Image: Wikimedia Commons / Balkan Photos
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Balkan Photos

Paris-Saint Germain vs Bayern Munich: Champions League final is a fight over football’s soul

Paris Saint-Germain will make their Champions League final debut in this evening’s clash of the titans in Lisbon. The Qatari-backed Parisians will encounter five-time winners Bayern Munich at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica with significantly more than pride and silverware on the line.

For many, tonight’s final represents not only a meeting of super clubs but an existential battle for European football’s soul. Make no mistake, PSG will be portrayed as the baddies, an elite clique of bandits seeking to muddy the once pristine waters of the beautiful game.

Qatar Sports Investments purchased a controlling stake in PSG in 2011. QSI, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, has since filled the Parisian’s coffers, purchasing Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe for a combined £361 million. Investment brought domestic success and a court date with UEFA over alleged breaches of its Financial Fair Play regulations.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in PSG’s favour; the rest is history.

Thomas Mueller has been restored to his former glory by Hansi Flick

Bayern Munich, the ruthlessly efficient Bundesliga champions, are thus fighting on the side of the Resistance. The free-scoring Robert Lewandowski has assumed the role as Bayern’s leader and chief, while Thomas Mueller has been restored to his former glory by head coach Hansi Flick.

The Champions League final will not feature intergalactic warfare, but Bayern will certainly enjoy the support of an army of globalised neutrals.

Moving away from geopolitics and Star Wars, the Champions League final promises to be an enthralling end to the 2019/20 season. Both sides are thoroughly deserving of their place in the final two, having played sensational football on route to Lisbon.

Tuchel’s side have lost just once in their last 10 Champions League fixtures

Since topping Group A, PSG have beaten Borussia Dortmund, Atalanta and RB Leipzig in increasingly comfortable fashion. The Parisians followed-up their 2-1 quarter-final victory over plucky Atalanta with a stunning 3-0 demolition of domestically-despised RB Leipzig.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have lost just once in their last 10 Champions League fixtures and have exceeded expectations since arriving in Portugal for UEFA’s mini-tournament. Mbappe and Co. had only played once – against Lyon in the French Cup final – since the Ligue 1 season was curtailed in March, but have been in scintillating form regardless.

Mauro Icardi and World Cup-winner Mbappe are tied on five goals apiece for PSG in Europe this season, and both will expect to start this evening. Neymar Jr – an unknown talent from Brazil – will also play a prominent role in Tuchel’s tactical considerations. If the German head coach is able to get the best out of PSG’s formidable front three, it will likely be the deciding factor in tonight’s final.

Bayern are also a mouth-wateringly delicious watch. Buoyed by their domestic dominance, Flick’s side have been perfect in Lisbon, handing Barcelona their largest drubbing for a generation and beating Lyon 3-0 in the semi-final.

Bayern have won all 10 of their Champions League fixtures this season, scoring 42 goals in the process. Equally as impressively, the imperious Manuel Neuer has only been beaten on eight occasions. Bayern’s average scoreline in Europe this season is 4-1. The five-time champions have been ferociously good in the Champions League since the turn of the year; only PSG stand in the way of their seventh European title.

It’s obviously the biggest challenge of my career

– Thomas Tuchel

Bayern and PSG have only met on eight previous occasions, with each side claiming two victories in their four clashes since the Millennium bug brought an end to Western civilisation. Tonight’s victors will claim a historic treble, made even more remarkable by the fact that they were able to reach the zenith during a season of unprecedented disruption and chaos.

In the build-up to tonight’s fixture, Tuchel said: “We’re here to play in the final and to win. It’s obviously the biggest challenge of my career.”

In the opposing dugout, Flick remarked: Paris are a great team, they fought their way into the semi-final and then reached the final. We will analyse some things; we know they have quick players. We will look to organise our defence, but we know our biggest strength is putting our opponents under pressure.”

PSG will become the 23rd team to win the Champions League if they succeed tonight. The club’s only previous continental success came in the 1996 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, where the Parisians beat Rapid Wien courtesy of Bruno N’Gotty’s winning goal.

Thomas Tuchel’s men appear ready to sit in the throne of champions

– Chris Burke

PSG reporter Chris Burke has suggested that Tuchel’s side will be “licking their lips” following Bayern’s performance against Lyon. “Having added belief and unity to their obvious talent, Thomas Tuchel’s men appear ready to sit in the throne of European champions, and beating Bayern to get there would remove any doubt that they deserve the crown,” Burke wrote.

Much has been made of Bayern’s high defensive line. Flick’s side play with a clear philosophy – one that has been missing in Bavaria for several years: Bayern will score more than you. Willing to take risks, press high and harry their opponents, Flick has breathed life into a Bayern side that looked rudderless under previous management.

Mbappe and Icardi have the pace required to beat Bayern’s rogue defensive line, but Lewandowski shows no signs of slowing down in the goal-scoring department. The Polish forward has notched 15 goals in the Champions League this season and is the bookies’ favourite to open the scoring tonight.

Jerome Boateng is Flick’s only injury concern

PSG have a number of injury concerns heading into tonight’s finale. Idrissa Gueye could miss-out due to a muscular injury, while Keylor Navas, Marco Veratti and Layvin Kurzawa are also injury doubts for Tuchel’s side. Jerome Boateng is Flick’s only injury concern.

Jordan Maciel, a Bayern reporter, put it best: “Tuchel will take note of how Barcelona and Lyon found ways to exploit the Bayern back line, albeit without success, while Hans-Dieter Flick’s approach will be clear: concentrate, press from the first second, and score early. In short: more of the same.”

Whatever happens, no one will ever forget who won the Champions League in 2020. Enjoy the game.


Predicted Line-Ups:

PSG (4-3-3) – Rico; Kehrer, Thiago Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat; Paredes, Marquinhos, Herrera; Di María, Mbappé, Neymar

Bayern (4-2-3-1) – Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Goretzka, Thiago; Perišić, Müller, Gnabry; Lewandowski

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