Sport

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Bayern vs PSG clash evenly poised ahead of crunch second leg

Bayern vs PSG clash evenly poised ahead of crunch second leg
Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint Germain tmakes a shot during a Ligue 1 match against FC Nantes in Paris on 4 March 2023. (Photo: Antonio Borga / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

German giants Bayern Munich will tussle with French side Paris Saint-Germain in an evenly balanced round-of-16 encounter, while England’s Chelsea take on Borussia Dortmund.

Heading into the second leg of their Uefa Champions League round-of-16 tie, there is still much to play for between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

Three weeks ago, the first-leg fixture ended 1-0 in favour of the Germans. Frenchman Kingsley Coman – who cut his teeth as a professional footballer with the Parisians – returned to haunt his hometown club.

Coman’s solitary strike sees the Bavarians now attempting to defend this slender lead in Munich. It won’t be an easy feat against the star-studded record French champions.

A piece of history favours PSG though. The teams’ last three meetings have all ended in away victories for both – including a 3-2 triumph for Kylian Mbappé and company in the 2020/21 quarterfinals.

Neymar

Neymar Jr of PSG is injured after being tackled by Benjamin Andre of Lille during their Ligue 1 match at Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on 19 February 2023. (Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images)

PSG manager Christophe Galtier will be buoyed by the fact that Mbappé, who recently became the club’s all-time top scorer, is back to full fitness for the crunch clash.

The 24-year-old superstar – who netted a brace the last time Paris conquered Munich in 2021 – only managed a second-half cameo appearance in the reverse fixture. Nevertheless, his impact was instant as he injected new life into the team to halt Bayern’s dominance, even having a goal ruled out for offside during his short time on the pitch.

“Obviously we’re disappointed [with the first leg]. But we knew nobody would qualify or be eliminated yet. We had a 25-minute spell in which we were much better, got in behind and improved our link-up play,” said Galtier ahead of the return leg.

Always the man for the occasion, Mbappé will be raring to terrorise the Bayern defence from the start this time around, and attempt to add to his impressive haul of 30 goals from 30 games in all competitions for the Parisians.

The French club’s ongoing pursuit of a maiden Champions League crown suffered a setback though. Brazilian Neymar, one of the key cogs in the team’s impressive attack that also includes Lionel Messi, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

The 31-year-old trickster will undergo surgery which will put him out for four to five months. Of course, this injury adds to the conspiracy theory of the “birthday curse”.

Mbappé

Kylian Mbappé of PSG, Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont (left) and Nicolas Pallois of Nantes in action at Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on 4 March 2023. (Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images)

For the past few seasons the Brazilian has not been available around the month of March, which is coincidentally his younger sister’s birth month. His absence has been a combination of either injury or suspension.

In spite of Neymar’s absence, Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann is wary of the threat the Parisians pose.

“Overall, we did a good job [in Paris]. We’ve taken the first step, and want to follow it up by taking the second. You’re on a knife edge, with the pace they have,” shared the German mentor.


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“They need at least one goal to level it up. I expect them to apply a lot of pressure from the start,” said Nagelsmann. “In Ligue 1, they often defend deep and play on the counterattack. Their style of play also depends on who’s fit and can play.”

Regardless of who plays, the contest, which takes place on Wednesday night, should be a riveting watch. A loss for PSG will prolong the wait for the Champions League. With age slowly creeping up on the team’s collection of global superstars, they will be keen to make this their year.

Weary Potter

Another Champions League contest hanging by a knife-edge is the one between 2021 European champions Chelsea and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund.

The German outfit heads into the round-of-16 clash with a 1-0 lead over the Londoners, which they claimed in Dortmund to end a nine-match winless streak against English sides in this competition.

Potter

Chelsea manager Graham Potter at a Premier League match against Leeds United at Stamford Bridge in London on 4 March 2023. (Photo: Chloe Knott / Danehouse / Getty Images)

Though Chelsea are the home side in the return leg, Dortmund will still fancy their chances against Graham Potter’s charges. After all, the win the Blues recorded over Leeds United on the weekend in the Premier League was their first since 15 January.

The club has struggled under the guidance of Potter, who left his Brighton job early this season, but has struggled to bring the best out of Chelsea’s collection superstars.

With not much to play for domestically, the Champions League remains a beacon of hope for the Chelsea squad. As Portuguese forward João Félix pointed out in the pre-match press conference.

“I really want to win that game tomorrow. I love playing in the Champions League. Everyone loves it, it is a special competition. I hope that after 90 minutes we are able to progress,” said Félix.

The team will have to be as clinical as ever if this is to become a reality, while a loss will add more pressure on the beleaguered Potter. DM

Champions League fixtures:

Tuesday:

Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund (10pm)

Benfica vs Club Brugge (10pm)

Wednesday:

Bayern Munich vs PSG (10pm)

Tottenham Hotspur vs AC Milan (10pm)

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