Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayern Munich: Key battles in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League final
Bundesliga and DFB Cup winners Bayern Munich are looking to emulate the class of 2013 and claim a continental treble when they take on Paris Saint-German on Sunday in Lisbon. With world-class talent on show throughout both squads, bundesliga.com looks at where the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League final could be won and lost between the French and German champions.
Robert Lewandowski vs. Thiago Silva
Lewandowski is having the season of his life and has been quite simply unstoppable. With 55 goals in all competitions, he’s the top scorer across Europe’s top five leagues, finding the back of the net on average every 73 minutes and drawing a blank in just six of his 46 appearances.
In the Champions League alone, the Poland captain has scored in all nine games, becoming just the third player after Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo to strike in so many consecutive matches. Only the latter has ever bettered Lewandowski’s current haul of 15 goals in a single season, with the Bayern man also chipping in with a competition-best six assists, meaning he has a hand in a goal every 38 minutes.
Watch: Bayern on the verge of the treble
Lewandowski is at the peak of his powers and comes up against a defender with serious pedigree in Thiago Silva, but a centre-back who is likely past his best as he approaches his 36th birthday. The Brazilian is leaving Paris after this game and will need to get the better of Lewandowski if he’s to depart on a high with the trophy the French club have long craved.
He and this PSG side have dominated domestic football for almost a decade with little competition, which has caught the Parisians cold when faced with real quality in Europe. Now up against the continent and world’s best goalscorer, there’s a real question over how Silva & Co. will hold up.
Alphonso Davies vs. Kylian Mbappe
It’s the high-speed encounter the world is waiting for. The former Golden Boy up against a certain future winner, the Parisian taking on the boy from a Ghanaian refugee camp.
Davies has burst onto the scene at breakneck speed this season. He was used sparingly after joining in January 2019, but injuries forced Niko Kovac and then Hansi Flick to use the Canadian winger as a makeshift left-back and it’s proved one of the best decisions they made. His raw pace – Davies is the fastest player ever recorded in the Bundesliga at 22.7 mph – has proven beneficial at both ends of the pitch, providing an extra body in attack while being able to recover in defence.
Watch: All of Davies' goals and assists in 2019/20
Always capable of beating a man, as he proved in some style against Nelson Semedo in the quarter-final win against Barcelona, there will be particular focus on his defensive work on Sunday as he looks to deal with PSG’s front three, including Mbappe. He has already silenced the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland this season, always recovering even when slightly out of position, but there are not many tougher tasks than keeping the French World Cup winner at bay.
Mbappe finished this year’s curtailed French league campaign as the top scorer with 18 goals in 20 appearances. All told, he has 30 goals and 18 assists in 36 competitive games this season as the most potent Parisian threat. The sight of him and Davies running at each other could well be the symbol of this final – and perhaps more to come.
Thomas Müller vs. Marquinhos
Is there any way to stop Thomas Müller? After setting a new Bundesliga assist record in 2019/20 with 21, he seamlessly continued his domestic form into the Champions League finals tournament – and that despite a month without competitive action in July.
The 30-year-old registered two goals – including the vital opener - and an assist against Barcelona and while the statistics may not register his goal involvement in the 3-0 semi-final triumph over Lyon, it was his clever movement that created space for Bayern’s first two.
Watch: All of Müller's goals and assists in 2019/20
A man who very much thrives on the big occasion, Müller is impossible to mark and possesses unparalleled gifts when it comes finding space at just the right time. And let’s not forget, he loves terrorising Brazilian defenders, having led the charge and opened the floodgates in Germany’s 7-1 thrashing over Seleçao at the 2014 World Cup.
That could spell bad news for both Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, with the latter likely to be tasked with attempting to keep Müller in check. The 26-year-old has scored in PSG’s last two games, but will have his hands considerably more full on Sunday against a player unique on the global footballing map.
Serge Gnabry vs. Juan Bernat
Like Müller, Gnabry has been unplayable in Portugal. An electric winger capable of dribbling past defenders on the outside, or cutting in, as he did against Lyon, the 25-year-old can be deadly on either foot. Indeed, that unpredictability combined with his pace make him a defender’s nightmare.
The Germany international has scored more goals (three) than any other player in the finals tournament, having found the target against Barcelona as well as firing in the first two against Lyon. “He’s very close to being world-class,” said Flick after that semi-final win, which took the player’s goal tally for the season to 23 in 45 games.
Watch: All of Gnabry's goals and assists in 2019/20
Relentless going forward, tactically astute and supremely disciplined in executing Bayern’s high press, Gnabry has made the position on the right wing his own. He and Bernat overlapped at Bayern for a month in August 2018 before the latter moved to the French capital, so he will know all about how to get the better of the Spaniard on Sunday.
Bernat made 112 appearances for the Reds between 2014 and 2018, scoring five times, but it was only in his debut season that he was truly a first-team regular. A left-back with in-built attacking instincts, he scored PSG’s third in their 3-0 semi-final triumph over RB Leipzig, but is likely to spend more time tracking Gnabry than getting forward in the final.
Joshua Kimmich vs. Neymar
Of all the mouth-watering match-ups on the pitch on Sunday, this one is arguably the most intriguing. Neymar’s pace, trickery and attacking drive against Kimmich’s tactical acumen, positional sense and relentless will to win.
“He’s very aggressive, he does everything to be successful,” said Bayern legend Oliver Kahn after the Lyon victory. While Neymar and Co. were pictured celebrating their passage to the final in the changing room after overcoming Leipzig, Kimmich could be seen looking frustrated on the Bayern bench after the final whistle against Lyon, already analysing things that had gone wrong.
Watch: All of Kimmich's goals and assists in 2019/20
“Mbappe played up front and Neymar was out on the left against Leipzig,” Kimmich said at a pre-match press conference on Saturday. “They’re quick all across the front line, maybe quicker than any team we’ve faced so far, so we’ll need to be careful. But I don’t think we’ll sit back and defend.”
Indeed, with a goal against Barcelona and two assists against Lyon, Kimmich enjoys getting forward. So much so that perhaps the question should not be whether the Germany international can stop Neymar, but whether Neymar can stop him.
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