Photo: PSG and Bayern Munich will do battle for the most coveted prize in club football at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on Sunday. (Getty Images)
French champions Paris St. Germain will take on German powerhouse Bayern Munich in a dream final in the Champions League at the Estadio da Luz, in Lisbon Portugal, on Sunday. PSG will be playing in their first final while Bayern will be contesting their 11th final.
Both teams scored convincing and identical 3-0 semifinal wins to advance to the club football showpiece in a season extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, PSG made light work of RB Leipzig, who were playing in their first semifinal in the competition, while on Wednesday Bayern were able to overcome Lyon, after a slow start to their game.
Bayern Munich didn’t defend particularly well at the start of their semifinal and a more clinical team would have punished them severely. That fact has not been lost on manager Hansi Flick who insisted that his team must defend better against PSG.
But Bayern have now won 10 straight in the Champions League, to equal the longest winning streak in the competition and they know that breaking that record will mean winning their 6th title. They are on an overall 29 game unbeaten run in all competitions and with the German domestic double secured, they are in fact searching for their third trophy of the season.
Serge Gnabry’s influence on the semifinal was massive and his first half brace set the German champions on their way. He along with the competition’s leading scorer, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller are likely to give the PSG defence all that they can handle.
Ivan Perisic has come up with vital goals from the left in this knockout phase in the powerful Bayern attack, which suggests that Thiago Silva and company will have to be concentrating from the first minute.
Lewandowski has scored in all nine of Bayern’s Champions League games so far this season and has a total, league leading, 15 goals, which has put him front and centre in the hunt for the Ballon d’Or.
Another goal and a win in the final will almost certainly guarantee that he ends the stranglehold that Lionel Messi and Cristino Ronaldo has had on that award for the last decade. His amazing 55 goals has certainly made him the most lethal striker in Europe this year.
Despite it being their first time in the final, do not expect PSG to be pushovers. Their attacking trio of Neymar, Angel Di Maria and World Cup winner, Kylian Mbappe, will be a menace for Jerome Boateng and David Alaba at the centre of the Bayern defence.
Di Maria turned in a man-of-the-match performance in the semifinal against RB Leipzig, scoring one and assisting on two of the goals, while Neymar has been unlucky in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, missing a number of easy chances that he would normally be expected to put away. His influence on both games however, cannot be understated and Bayern can expect that he will be reporting with his goal scoring boots on for the final.
Thomas Tuchel will be happy to have all of his main players available for the final, but none more so than Mbappe. The 21 year old suffered an ankle injury recently but was introduced with 30 minutes to play in the quarterfinal against Atalanta with PSG trailing 0-1. His impact was immediate and he helped his team scored a come from behind 2-1 win to make their second semifinal in 25 years.
His lightning quick speed and dazzling skills makes him one of the most potent attackers in world football and he may be the key to picking apart what has so far been a tight Bayern defence that has also ridden their luck.
If he plays on the right side of the attack and comes up against Alphonso Davies at left back for Bayern, there could be serious fireworks.
The speed with which both teams counterattack has been crucial in their matches to date and may have a big impact on the result on Sunday.
The battle for control of the midfield may also go a far way in determining the outcome of a final that means a whole lot to both teams.
For Bayern a win makes it six titles, just as Sevilla achieved in the Europa League on Friday, while a win for PSG would signal the coming of age of the club that has long since dominated League 1, but nothing more.
Fans can expect 90 minutes of scintillating football from some of the best talent in the world, in a game that promises goals. Predicting the winner however, may be just as difficult as predicting the weather.