Champions League Bayern Munich-PSG: The case for each team prevailing in their marquee quarterfinal matchup

Arguably the biggest ticket of this week’s Champions League quarterfinals is the rematch of last year’s final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. A lot has changed on both sides since then and we break down the arguments why each side might prevail in Wednesday’s matchup. CBS Sports’ soccer editor Mike Goodman and soccer insider Jonathan Johnson set out the arguments for which team comes out on top in this thrilling matchup. As always, you can catch all the UEFA Champions League soccer on Paramount+.

The case for Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich’s main argument for why they’ll be able to handle the perennial French powerhouse of PSG rests less with what’s going on in Germany and more with what’s going on in France. Bayern have been good, although not quite as good as they were last season. In attack although their goals scoring has remained constant in the Bundesliga, 2.94 per match last season to 2.93 this season, the team’s expected goals have actually declined from 2.66 per match to 2.27 suggesting that the side is relying on the kind of excellent finishing form that comes and goes while the actual quality of chances they’re creating is somewhat in decline, a point which is particularly notable as they come into this tie without star striker Robert Lewandowski.

Defensively the story is much the same, if not even a little bit worse. Bayern are allowing 1.30 goals per match this season up from 0.94 last season although that increase has only come with a modest jump in expected goals allowed from 1.15 to 1.19. Again, none of this is bad, it’s just a little bit worse than Bayern’s monster season last year. What’s important for this matchup, however, is that being just a little bit worse than last year should be more than enough to take care of a PSG side that has been struggling with indifferent (at least by PSG standards) form all season long.

Any time two super clubs square off it’s tempting to view their matchup as an even contest. But, that’s simply not the case between these two this season. Rather, Bayern Munich is the favorite, and PSG is the underdog. There are eight teams left in the competition and Bayern is the second favorite to win the whole thing at +350, while PSG are fifth favorite of the eight teams left at +800 (all odds via William Hill sportsbook). That’s not to say PSG can’t stage an upset, but merely that the state of play is that Bayern are a better team, and should expect to advance. The fact that Bayern are weaker than they were last year might eventually matter in this tournament, but it’s not enough to make them vulnerable to PSG, unless they play poorly and manage to give the French side a little bit of help along the way. – Mike Goodman

The case for PSG

PSG travel to Germany for Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal clash against Bayern at Allianz Arena without Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi, Leandro Paredes, Alessandro Florenzi and Layvin Kurzawa. Verratti and Florenzi are in isolation after they tested positive for COVID-19 following international duty and Paredes is suspended for the opening leg while both Icardi and Kurzawa have missed out on the squad through injury. PSG were beaten 1-0 at home by Ligue 1 leaders Lille OSC over the weekend in an eighth defeat of the season in Le Championnat and Mauricio Pochettino’s men are now three points adrift in the title race with just seven games remaining. 

Bayern Munich may well be missing the best striker in world soccer at present in the injured Robert Lewandowski but Verratti being out for PSG is equally, if not more of a blow, as the Azzurri maestro is so important for the French giants in the middle of the park. Put all those absences together and there is little doubt that the visitors are the underdogs here against the defending champions. That, however, is one of a number of things that PSG have going in their favor this midweek.

There is still hope for Les Parisiens in the shape of the returning Neymar who is back after the Brazil international missed both legs against former club Barcelona in the round of 16 through injury as fellow superstar Kylian Mbappe stepped up to the plate and delivered in his absence. The Ligue 1 champions always find it easier to produce their best when they are unfancied either because they are up against a European rival in better form or circumstances make them short-handed and forced to adapt to at least one major unavailability. 

Verratti and Paredes missing out for PSG challenges Pochettino and his players to fill the creative void in the midfield but also makes their approach very difficult to predict for Hansi Flick and hosts Bayern because the French side usually depends so heavily on the little Italian maestro. The onus is now on the Germans to dominate their depleted French opponents while there is less for the visitors to lose from such a difficult starting position with such a key figure and numerous supporting cast members missing. As PSG have shown in the past, they relish the underdog tag as it is something they are rarely able to wear domestically with major COVID-19 outbreaks arguably the only time it has been justified in recent years.

Thankfully for Les Parisiens, the core of important players such as Neymar, Mbappe, Keylor Navas, Marquinhos, Angel Di Maria, Presnel Kimpembe and Moise Kean remains intact and wildcards such as Julian Draxler, Rafinha and Pablo Sarabia move into contention for involvement. With this group of players to choose from and the likes of squad figures Abdou Diallo, Idrissa Gueye, Danilo Pereira and Ander Herrera available, Pochettino can go with a reasonably experienced starting XI — albeit one lacking a bit of creativity. Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria and Kean are four of Pochettino’s five best attacking options and that gives PSG the potential to hurt Bayern if they can create the right openings at Allianz Arena this Wednesday.

Perhaps most importantly for the French capital outfit and most dangerously of all for Bayern, there will be no winner on the night and for this to be a successful first leg for PSG, they do not have to go back to Parc des Princes with a win. A draw would be positive enough for last summer’s runners-up and judging by how close that Lisbon encounter was, they have the ability to secure such a result and then know that a win at home will see them through to the semi-finals against a Manchester City or a Borussia Dortmund. Given how complacent PSG were in the second leg against Barca after thumping Ronald Koeman’s men 4-1 at Camp Nou in the opening leg, a tighter tie over two matches will keep Pochettino’s men sharper and therefore more dangerous. -Jonathan Johnson

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