Paris Saint-Germain left for Germany on Monday, 24 hours before their originally planned departure. Why? The massive workers’ strike taking place in France on Tuesday in response to the government’s planned pensions reform overshadowed their initial plans to fly on Tuesday, the eve of their Champions League round of 16 matches against Bayern Munich.
It’s probably not a terrible idea for the Parisians to arrive in Bavaria earlier than they might otherwise, despite the inconvenience. The Allianz Arena match on Wednesday is ultimately the biggest match for PSG this season. The more time they have to prepare for it and be in the zone before this pivotal period in their campaign, the better.
PSG management is hoping that the catastrophic preparations before their last-16, second leg, match against Manchester United at the Parc des Princes back in 2019 won’t happen again this week. That match saw them suffer another sad “remontada” and depart the competition early. This time, they have had ample opportunity to adjust, organize their strategy, and prepare for the trek up the Bayern mountain.
What is the mountain’s height? The German champions are not as strong or impressive as they were in previous years, but they do have a 1-0 lead following the first leg when former PSG star Kingsley Coman volleyed in a deep cross from Alphonso Davies, and that advantage is still meaningful enough. Despite this, Bayern’s players still appear to be nervous before meeting Kylian Mbappe and company at home, especially without Benjamin Pavard, who was dismissed in stoppage time.
Since the first leg three weeks ago, Mbappe’s name has been on everyone’s lips in both Paris and Munich. The game’s dynamics were completely altered by his brief arrival off the bench during the last half-hour. Without him, Bayern was in charge and PSG didn’t seem to be capable of producing any attacking danger. The French team swiftly turned the game in their favor with its star on the field, posing a threat with each assault, and Bayern gradually lost focus and confidence.
On Wednesday, Mbappe will take the field and should play the whole 90 minutes, if necessary. Also, the second leg on Wednesday will be considerably different from what we witnessed in Paris.
After just smashing the club’s all-time scoring record, the French prodigy can win the match on his own. Expect Bayern to play a defensive high line, as they normally do at home, and if they do, Mbappe should have plenty of room to rush into and take advantage of.
He will have a partner playing immediately behind him who will be prepared to feed him via ball after ball in the form of Lionel Messi, who is also in excellent form right now. With a back three and five players across midfield, the team behind them will be more balanced and reliable without Neymar, who is sidelined for the season due to an ankle injury.
Will they make it, that’s the key question.
For all the hype on Mbappe and Messi, PSG will need a great performance from front to back if they’re to eliminate Bayern. Gianluigi Donnarumma must also perform flawlessly in goal for them. They will require Marco Verratti to once more control the midfield, as he is capable of doing on his finest days. They will be depending on Achraf Hakimi, who hasn’t played since the first leg, to dominate Davies on the right side.
Ultimately, Mbappe’s ability to be decisive when it counts the most will determine if the 3,600 PSG supporters traveling to Munich and those watching on television have any chance. The same thing happened with France at the World Cup in Qatar, where they lost to Argentina in the championship game despite scoring a hat trick. Because Mbappe thrives in these situations, it must be the case again on Wednesday.
After breaking Edinson Cavani’s goal record on Saturday by scoring his 201st goal in 246 games, his thoughts immediately turned to the Bayern game. Mbappe is focused on both individual success and team goals as he moves from one goal to another and one accomplishment to another. He never stops wanting more.
He addressed the entire team in the dressing room at Parc des Princes immediately following the first leg, telling them they had demonstrated enough in the last 30 minutes of play to be confident in their potential to triumph in Munich and advance. He knows they’ll pull it off.
Mbappe will even put on brand-new, custom-crafted football boots in black and orange with the numbers 1 and 201 on them for the occasion. On Wednesday night at the Allianz Arena, where, it must be recalled, he scored twice in the same match two years ago, he will hope they bring goals and triumph.