THE MTAG WRITERS PREDICT THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Paris Saint Germain will step on the pitch this Sunday with three trophies already in the bag, facing the German champions, Bayern Munich who themselves are on the cusp of being the second team after Barcelona to win a treble twice in what is tipped to be a titanic contest. What has been a very unconventional campaign will end up in a feisty clash, as always. Kylian Mbappé, dubbed as the hottest property in world football looks to complete football at the age of 21 but the Bavarians have their own prodigy in Alphonso Davies. Just ask Nélson Semedo. The battle on the wings, lethal frontlines going toe-to-toe against top-tier ‘keepers and so much more ensure this is definitely a tie you wouldn’t want to miss.
Lisbon readies itself for the showdown, behind closed doors while the writers here at More Than A Game try to predict how the tie will unfold.
KABIR ALI: PSG 1 BAYERN MUNICH 2
Bayern were my favourites before lockdown and I see no reason to change that going into the final. 20 wins in a row, 14 of which have come since their return to action in May have seen them pick up another league and cup double and vindicated the claims of all those who back them to complete the second treble in their history.
Defence might win league titles but attack usually comes up trumps in the Champions League and Bayern’s is on a different planet right now. Averaging over four goals a game in this season’s competition, the Bundesliga winners were as ruthless in their demolition of Barcelona as they were clinical in punishing Lyon for their squandered chances. The one chink in Bayern’s armor that PSG could exploit is their high line, which is particularly vulnerable against raking balls from deep. Leandro Paredes will have to be at his best, spraying balls in between the lines to facilitate quick transitions for the likes to Mbappé to get in behind Bayern’s backline.
Even so, it is hard to see Thomas Tuchel’s side keep Müller, Gnabry and Lewandowski at bay. They may not run riot but Bayern have enough firepower to wrap up number 6.
HARSHAVARDHAN GHADGE: PSG 1 BAYERN MUNICH 3
Bayern Munich were eighth favourites with the bookmakers this time in 2019, but things change and spectacularly quickly in football. Since the start of the European campaign, the Bavarians have been faultless, becoming the first team to win 10 successive matches in the competition. Bayern face the zealous trio of Mbappé-Neymar-Di Maria, but for a team that sees attack as the best form of defence, you wouldn’t dare put them down.
The club from Munich boasts of an attack unparalleled in Europe in quality and numbers, spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski who has piled up a heap of goals in the Champions league, scoring 15 of his team’s 42 goals. While most teams struggle to replace grade A players, the Bavarian club somehow managed to smoothly substitute the famed ‘Robbery’ duo with Serge Gnabry and either of Kingsley Coman or Ivan Perišić hitting top form this season. After all, Gnabry scored twice in the first half in the semi-finals to sink Lyon and expect him to do more in the grand finale.
🥈 Bayern Munich have now scored the second most goals in a single #UCL campaign, with 42
🏃♂️ They are three behind Barcelona's record of 45 from 16 matches in 1999/00
😱 Bayern have only played 10 matches… pic.twitter.com/dAV1viCmRq
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 20, 2020
The German champions’ midfield has been unerring, haling some of the best positional talents in world football. Possibly the greatest raumdeuter of this era in Thomas Müller, an exquisite deep-lying playmaking pair of Thiago and Kimmich, the Allianz Arena side are spoilt for choice in the middle of the park.
PSG have a chance at an unprecedented quadruple against Bayern, whose defence has been gifting chances for a few games and with Boateng’s fitness in question, the lightning quick PSG trio will be looking forward to facing Bayern’s high-line. A simple ball over the top has been the hamartia to this tactically astute Bayern side, but the prospect of facing a Neuer who seems to have regained his form in the 2012/13 season has been frightening. Nonetheless, the two Bayern fullbacks bombarding down the channels, full of pace and skill has to be the most terrifying sight in European football at this moment, courtesy of Alphonso Davies.
It took the Germans 4 days to conquers Paris in 1940 and come Sunday night, Bayern Munich will have 90 minutes to do so on neutral soil.
CHENGAPPA CARIAPA: PSG 3 BAYERN MUNICH 2
The wounds are still fresh. Kimpembe giving away a penalty last year, Neymar’s annual February injuries, Di Maria witnessing 6 goals being scored at Camp Nou. Redemption is what will be the driving force behind PSG’s bid to land their maiden Champions League title. There have undoubtedly been goals galore with either side having exemplary front three’s with an unquenchable thirst for goal. This of course will shift the game to a midfield battle which I do believe will shape the course of the game.
