5 reasons Bayern Munich will beat Paris Saint-German in the UEFA Champions League last 16 - AGAIN!
Bayern Munich defeated Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 at the Parc des Princes in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 clash, and they will be eager to do so again at the Allianz Arena as they look to secure progression to the quarter-finals. bundesliga.com has five reasons why the champions of Germany can get the better of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar once more.
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1) Near perfect in Europe
Bayern's victory in the French capital came following another stunning start to their European campaign. The Munich club saw off Barcelona, Inter Milan and Viktoria Plzen to complete a perfect group stage of six wins from six for the second season running and third time in four years. Only once before have they won their first seven matches of the season in the continent's premier club competition - they went on to win the whole tournament when they did so in 2019/20, prevailing in all of their 11 matches as the tournament format was changed from the quarter-finals onwards due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As coach Julian Nagelsmann joked, Bayern “didn't get any reward for our perfect group stage” that saw them put nine goals without reply past giants Barcelona and Inter, but they were the better side versus PSG, and history is now on their side - the last time they failed to progress from a Champions League tie after winning the first leg was during the 2010/11 term. Although Nagelsmann is yet to get his hands on the trophy, Bayern's form during his tenure is impressive. The Bavarians have failed to win just three of his 17 European games in charge, losing on a solitary occasion, scoring 50 goals and conceding nine along the way.
PSG were the last team to beat Bayern at home in Europe, in 2020/21, but the record Bundesliga champions have lost just six of their last 50 Champions League matches at their own ground, and just one of their last 31 in all competitions. The Bavarians are also in their element right now, thriving in a tight title race atop the Bundesliga table and also into the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup, while the French champions were knocked out of their domestic cup by Marseille in the round of 16.
2) Europe’s most prolific attack
Bayern are the Bundesliga top scorers with 66 goals after 23 games, while they also have more shots per match (19 on average) than any other side. By way of comparison, Borussia Dortmund are next in that particular category with 15.
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Germany’s champions were second to Napoli (20) for goals scored in the Champions League group stage with 18, but none of Bayern’s came from the penalty spot, which is how the Italians got three of theirs. PSG were two behind on 16 and, unsurprisingly, also lead France’s Ligue 1 for goals. But the bottom line is that Bayern possess the most prolific attack in Europe’s top five leagues with 104 goals scored across 34 competitive fixtures in 2022/23. That works out at 3.06 per game and is followed in second by Paris with 97 in 37 (2.62).
They're all numbers that point to an exciting, attacking encounter, especially with the French outfit needing to win to have any chance of reaching the last eight. However, PSG’s goalscoring burden falls heavily on the front three of Mbappe (30), Neymar (18) and Messi (18). Their next best after them is Carlos Soler on five, with Hugo Ekitike and former Dortmund man Achraf Hakimi then on four each. Bayern previously had a strong reliance on Robert Lewandowski, but he’s quickly been compensated for and the duty of scoring has spread around the team.
Watch: The best of Bayern top scorer Musiala
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (16), Jamal Musiala (15), Leroy Sane (12, with a team-leading four in Europe and a record of 10 goals and seven assists in his last 14 Champions League games), Serge Gnabry (11) and Sadio Mane (11) are all into double figures. Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman, the hero versus PSG and scorer of five in his last five games, have each provided six, Thomas Müller and Mathys Tel have five, while Joshua Kimmich and Benjamin Pavard have chipped in with four apiece. It’s evidence that Bayern have diversified and broadened their attacking options, with goals capable of coming from almost anywhere.
3) That Champions League pedigree
Few clubs know what it takes to succeed in Europe quite like Bayern. A gene that has been a part of their DNA since the 1970s and their hat-trick of European crowns and taken them through to the modern era with three more continental titles in the last two decades.
It makes them capable of stepping things up a notch against European rivals, and that big-stage know-how was evident when these sides met in the final back in 2020. It was PSG’s first appearance in the showpiece as a club, while the Bavarian giants were familiar with the stage and knew how to get over the line thanks to (PSG youth product) Coman’s second-half header in Lisbon.
