now sit 10 points clear of second-placed Sevilla but face a serious test of their credentials next with the visit of a resurgent Barcelona.

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were the difference once again as Real Madrid beat Real Mallorca 3-0 on Monday to take full advantage of Sevilla's latest slip-up and go 10 points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Carlo Ancelotti's men were aiming for a fourth league win in a row and, although they rode their luck at times, Los Blancos got the job done to see their points cushion at the summit reach double figures.

Mallorca arguably created the better chances in the first half, though Vinicius was more ruthless soon after the restart, even if there was a hint of controversy around it.

It set Madrid on their way and Benzema put the game beyond Mallorca from the spot before nodding in his second of the day late on, though Ancelotti will be worried that he failed to complete the game.

Amid a busy start, Madrid were fortunate to not fall behind in the 11th minute, as Vedat Muriqi steered a close-range volley off target from Brian Olivan's excellent cross.

They got even luckier just past the half-hour mark when Pablo Maffeo scuffed wide from 10 yards with only Thibaut Courtois to beat.

Predictably, Mallorca were made to pay.

Referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez refused to penalise Federico Valverde for tripping Iddrisu Baba just outside the hosts' box, and Benzema fed Vinicius into the area for a straightforward finish.

Mallorca's response was lacking and Madrid finished them off 13 minutes from time, Benzema slotting home a penalty after Vinicius was nudged over while trying to reach a pass from his partner.

Benzema added another with a well-placed header from a Marcelo cross, but he was then withdrawn with an apparent calf strain in what could be a major blow ahead of the Clasico.

Karim Benzema has hinted this could be his best season in a Real Madrid shirt, following his side's knockout win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

The talismanic Benzema scored a hat-trick in Madrid's epic comeback from a two-goal aggregate deficit, which meant he surpassed Alfredo di Stefano as the club's third-highest goalscorer with his total of 309, including 67 Champions League goals – now ahead of Raul.

While the 34-year-old was sceptical on whether Wednesday night's win was his best game for Madrid, this season is providing some individual enthusiasm.

"I don’t know if it's my best game because I also remember the Champions League final against Liverpool," Benzema told Real Madrid TV.

"If it is, it's because of the goals, because there are three in a very important game – a comeback, we trailed 2-0 in the tie. It was a very big game, but also for the players.

"It could be my best season because every year I want to do more than the previous one and I'm on a good path now.

"I am happy and proud, but it's for the whole team. It's everyone's effort. The team, the people who were on the field, the people who weren't but help their team-mates as well. Also the coaches, the fans, all of that, it was a magical night for everyone."

Only scoring five league goals in Cristiano Ronaldo's final season at Madrid in 2017-18, Benzema has cracked 20 in each season since, with 20 in 24 LaLiga appearances this season and 30 goals in all competitions.

This is on top of the sizeable role Benzema and Luka Modric's interplay has had in Madrid's build-up play, during and after Ronaldo's time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

With all this in mind, the magnitude of passing Di Stefano's goals tally is not lost on Benzema.

"It's a dream because [Di Stefano] is a Madrid legend," the forward said. "I remember my first day here when he was with the president, and he gave me a hug. He is a legend. Being in his place makes me very proud, very happy and gives me more strength to go higher.

"These are very important figures. I signed for this club, firstly, to win titles. I didn't plan to score goals like I'm doing now, but I always wanted to be inside the heads of people, of the Madridistas one day, and I think I'm on the right track."

The LaLiga leaders travel to the Balearic Islands this weekend, to face Mallorca on Monday, before next Sunday's Clasico with Barcelona.

Thibaut Courtois tipped Karim Benzema to challenge for the Ballon d'Or following his star performance for Real Madrid against Paris Saint-Germain.

Benzema struck a hat-trick to secure a 3-1 second-leg win over PSG at the Santiago Bernabeu and send Madrid into the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

The Ligue 1 leaders held a 1-0 lead from the first leg of the last-16 tie and, after Kylian Mbappe fired past Courtois in the first half, it looked as though the tie could be over.

That was until Benzema led a stirring fightback in the final half-hour, scoring his first after forcing an error from goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and then steering home a deflected strike.