Tactically, with an experience of playing against the same team that haunted him earlier, Thomas Tuchel should have a fair expectation of what the Bavarians can get up to. In the physical contest that transpires, PSG will play with a belief and a psychological edge to their game. And with a side that is back to its maximum capacity and strength, the trophy should be making its way to Paris on Monday morning.
SRINIVAS SADHANAND: PSG 2 BAYERN MUNICH 3 (a.e.t)
Imagine telling a Bayern player in November that they would be on the verge of a treble at the end of the season and they’d think you’re just being sarcastic or take it as a joke in bad taste, depending on their sense of humor at the time. And can you blame them? Bayern had just been humbled by Frankfurt, 5 goals to 1, Niko Kovač had been shown the door and his assistant had taken charge of the club with them reeling in 4th place. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that life comes at you fast and in footballing terms, the Bavarians have had a more drastic transformation than Leon Goretzka’s physique since then and ‘the assistant’ in Hansi Flick has ripped up the book of managerial excuses like it’s nobody’s business.
Perhaps the most staggering stat for me from this seemingly invincible Bayern side in the Champions League this campaign is that Lewandowski and Gnabry in tandem are a goal shy (24) of PSG’s entire tally in the competition (25). If you’ve watched the German champions since Flick walked through the door, you know they didn’t have to get out of second gear against Barça and Lyon, despite bagging a combined 11 goals and conceding 2.
For all practical purposes, Bayern are flawless but it’s their high line where the cracks start to appear. That right-hand side was exploited by to a degree by Alba and to dangerous effect by Cornet and on another day, Lyon would probably have been 2-0 up if they hadn’t taken a lesson on finishing from Manchester City. With Paredes pulling strings with his passing between the lines and if a fit Verratti joins the mix to do the same, Mbappé will not only get behind that Bayern backline but there will no mercy from the boy from Bondy.
With Neymar playing like the greats in a more central role, you’d want Kimmich to patrol the midfield expertly like he has done all season with Pavard reverting to right-back to make sure Bayern are better equipped to deal with the Parisians’ glorious attack.
Make no mistake, this is possible one of the most evenly set finals of the Champions League in recent memory. For me personally, the difference between the two sides is that I see Bayern as the best unit on the planet while PSG’s incredible group of players make them perfect for the competition’s current format, not to take anything away from how far they’ve come.
Bayern just edge this for me in a game for the ages and I see Gnabry scoring a winner in extra-time to round off a dream season for the Germany’s finest. You heard it here first.
MAHADEVAN SANKAR: PSG 3 BAYERN MUNICH 2
The unpredictability of the knockout stages has led us to this moment; a premier clash between the two best clubs in Europe this season. Bayern will undoubtedly consider themselves as favourites for the crown, especially after the demolition of Barcelona and the succinct ease in which they breezed past Lyon. PSG on the other hand needed last-minute heroics from their bench to get past Atalanta while they brushed past RB Leipzig without breaking a sweat. The aggressiveness of the Bayern offside trap coupled with Alphonso Davies’ positional indiscipline could be thoroughly exposed by a PSG side not short of creativity.
Especially, the pace and acceleration of the phenomenon, Kylian Mbappé will cause no end of problems if he gets the space to run in behind. He has already scored in the World Cup final and he could yet create history if he scores in the final of Europe’s elusive competition.
In 2008, my parents saved up for a quarter to offer me the first edition of the Mercurial Pink Panther worn by the great @FranckRibery
Now in 2020 I will be wearing the new version at the Champions League final.
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) August 21, 2020
With the possible comeback of Marco Verratti, it only tilts the scale towards the Parisians with Neymar looking to finally justify his world-record move. It feels like an open game of football and I wouldn’t be surprised if PSG come out on top.
ADITYA GOKHALE: PSG 1 BAYERN MUNICH 2
As FC Bayern face-off against Paris Saint-Germain in search for their second ever treble, I believe the German outfit will succeed in doing so. While the Parisians have an extremely dominant front line, they certainly lack the defensive prowess required to keep out Robert Lewandowski and co. Thomas Müller has been in fine form ever since Hansi Flick took over and I don’t see this changing on Sunday. David Alaba and his pace will be key for the Bavarians as they hold an extremely high line which can be easily exploited by Kylian Mbappé if they’re not up to scratch. The Austrian will have to try and keep up with Mbappé, however it all depends on where Tuchel deploys the Frenchman as Joshua Kimmich may have a task on his hands. The German may also have the task of having to try and keep Neymar quiet as the Brazilian has orchestrated PSG’s attack in the past games.
I see Bayern edging this one out in a closely-contested battle.