Although they boast the likes of multiple-time Champions League winners Messi, Neymar and Sergio Ramos in their ranks, that nous in continental knockout competition is yet to seep into the foundations at the Parc des Princes. A number of high-profile capitulations have cost the Parisians in recent years, while their defeat to Real Madrid last season means they’ve gone out in the first knockout round in four of their last six appearances in the last 16.
Bayern have only failed to advance beyond this stage once in the last 11 campaigns they’ve been among the final 16 and, in the one first knockout tie they did lose, versus Liverpool, they kept a clean sheet at Anfield. That aforementioned victory two years ago will give PSG hope, but that was a Munich side denied on away goals and also deprived of the injured Lewandowski over both legs – something the team was simply not used to after so many years but has now moved on from in seamless fashion, with the most goals and fewest competitive defeats (two - half the amount of the next best teams in that regard) of any club in Europe’s top leagues this season.
4) Coman an example of Bayern's squad depth
Bayern haven’t been short of injury problems this season. Manuel Neuer and Lucas Hernandez are both out for the campaign with a broken leg and cruciate ligament tear respectively. Noussair Mazraoui has been forced to take time off due to a post-coronavirus heart issue, while Mane only recently made his comeback from a leg injury that kept him out of the World Cup.
Watch: All of Mane’s Bundesliga goals and assists
But what the Bundesliga champions have is a team and squad with depth and quality, thanks to a smart transfer strategy. There was no panic after the departure of Lewandowski, with the club in fact able to recruit Mane from Liverpool. Matthijs de Ligt reinforced things at the back from Juventus, while Mazraoui and Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax added to the squad both out wide and centrally. There was also teenager Tel, who’s impressed in his brief appearances so far and is now the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer.
Bayern were busy again in January with a series of astute deals to cover themselves further. After Hernandez got injured at the World Cup, they moved for free agent Daley Blind as like-for-like cover on a short-term deal. When Neuer broke his leg skiing, they brought in the experience of Yann Sommer for a nominal fee and with little deviation in style of play. When Joao Cancelo – one of the world’s best full-backs - became available, they pounced in the closing hours of the window to add yet more quality to the side with a cost-effective loan deal.
Watch: The best of Cancelo on his Bundesliga debut
All of these fresh faces have given Nagelsmann different options, as has Coman. Until recently, the 26-year-old had struggled to make much of an impact but, in the absence of Mane, he has come to the fore and displayed his undoubted ability. He has four goals in his last four games, including two in the 4-2 defeat of Wolfsburg and, with 14 strikes to his name in 50 Champions League matches, clearly had pedigree at the highest level.
Whoever does get the nod this time, there will be no weak links in attack and no let-up from the bench either. Bayern may well need 16 players rather than 11 to get the job done.
5) Sommer Nights
They were probably close to ringing the bells of Notre Dame in Paris at the idea of not having to face Neuer. The scourge of strikers for so many years, his highlights reel of saves is just as impressive as any top goals DVD. Just think back to how often it looked like PSG were going to score in the 2020 final until Neuer did his thing.
Watch: All of Kingsley Coman's Bundesliga goals
However, the Germany international's replacement, Sommer, is no pushover, as Christophe Galtier's men recently found out. The 34-year-old was a calming presence between the sticks, making several key saves as PSG desperately looked for an equaliser towards the end of the game.
Any opponent hoping that display was a fluke will likely be disappointed. The list of players denied by the shot-stopper down the years is extensive and even includes several of his current teammates after he set a new Bundesliga record for saves in a single match with 19 against Bayern for Borussia Mönchengladbach earlier this season.
PSG centre-back Ramos will also be only too aware of Sommer after Switzerland's number one saved two of the former Real Madrid star's spot-kicks against Spain in a UEFA Nations League clash, while Mbappe was also denied by Bayern's new arrival from 12 yards in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
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Watch: Sommer’s record-breaking 19 saves vs. Bayern
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