In a repeat of last season’s final, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich have been paired up in the Champions League quarter-finals.
After a scintillating night of first-leg action in Munich, PSG hold a 3-2 advantage thanks in no small part to another Kylian Mbappe masterclass — the French youngster netted a brace to take his tally in this season’s competition to eight, just two adrift of leader Erling Haaland.
Defending champions Bayern are now left needing at least two goals without reply to go through on Tuesday but with a host of key attacking pieces sidelined, that could prove to be one hell of a mountain to climb for Hansi Flick’s men.
Can PSG hold on to book their place in the semi-finals, or will the holders continue the defence of their crown?
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PSG vs Bayern: Odds comparison
1. Predicted PSG XI…
Although he scored a very well-taken goal, Marquinhos picked up an injury in the first leg and will be a huge miss for Mauricio Pochettino. As a result, Danilo Pereira is likely to step into defence, while Ander Herrera will replace him in midfield.
Other than that, we’re likely to see the same side that played so well at the Allianz Arena last week, with Neymar operating just behind Kylian Mbappe, given the freedom to roam both horizontally and laterally to isolate Bayern defenders in one-on-one situations, while creating overloads on the flanks with Angel di Maria and Julian Draxler.
Given the positional flexibility of the PSG frontline, expect plenty of fluidity of movement when the Parisians are in possession, while there is always the added option of bringing young Italian forward Moise Kean off the bench, perhaps adjusting to an outright front three if needed.
2. Predicted Bayern Munich XI…
The most obvious quandary facing Flick is how to replace the almost superhuman presence of Robert Lewandowski up front. The Poland international has scored a quite ridiculous 42 goals in 36 games across all competitions this season, but will remain sidelined here as he was for the first leg. Serge Gnabry would usually be one of Flick’s go-to men, with the Germany international able to operate as a false nine while his pace makes him a threat for balls behind the opposition defence, but he is also out.
With that in mind, Flick is likely to stick with Eric Choupo-Moting, who scored in the first leg. The Cameroon international’s basic remit will be to hold up the ball and use his physical presence to occupy PSG centre-backs, allowing Bayern’s faster widemen and midfield runners to get up in support.
Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman will man the flanks, able to play on their opposing wings as inverted forwards, while also giving Flick the option to put them on their strong foot, stretching the pitch to create more space through the middle — space, of course, being the fundamental commodity on which Thomas Müller bases his game, running beyond the striker, drifting wide and dropping between the lines when it suits.
Further back, this team almost picks itself, especially with Niklas Sule a serious fitness doubt. Alphonso Davies returns from his domestic suspension at left-back and should complete a four-man defence alongside David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Benjamin Pavard, protected by Joshua Kimmich. The German has the required legs and defensive nous to cover for Bayern’s buccaneering full-backs, while also possessing supreme ability on the ball, getting it up the pitch quickly to their deadly forwards. Next to him, Muller is likely to drop back into a “free eight” role with Leon Goretzka’s involvement in doubt, meaning bright youngster Jamal Musiala will get the chance to operate behind Choupo-Moting.
Flick chose to rest a number of his stars for Bayern’s 1-1 draw with Union Berlin at the weekend, so the Bavarians should be good to go the distance if extra time is required.
3. Another exciting shootout
Given that these two are the highest-scoring teams in this season’s Champions League, it’s hardly surprising that we were served up a five-goal thriller in the first leg. And considering the firepower on both sides, coupled with both having defensive injuries, it’s highly likely that the second leg will follow the same path.
Bayern have had myriad defensive problems this season and once again, Mbappe, Neymar and Co will be eager to prey on any weaknesses. But Muller, Sane and Coman aren’t exactly what you’d describe as a poor attacking force, even without Lewandowski.
The main issue is whether or not Bayern can actually match PSG blow for blow without their talisman, though they’re sure to give it their best shot.
Relevant odds with Sky Bet: Over 3.5 goals @ 1/1
18+ only, BeGambleAware. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of writing.
4. Bayern’s big-game specialist to strike again
Although he’s nowhere near the most eye-catching name in Bayern’s team, Choupo-Moting does have a curious habit of stepping up in the biggest games. This season alone, he’s netted in the Champions League against Lokomotiv Moscow and Lazio, as well as in the first leg last week, while he scored the decisive 93rd-minute goal in a 2-1 win over Atalanta for PSG in the 2019/20 quarter-finals.
While he was the hero for PSG last season, he’d love to send them packing this time around. The likes of Muller and Coman will get him plenty of service, it all just depends on which version of Choupo-Moting turns up: the one who misses sitters from yards out, or the ruthless big-game specialist?
Relevant Sky Bet odds: Choupo-Moting to score at any time @ 13/10 with Sky Bet
5. Can Kimpembe lead PSG to victory?
Although this game will feature some of the world’s most potent attacking players, it might well be decided by which defence knuckles down hardest, limiting the damage caused by the opposition.
With Marquinhos injured, a huge burden will be placed upon Presnel Kimpembe to anchor the PSG backline, but the France international is more than capable of rising to the challenge. The 25-year-old has called for “calm” among his teammates and given his experience compared to those lining up around him in defence, it’ll be up to him to ensure PSG don’t panic, especially if they concede an early goal.
“We all know that it will be complicated on Tuesday, and that they will be vindictive,” Kimpembe said recently. “We managed to put ourselves in the best psychological conditions to think about this match on Tuesday calmly.”
He added: “We will have to work together, all together, as we did in the first leg. And not to say that things have been acquired. We will have to suffer together, and the most important [thing] will be the collective and the solidarity that we are going to show on the pitch.”
Kimpembe is second among PSG players in terms of clearances in combined Ligue 1 and Champions League play, while he’s third for interceptions and fourth for tackles. On Tuesday, he has to be first to step into the breach.