Holders Bayern Munich are staring down the barrel of elimination in the Champions League and will endeavour to overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg of their quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain when they do battle in the French capital on Tuesday.
An enthralling five-goal encounter at the Allianz Arena ended with Mauricio Pochettino’s side claiming a slender lead at half time in the tie, and the two continental giants head into the game following differing fortunes in their domestic title defences.
PSG’s weakened team cruised past Strasbourg 4-1 on Saturday, whereas a much-changed Bayern side could only muster a point from their clash with Union Berlin in a 1-1 draw.
With Bayern hotshot Robert Lewandowski helplessly watching on from the infirmary, his adversary Kylian Mbappe did what he does best at the Allianz Arena, as the Frenchman was once again unfazed by the magnitude of the occasion and the venue in Europe’s elite competition.
Keeping the momentum going from his record-breaking evening at Camp Nou, Mbappe took just three minutes to stamp his authority on Bayern’s turf – although he was aided by a significant deflection off Manuel Neuer – and Marquinhos’s final act of the night was to double his side’s lead during a snowy night in Munich.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Muller ensured that the German giants would take something into the second leg, but Mbappe was simply too hot to handle on the night and slotted home PSG’s third following a sweeping counter-attack, as Les Parisiens gained a measure of revenge after last year’s heartbreaking defeat in the final.
A brace of assists from Neymar complemented Mbappe’s prowess in front of goal, and either Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund will await the French champions should they dump the reigning champions out of the tournament next week, but Pochettino was quick to urge caution given their second-leg performance against Barcelona in the last 16.
PSG’s astonishing away record has seen them produce goal-laden performances at two of the most feared grounds in European football during this year’s Champions League, and Pochettino’s side – albeit one hit by a new wave of absentees – secured their ninth away win on the bounce on Saturday as they thrashed Strasbourg 4-1 in the league.
In contrast, the Parc des Princes is not the fortress that it once was during the days of full stadiums and no social distancing, with PSG only winning one of their last five at home in all competitions – losing three of them – and they are now at risk of suffering back-to-back home defeats for the first time since May 2009.
Having been hit with rearguard injuries at the worst time possible, Pochettino’s best form of defence will surely be attack against an equally-depleted Bayern – especially seeing as they have found the back of the net 16 times in their last five Champions League fixtures – and Mbappe will also be out to break yet another record when he takes to the field this week.
Indeed, the Real Madrid and Liverpool-linked forward is only one goal away from becoming the highest-scoring French player in a Champions League campaign – a record currently held by David Trezeguet and Wissam Ben Yedder, with eight apiece – and Mbappe could also become the first player in PSG colours to net in four consecutive appearances in Europe’s elite tournament.
Les Parisiens are yet to lose to a German side on home soil, and they would take another priceless step towards that elusive first Champions League crown by eliminating the current holders, but Hansi Flick is sure to rally his wounded warriors to the maximum before the biggest game of their season so far.
Flick’s unparalleled spate of success in the Champions League ended in heartbreaking fashion at his own fortress last Tuesday, as the 56-year-old had witnessed his Bayern team string together a 17-game unbeaten run in the tournament before PSG condemned him to his first European defeat in the Bavarian dugout.
Bayern have only failed to advance past the quarter-finals of the Champions League once in the past 10 seasons, but Flick is in no position to relinquish his hard-earned European crown as his side go searching for goals at the Parc des Princes – a task which would seem far less daunting had Lewandowski not sustained a knee problem while on international duty.
However, Bayern have failed to progress after losing a first-leg knockout tie in the tournament since the 2014-15 campaign, and a treatment room nearing full capacity is not what the doctor ordered for Flick’s men, who also faltered in league action against surprise package Union Berlin at the weekend.
A Bayern team comprised of experienced fringe players and up-and-coming starlets struck first blood against Union thanks to a 68th-minute opener from exciting prospect Jamal Musiala, but Flick’s rearguard was breached in the 85th minute as Marcus Ingvartsen tapped home following a quick throw-in routine.
Bayern’s quest for a ninth straight Bundesliga crown is still on course, though, as they sit five points clear of closest challengers RB Leipzig – whom they beat 1-0 as recently as April 3 – but their continental endeavours take centre stage for the time being as they attempt to keep their hopes of back-to-back Champions League triumphs alive.
While the Bavarian giants have come up trumps in seven of their last eight matches away from home, they have been far from perfect on the road – as evidenced by defeats to Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Monchengladbach and Holstein Keil since the turn of year – although they are unbeaten in 20 away games in the Champions League.
Furthermore, Bayern hardly needs to be taught how to put the ball in the back of the net on rival turf, as they have not failed to score in any competition away from home since Leipzig held them to a 0-0 draw in May 2019, with the Bavarian giants chalking up at least one goal in all 50 of their games away from their headquarters since.
Having been beaten by PSG and held by Union over the past week, Bayern are at risk of going three games without a win across all competitions for the first time since October 2018, but a triumph by the narrowest of margins may not be enough against Pochettino’s well-oiled machine in the French capital.
The fates of teams gone by also spells danger for the visitors, as out of the 50 most recent clubs to lose a first leg of a Champions League knockout tie at home, only three have managed to progress, so Flick and his depleted champions will be battling injuries, history and two of Europe’s most coveted attackers as they do their utmost to defy the odds at the Parc des Princes.