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Interview: Presnel Kimpembe on Paris taking on Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League round of 16

Facing France team-mate Karim Benzema is a daunting prospect, but Paris centre-back Presnel Kimpembe says: "That's why we do this job: to be able to play in matches like this one."

Presnel Kimpembe during the group stage
Presnel Kimpembe during the group stage Getty Images

There will be no gentle reintroduction to UEFA Champions League life as Paris Saint-Germain return to the competition with a round of 16 home game against 13-time European champions Real Madrid, but that suits Presnel Kimpembe just fine.

The 26-year-old centre-back has grown accustomed to playing with the best since coming through the youth ranks at Paris. He sees some of the biggest names in world football every day at the training ground, but as he tells UEFA.com, an intimate knowledge of Karim Benzema from the France national team will not necessarily help him in Tuesday's game.

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On returning to UEFA Champions League action

Real Madrid v Paris: 2018 highlights

We never really get out of [shape]. Of course, we have a little break with the holiday period but it's very short. We stay professional and continue to work. Even if there's a lot of time between matches and lots of time to get ourselves back into 'Champions League mode', there's time, but we work every day for that in training and we try to work on this in matches to prepare for Real Madrid.

Obviously, it's a big match coming up. We're all really looking forward to it, we're very excited to be able to play in matches like this. That's why we do this job: to be able to play in matches like this one. We'll have to be ready to play a big game, especially if we want to beat a team like Real Madrid.

On the role of Sergio Ramos

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Have we been asking him about Real Madrid? Honestly, not at all. Not the team. I know it'll be a bit of a strange match for him because it's his old club, the club where he won everything. It'll be a very strange match for him. But today he is with Paris Saint-Germain and I hope that he'll be 100% with us when facing his old team.

On facing France team-mate Karim Benzema

It's difficult for me to defend against Karim because he's very intelligent in his movement, with his touches, he always avoids one-on-one [situations]. He is somebody that's ahead of the game. In order to defend against players like that, you need to anticipate; either be there straight away as soon as he touches the ball. [He has] this ability, a vision to play and he knows his opponents [well] too, so, because of this, he is able to lose his marker. As you know, he's a world-class striker so it won't be an easy match.

On being starstruck in the Paris first team

Watch Benzema Champions League goals

We have world-class players here. I've had the opportunity to train with David Beckham, to play with [Zlatan] Ibra[himović], Maxwell, [Thiago] Motta. And today I'm lucky enough to train and play with players like [Lionel] Messi, Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappé. So there you go, it's always a pleasure.

Of course, we're learning every day, especially with players like [Messi], they set an example. Just from something simple – not necessarily on the football pitch in terms of positioning or how to react or how you have to defend – you also learn things about everyday life. These are people who are never late, who are serious and professional as well.

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