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The Champions League Final Is Not Lacking Star-power | The Triangle

The Champions League Final Is Not Lacking Star-power

Semifinals
RB Leipzig 3-0 Paris Saint-Germain
Unfortunately for Leipzig, their memorable and highly honorable run stopped here at the hands of a PSG side that finally broke their curse, and went far in the Champions League. Going into the match, PSG were the favorites but Leipzig were certainly not far behind. PSG have the much more well-known (and expensive) squad, headlined by superstars like Neymar and Mbappe, but they looked sluggish in the quarterfinals against Atalanta, requiring two extremely late goals to make a comeback and avoid elimination. Not to mention that, heading into the semifinals, several key players were either injured, in a run of bad form or had left the club. Compare that to Leipzig, who showed their immense tactical versatility, as well as a very dynamic squad in order to see off the giants of Atletico Madrid.
The match between Leipzig and PSG started off as either team’s for the taking, as they both created chances. However, poor marking on a set-piece saw Marquinhos steer a free header into the net and put PSG 1-0 up. Leipzig pressed PSG in search of an equalizer, but a misplaced pass from goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi coupled with an audacious flick from Neymar gifted Di Maria an easy tap-in. With a 2-0 lead going into the second half, PSG dominated the game and Leipzig struggled to gain any form of control. Then, a header from Juan Bernat following an unfortunate defensive mishap from Leipzig ruled out any shred of hope for a comeback. The 3-0 scoreline is slightly flattering towards PSG, as they did not attack that great, nor did Leipzig play bad, but at the end of the day, PSG was the overall better team in the match. While their attack may not have been earth-shattering, it was a wonderful team performance, especially in defense.
Lyon 0-3 Bayern Munich
Going into this match, Bayern Munich were the clear favorites for not only winning this match but also winning the entire competition. After completely obliterating Messi’s Barcelona 8-2 in the quarterfinals probably the most humiliating defeat in Champions League history most people find it hard to look past Bayern. Lyon, however, was a team that should not be taken lightly. Fresh off eliminating Ronaldo’s Juventus in the Round of 16, Lyon professionally dispatched the other tournament favorite besides Bayern, Manchester City, 3-1 in the quarterfinals by sticking to their resolute structure.
Early on in the match between Lyon and Bayern, Lyon actually created several great chances but were unable to convert them. Once the 20-minute mark came though, Bayern settled in their groove and they began relentlessly attacking Lyon. Serge Gnabry crashed the net after a mazy dribble and shortly after made it 2-0 by slotting home a free ball when Lyon’s Anthony Lopes parried a shot from Robert Lewandowski. In the second half, Bayern took their foot off the gas slightly, but despite having several chances, Lyon never seriously looked like staging a comeback. Late in the game, Lewandowski latched onto Joshua Kimmich’s cross during a freekick to make it 3-0 to Bayern, firing the last nail in the coffin.
The Final
After almost a year of play, and a slight interruption due to the pandemic, we are finally here at the marquee match this Sunday, the UEFA Champions League Final. Bayern have absolutely blown all their opponents out of the water, scoring an obscene amount of goals, and while PSG have not scored as many goals, their strong defense and team solidity speaks for itself. Both teams possess two of the most talented and stacked squads in the world, along with some of the best players on the planet. This is the first final that PSG has ever played in. Bayern, on the other hand, have won the Champions League on five separate occasions. The last time they made it to the final was way back in 2013 when they famously won the treble, a feat they look to repeat this weekend after winning both the Bundesliga and the DFBPokal Cup this year. But which team will take home “Ol’ Big Ears” in 2020? Will PSG be the team who can bring an end to the unstoppable Bayern juggernaut? Or will PSG become another name in the long list of Bayern’s victims? Will PSG finally achieve the club’s longlasting goal and finally win their first-ever Champions League? Or will Bayern win their sixth title and tie Liverpool for the third-most in the history of the competition as well win their second treble and tie Barcelona for the most amount of trebles in Europe?
How PSG Can Win?
As strong as Bayern is, they are still human, and they have weaknesses. In order to choke their opposition, Bayern play an extremely high line, a line that both Barcelona and Lyon were able to exploit on multiple occasions. Of course, Lyon were unable to capitalize on their opportunities, and Bayern simply outscored Barcelona but the openings are still there. Several of Bayern’s defenders, as well as Manuel Neuer in goal, are prone to the odd mistake, too. PSG possess great pacey wingers in both Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria, and with Neymar’s creative abilities, they may be able to unlock Bayern’s defense. Though this is much easier said than done, and of course they would have to stop Bayern from scoring at the other end of the pitch.
How Bayern Can Win?
Simply put, Bayern just have to continue what they have been currently doing. Bayern are the best team in the world by a country mile, and in order to ensure that they seal this great season with a Champions League victory, Hansi Flick just needs to keep his boys grounded. As long as the players stay in form, in focus, and don’t start celebrating too early, no one in the world can beat them. This is Bayern’s game to lose, and whether or not they win depends on their mental integrity.
Match Prediction: PSG 1-4 Bayern
Bayern are simply too good for me to look past them in this match. PSG will surely put up a good fight, and will their attacking talent they will definitely grab a goal or two, but they merely aren’t good enough overall to topple the Bavarians. Right out of the gate, Bayern will dominate the midfield, freeing up their attackers as well as pressuring PSG’s defense into mistakes and giveaways. The constant press will restrict PSG’s midfield from holding the ball for too long, and that will starve the frontline of chances on goal. I won’t be surprised if Bayern take a commanding lead in the match before the first 45 minutes.
Bayern’s attack just cannot be stopped. In the group stage, Bayern blew apart last year’s finalists, Tottenham Hotspur, 7-2 in London then smashed Red Star Belgrade 6-0. In the Round of 16, they thrashed Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate score before the aforementioned humiliation of Barcelona while also putting away three against Lyon in the semifinals. And there is no sign of them stopping. Bayern have scored an insane 42 goals in the Champions League this season, almost double that of PSG’s 25. Robert Lewandowski has been on fire this season and is the Champions League’s top scorer with a distant 15 goals in nine games. He is also tied at the top of the assists chart with five. Serge Gnabry is third place in the top scorer’s rankings with nine, and Thomas Mueller, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic among many others have chipped in with multiple goals.
PSG have definitely been good this season in the Champions League, and are deserving of a spot in the final, but their record pales in comparison to Bayern. In fact, in the most important games, PSG have often been inconsistent and looked a bit slow. They had to claw back to a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in the group stage, and they even lost the first leg against Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 before eliminating Atalanta by the skin of their teeth. As for their players, their top scorers are both Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi tied with five, with all their goals being scored in the group stage against weaker opposition. So overall, while I think PSG will absolutely be a worthy opponent, Bayern will simply be too hot to handle.