Champions League Final preview: Plenty of goals on offer as Bayern Munich take on Paris Saint-Germain
The Champions League final will see Bayern Munich, five-time champions, take on PSG who are in the final for the first time.
Like the Europa League final, the Champions League final also sees a team seeking their first silverware in the competition against a team going for its sixth. It is also the first time since 1998 that the domestic league champions that entered the competition, have progressed to the final. This is a classic, traditional European Cup.
Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. Super clubs.
Both teams have steamrolled their domestic opponents in the recent past. Bayern Munich have won the Bundesliga 15 times since the turn of the century and their last failure to triumph in Germany was back in 2011/12. PSG, meanwhile, recently won their seventh French league title in eight seasons and their fourth domestic treble in six years. Bayern won the title by 13 points and PSG were 12 points ahead when the season was halted. Huge deficits highlight how ‘simple’ it has been for both to win at home.
They’re also winning off the field - in the business world (which has a huge role to play in their dominance on the pitch). Bayern are Germany's richest club, with a turnover of 750.4 million euros in 2018/19 and an operating profit of 146.1 million euros. Backed by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), PSG are fifth in Deloitte’s rich list (one behind Bayern) with revenue of 635.9 million euros.
But their success in European competitions hasn’t been as prolific. PSG are at this stage of the Champions League for only the first time while Bayern are more familiar with going deep into European competitions. The Bavarians have made the knock-out stages of the Champions League 19 times since 2000, reaching five finals and winning two of them, in 2001 and 2013.
Plenty of goals
Coming into the final, both teams can guarantee plenty of goals. Bayern have scored a jaw-dropping 4.2 goals per game this season (42 goals in 10 games) and PSG have the second best record: 2.5 goals per match (25 goals from 10).
Bayern’s forward Robert Lewandowski is just two goals shy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 17 goals in a single Champions League campaign. And yet, one could see him line up fellow striker Thomas Mueller for scoring opportunities - just the way he did against Barcelona for the opener.
Over on the PSG side of things, look no further than their big money signings in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for scoring threat.
Brazilian Neymar was brought in for a blockbuster 222 million euros and this is his opportunity to justify that big ticket buy. And it’s an opportunity for him to prove that he doesn’t need Lionel Messi to win club football’s biggest trophy. It could well be seen as an audition to replace Messi at Barcelona who are in rebuilding phase.
“On the ground with an injury in 2018. On the ground with an injury in 2019. On the ground being thankful in 2020,” he said in an Instagram post, with photos of him injured in the last two seasons and then being grateful after semifinal win against RB Leipzig. “Two years in a row suffering an injury in crucial moments for me and for my team. Now I am fully fit, uninjured, and able to help my teammates in the best possible way. I’m incredibly happy. I’m very, very happy.”
Bayern have been guilty of leaving space, lots of it, as they play higher up the pitch. If Barcelona largely lacked teeth to make most of it, Lyon were able to exploit the gaps to run past the back line but couldn’t turn it into goals. For PSG, it is pivotal that they do - provided Bayern stick to their plan of pressing deep. And who better to give the defenders nightmares than the speed and footwork of World Cup champion Mbappe. Expect Angel di Maria, Neymar and Mbappe to keep switching sides depending on how things progress.
The ‘support’ cast
Beyond the star cast of Lewandowski, Muller, Neymar and Mbappe, couple of unheralded players could end up making the difference like Serge Gnabry. The Bayern right winger nullified the Lyon pressure with a belter of a strike in the semi-final. He added another to put the game beyond doubt. The former Arsenal man is the second highest Champions League scorer for the Germans this season with nine goals, one goal for every three shots and creates nearly two chances per game.
“If you look at the way Serge developed in the last years, not only at Bayern but also in the national team, then you have to say that he is close to world class,” Bayern coach Hansi Flick said. “He is a dynamic and dangerous goal scorer, so we are happy ... that he is in our team. He is of tremendous quality but I am sure that he is far from a finished product.”
For PSG, Di Maria can be the difference maker, just like he was in the semi-final against Leipzig. The 2014 Champions League winner had a goal and two assists in PSG's 3-0 win and would be hopeful of playing a part in the final too. The Argentine would be familiar with the setting having played for Benfica at Estadio da Luz which incidentally was also the venue for the 2014 final.
This is only the second European Cup final between clubs from France and Germany, following Bayern's 1-0 win against St-Étienne in the 1976 final in Glasgow
PSG could become the 23rd side to win the European Cup, and the first new name on the trophy since Chelsea (2012).
The teams have met in eight previous matches – all in the UEFA Champions League group stage – and all but one of those contests were won by the home side. PSG have the edge with five wins to Bayern's three.
The last time Barcelona failed to reach the knock-out stage of the Champions League was in 2003.
After losing 3-0 to both Bayern Munich and Benfica, Barca sit bottom of Group E with two games against Kiev up next, the first at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Freiburg remain the only unbeaten team in Germany's top flight and rose to third with a 2-0 win at Wolfsburg