The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League comes to its dramatic conclusion on Sunday with Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain duking it out in Lisbon.
Both clubs have rolled to the final after impressing in their latest matches since the restart of the competition. Hansi Flick’s Bayern are looking to cap off a treble after already claiming the Bundesliga and German Cup earlier this summer.
The German giants ousted Chelsea, Barcelona, and recently Lyon in the past three rounds, outscoring their competition 15-3 over that span. Robert Lewandowski has been a huge piece of Bayern’s success this season, netting 55 goals and 10 assists in 46 combined appearances to date.
Not only has Lewandowski shined this season, but veterans Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer have also been influential in the squad. Serge Gnabry and Alphonso Davies have also impressed for the Bavarian club this season at their respective positions, adding pace and creativity down the stretch.
Standing in Bayern’s way of winning a sixth Champions League title is Paris Saint-Germain, a club looking to defy the odds and win their first ever UCL title.
The Ligue 1 giants will be looking for a first-ever quadruple after claiming the Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France trophies this summer. Despite the Ligue 1 season ending abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas Tuchel’s team has knocked off some good competition to get to this point.
The French side eliminated Borussia Dortmund, Atalanta, and RB Leipzig in the knockout rounds, most recently trouncing the Bundesliga semifinalists 3-0 in Portugal.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe remain one of top 1-2 duos in European Football, combining for 49 goals and 31 assists in all competitions this season. Veterans Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi have also been important to PSG this season and provide an additional threat in the attack.
Prensel Kimpembe and Thiago Silva headline the defense for PSG with a good mixture of youth and experience. The 35-year-old Silva has yet to lift a UCL crown, but could find this his best chance with a rumored move to Chelsea on the horizon.
Juan Bernat is also an experienced figure in the backline, excelling at left back for the French club. Marco Verratti, Ander Herrera, and Marquinho are all solid options in midfield and bring a physical edge to the field.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s UCL Final:
Injuries of Note: Veteran centerback Jerome Boateng could miss the game with a muscular injury and is the only expected absentee for Bayern. Sergio Rico is expected to start in goal for PSG with Keylor Navas (injured) and Alphonse Areola (ineligible) out.
Key to the Game: Both teams have plenty of attacking talent, but will need to do a better job of choosing that moment when to go for it all. PSG will need to be strong defensively, like the French champions were against RB Leipzig, while using the scoring ability of Mbappe and Neymar to pin the Bundesliga winners back.
Players to Watch: For Bayern, Lewandowski is easily the man to watch here. His goalscoring record this season has been phenomenal and continues to provide chances for his teammates as well. The Polish striker will definitely be a handful for Silva and Kimpembe.
While Neymar brings more experience to the PSG attack, a lot of eyes will be on Mbappe in another big time match. Mbappe has already lifted a World Cup title with France and will now look to add a UCL title to his resume. His creativity and ability around the box could pose problems for Bayern’s fullbacks.
Quotes: “Playing with a high back line has been a feature of our game because by doing that we don’t allow the opposition any space,” Flick said regarding the team’s defensive shape staying the same throughout the tournament.
“Obviously that means the gap between our defense and our goal is pretty big, but the important thing is that we put pressure on the ball. It’s important that we cover the ground when a ball is played in […] and it’s important that we close down the passing channels.”
“This is exactly why I came here. I always said that I wanted to go down in my country’s history. Tomorrow is another chance to do that,” Mbappe said.
“When I arrived in 2017, we had had several disappointments but now we are in the final and that shows that we didn’t give up, I didn’t give up, and it would be a fantastic reward to win with a French club That was my mission when I signed here. To win tomorrow (Sunday) would be incredible, it would be a great achievement.”