The France striker then flicked in Vinicius Junior's pass to send the home fans into jubilations and mark his 500th start for the club in supreme style by surpassing the great Alfredo Di Stefano in Madrid's all-time scoring charts with 309 in all competitions.

Courtois now thinks Benzema, who became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in Champions League history at the age of 34 years and 80 days, could be in line for the game's top individual honour in 2022.

"I think he's one of the greatest players in the world, the best number nine, maybe with Lewandowski right now," Courtois told RMC Sport.

"I think he showed why he should, maybe, win the Ballon d'Or this year. He's a great player, a real captain. He led the team to victory with his goals and his class."

Mbappe twice saw a goal ruled out for offside prior to Madrid's fightback as PSG again suffered a Champions League second-leg collapse in Spain, five years on from their famous 6-1 loss to Luis Enrique's Barcelona.

"In the end, it was a complicated match with Kylian and Neymar on the counter-attack," said Courtois.

"That was how the first goal came about. Just before then, they had a few chances without much danger.

"We had a nice shot from Karim, I think Donnarumma made a good save from a header. Then Karim pressed the goalkeeper well, he made a mistake, we got back to 1-1. From there, I think the whole stadium was behind us.

"We went for the win after going 2-1 up, the third goal was key, and you felt that for the PSG players, it was harder after this goal."

Carlo Ancelotti hailed Karim Benzema as a "fantastic leader" after the Real Madrid striker's sensational hat-trick dumped Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League on Wednesday.

PSG looked on course of the last eight when Kylian Mbappe put them 2-0 up on aggregate late in the first half.

Los Blancos roared back in the second period, though, thanks to Benzema's hat-trick – the second and third of which came within the space of just 106 seconds.

It saw him become the oldest scorer of a hat-trick in Champions League history (aged 34 years and 80 days), 17 days older than Olivier Giroud in December 2020 for Chelsea against Sevilla.

The treble also saw him move above Alfredo Di Stefano into third on Madrid's all-time top goalscorer list with 309.

Ancelotti was full of praise for the talismanic striker as Madrid overturned a first-leg deficit in a Champions League knockout tie for only the fourth time.

"Karim Benzema is a fantastic leader, a fantastic centre forward," he told reporters. 

"I'm very happy with what he's doing and his attitude.

"After the first goal, we got into a good dynamic, we pressed and controlled the ball better. We had fewer difficulties in the second half compared to the first. 

"At half-time, we said to ourselves that we had to stay in the game, even if it was difficult, thinking that something could happen.

"PSG are a great team with great players, but that's football, every little thing can change everything like that first goal."

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino was adamant Madrid's first goal should have been ruled out for a foul by Benzema on goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, but Ancelotti did not agree with his opposite number. 

Asked if it was a foul, the Italian said: "I don't think so.

"We suffered a lot, but we held on. It was difficult to hold the ball, we tried to press then Karim's good pressure gave us the opportunity to win the game. During the last half hour, there was only one team on the field."

Benzema's third sparked jubilant scenes at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Ancelotti describing the stadium as "magic". 

"I have played many games in this competition and many difficult ones like this," he added. "This stadium has magic; it has a very beautiful history and that is what happens. Hopefully it will not be the last night like this."

Madrid return to domestic action on Monday when they visit Real Mallorca. 

As soon as the December draw for the Champions League round-of-16 threw out Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, all eyes were on a certain French striker.

And for a long time Kylian Mbappe looked set to be the difference-maker between two European giants who are also in a tug-of-war for the forward's future.

His excellent goal in the first leg at the Parc des Princes was decisive then, and he terrorised Los Blancos further in Madrid.

But almost out of nowhere the tie was turned on its head, with Karim Benzema once again proving his master status with a truly exceptional display of ruthlessness as Madrid won 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu to secure their passage to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

This was anything but predictable. After all, the tie was all set up perfectly for 'The Narrative' to settle things in this clash of titans.

For months, maybe years, Madrid have flirted with the idea of bringing Mbappe to the Spanish capital, even going as far as submitting huge bids for him last August.

Carlo Ancelotti is asked about him at pretty much every pre-match news conference, such is the obsession in the Spanish press, but PSG's resolve in August seemed to be paying dividends just over six months later, with Mbappe crucial last time and in the mood here.

