The UEFA Champions League returned to the fore on February 14th, and it returned with a bang. AC Milan picked up a 1-0 victory over 2019 finalists Tottenham Hotspur, with Brahim Diaz scoring the only goal of the game in the seventh minute. They should have added further goals throughout the second half, however, poor finishing means they head to England with just a one-goal lead. Regardless, oddschecker, which compares European football odds and free offers, still makes the Rossoneri the favourites to progress.
The biggest tie of the night meanwhile took place at the Parc Des Princes as Bayern Munich faced Paris Saint-Germain in a repeat of the 2020 final. That year, the Bavarians won 1-0 courtesy of a second-half Kingsley Coman goal, and lightning struck twice in this year’s round of sixteen. Once again, it was the French winger who netted in the second half to put the German champions – a title they have held for the last ten years – in the driving seat. But they can’t rest on their laurels. Far from it.
Second Half Changes Give a Glimpse of What’s to Come
For an hour in Paris, it was the visitors who dominated. The hosts couldn’t even muster up a single shot throughout the first half, and Julian Nagelsmann’s six-time Champions of Europe could have been home and dry. Instead, however, they were almost made to pay.
The introductions of Kylian Mbappé – who couldn’t start as he had just recovered from an injury – and Fabián Ruiz on the hour mark changed the game entirely. PSG went from being the hunted to the hunter, and their scintillating French striking sensation had two goals ruled out for offside before proceedings were over. The addition of Vitinha in the 75th minute also breathed new life into the French champions.
The manager of the Parisians, Christophe Galtier, looked to set up fairly negatively and looked to restrict Bayern rather than attack himself. Danilo Pereira was chosen as an anchor in midfield, while 16-year-old Warren Zaïre-Emery became the youngest player to ever feature in the Champions League knockout stages. Both of them are undoubtedly talented, however, PSG without a doubt looked like a bigger threat when they are in full attack mode.
Those three changes and the change of formation from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 gave PSG a fighting chance, and with his team needing a goal in Southern Germany, one would expect that Mbappé, Ruiz and Vitinha will all start. Additionally, Mbappé will have returned to full fitness, and we all remember what happened the last time he stepped foot in the Allianz Arena.
Mbappé runs Bayern ragged
Nine months on from Bayern Munich’s sixth UEFA Champions League success in 2020, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich faced off in the quarter-finals in 2021 in a repeat of the previous year’s final. It was in this game that Kylian Mbappé if he hadn’t already, came of age. The blistering striker scored twice in a 3-2 victory in the Allianz Arena, and despite Bayern winning 1-0 in the return leg, it was the Parisians who progressed to the semifinals at the expense of the reigning champions.
It was evident that on that night that a defence containing Niklas Süle and David Alaba simply couldn’t contain the Frenchman. Admittedly, Bayern’s defence is much changed, however, it remains to be seen whether Matthijs de Ligt and Dayot Upamecano can handle Mbappé. It is clear that the 23-year-old is operating in a different stratosphere from that of two years ago.
That was evident by his heroics in the World Cup final, when he netted a stunning hat trick to earn the French a 3-3 draw before losing on penalties. With him fit and firing in three weeks’ time, Bayern Munich still have a long way to go should they wish to secure safe passage to the Champions League quarter-finals.