Ahead of the trip to Madrid, PSG communicated how the Frenchman was a doubt due to a training knock. Whether that was the truth or subterfuge can only be confirmed by Mauricio Pochettino, but one thing's for certain, Mbappe looked as sharp as ever.

The warning signs were there – twice – inside the first 13 minutes. On both occasions, Mbappe managed to get in behind Madrid's riskily high defence, but he let the hosts off the hook each time.

Despite worrying signs for Madrid, at no point did you expect a tactical change from Ancelotti given Madrid's desperate need to get at least one goal.

As such, the Mbappe 'cheatcode' was seemingly always going to be a possibility for PSG as long as the other 10 remained focused. For all the obsession over tactics, Pochettino's approach seemed to resemble that of millions of FIFA video game players from down the years: kick the ball beyond the defence for the really, really fast chap.

And that was exactly how the breakthrough came. PSG defended a corner and Neymar picked up possession deep inside his own half. Mbappe was already on the charge and the Brazilian clipped a first-time ball over Dani Carvajal.

Mbappe surged forward, shaped to curl his shot around Eder Militao and then picked out the near corner instead, usurping Zlatan Ibrahimovic as PSG's all-time leading scorer in the process.

The offside flag then cruelly, but crucially correctly, denied Mbappe what would have gone down as a classic Champions League goal early in the second, latching on to a throughball and beating Thibaut Courtois with an exquisite stepover before he'd even touched the ball and slotting into an empty net.

And almost instantly PSG's performance went stunningly awry.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's dawdling on the ball gifted Madrid an equaliser as Benzema charged down his clearance and then stabbed in from Vinicius Junior's cut-back.

Suddenly Madrid were like a pack of rabid wolves. Donnarumma's hesitancy and indecision began to overcome the rest of his back four, with PSG almost in a flash going from in control to utterly terrified.

Just 15 minutes later, 1-1 turned into 2-1, with Luka Modric doing brilliantly in midfield to pick out Vinicius, who had the presence of mind to patiently wait for the Croatian to appear on the edge of the box, and he slotted the ball through to Benzema to steer home.

Then, within seconds of PSG restarting the game, Marquinhos panicked in his own area, flicking the ball into the path of Benzema who unleashed an impossibly cool finish into the bottom-right corner, picking it out with the outside of his foot without breaking stride.

It sparked bedlam in the stands of the Santiago Bernabeu as it quickly dawned on the Madrid faithful and players that the tie was theirs. While PSG had the best part of 15 minutes to fight back, their mystifying lack of composure since the hour mark had already sapped them of belief.

Mbappe looked on, having gone from unstoppable to helpless in the space of just a few second-half minutes.

Of course, a key difference between the goalscorers was their respective supporting casts. While Lionel Messi, Marco Verratti and Neymar looked impressive in the first half, they were nowhere to be seen after half-time.

Madrid, on the other hand, had already looked a threat with Vinicius up top alongside Benzema. The Brazilian excelled where his compatriot Neymar could not – the young winger was relentless, working exceptionally hard throughout to ensure Benzema didn't have to do it alone, even if the headlines will suggest it was all him.

There is a school of thought that this tie will ultimately determine where Mbappe ends up next season. On the evidence of this, a front three of him, Benzema and Vinicius will be mouthwatering.

Mbappe has so far been very calm and unequivocal when asked about his future, but Madrid have given him a glimpse of what awaits.

Karim Benzema scored a sensational hat-trick as Real Madrid fought back to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 on Wednesday and secure a scarcely believable 3-2 aggregate victory in their Champions League last-16 tie.

Kylian Mbappe, who is widely expected to join Madrid on a free transfer at the end of the season, gave PSG a two-goal lead in the tie with a breakaway goal late in the first half – a goal that moved him clear of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the Ligue 1 side's second all-time top scorer with 157 goals.

Benzema led a stirring Los Blancos fightback in the second half, though, grabbing his first in the 61st minute after a big mistake from Gianluigi Donnarumma.

He then sealed their progress into the quarter-finals with two goals in the space of two minutes to leave Mauricio Pochettino's side stunned.

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