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Four key things PSG must do to stop Bayern Munich

Thomas Tuchel's PSG can stop Bayern, but it won't be easy
Thomas Tuchel's PSG can stop Bayern, but it won't be easy

Can PSG stop the well-oiled Bayern machine?

After years of huffing and puffing to no avail, Paris Saint-Germain are now just one match away from officially blowing the house down. 

The French champions are measured on their success in the Champions League and so far they have failed to clinch silverware in Europe's premier knockout competition.

This Sunday, though, they have the perfect opportunity to silence the doubters and prove that they are more than just a on-trend sports team who romp to victory in a substandard domestic league each season.

The test in front of them couldn’t be much harder, however. The team Thomas Tuchel’s side face in the final is a team who have blown almost every club they have played out of the water this season; 29-time Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Hansi Flik’s dominant outfit once again laid claim to the German title back in June before retaining their status as DFB Pokal champions at the start of July, beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in the final.

The Bavarians are currently on course for the treble and inflicted one of the most astonishing results in Champions League history on Barcelona in last week’s quarter-final, thrashing the Catalans 8-2 in Lisbon, before making light work of Lyon in Wednesday evening’s semi-final clash at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Bayern are a side in form, by textbook definition, and enter this clash as favourites, priced up at evens in the Champions League betting. But, as with any side, the Germans do have their weaknesses - albeit very few of them - and they can be got at by an opponent if a game plan is correctly executed.

I’ve analysed Bayern over the past few weeks and picked out four key things PSG need to do if they stand any chance of stopping Die Roten.

Nullify Lewandowski

This first point is the most obvious, stopping Robert Lewandowski. Easier said than done, admittedly, and it will not be straightforward, but if PSG can stop Bayern’s biggest goal threat then they will significantly boost their chances of winning this match. 

Barca almost managed it last week, but the Poland international managed to secure his customary goal late on thanks to some nice build up work from Philippe Coutinho. 

Lewandowski is the most feared front man in world football right now after witnessing the net ripple on no less than 55 separate occasions in all competitions this season. The 32-year-old is the Champions League’s leading marksman, boasting a hugely impressive 15-goal haul following his finish against Lyon on Wednesday, and will be itching to add to that tally against PSG.

Get him on his left

Having scored in his last 10 consecutive games, the task at hand is a sizable one for the Frenchmen, though there is a way that they can make life difficult for Lewandowski - the age-old “get him on his left”, used mainly in Sunday League football but potentially beneficial for this star-studded Champions League final.

Of Lewandowski’s 55 goals this season, only four have come courtesy of the Pole’s weaker left-foot. While this is unsurprising considering he is predominantly right-footed and so efficient in the air, it is something PSG should factor in when deciding who deals with him on Sunday evening. 

Thiago Silva will likely be the man tasked with man-marking Lewandowski in this match; the Brazilian is one of the best central defenders around and, more importantly, is right-footed so if he can keep the Bayern hitman on his stronger foot whilst defending, all the while ensuring that Lewandowski remains on his left when facing goal, he’ll stand a much better chance of nullifying him. 

Lewandowski is a short-price 4/5 (implied 55% chance) to score anytime on the Betfair Exchange, but you can lay the bet (bet it not to happen) at odds of 5/4 (implied 45% chance) if you feel confident in PSG’s ability to shut him out this weekend - but perhaps do so with caution...

Stop the cross - especially from Kimmich

As briefly touched on above, Lewandowski is so prominent in the air, with 14 of his goals coming via his head this season (including his last three in the Champions League against Chelsea, Barcelona and Lyon respectively). In order to stop him, PSG simply have to stop the flow of crosses entering the penalty area. 

With Joshua Kimmich constantly supplying inch-perfect balls in from the right-hand side, pinpointed straight to the head of Lewandowski, all Bayern’s target man has to do is something he does better than anyone: nod it home. And he does, time and time, and time again.

Against Lyon in midweek there was a perfect example of this exact situation unravelling to perfection, this time from a free-kick right on the byline. Kimmich strolled up to the ball, curled a delightful out-swinging cross into the area and Lewandowski powered through the noise to prod a thunderous header past a helpless Anthony Lopes with just two minutes left on the clock. 

This was trademark Bayern, and resulted in Kimmich picking up his 16th assist in a season where this sort of link-up play has been a climactic factor towards the club’s success.

Whether the 24-year-old has been playing at right-back or as a deep-lying playmaker in the middle of the park, his unerring ability from set-pieces - or simply crossing from open play - has provided Lewandowski & Co. with countless opportunities in front of goal. 

If the Parisians can stop the flow of crosses on Sunday - especially from Kimmich - their job will be made ten times easier. If they fail to deal with it, then they’ll have to hope that Lewandowski is caught on an off day, though I’m not sure if he is even capable of having them anymore. 

Lining directly up against Juan Bernat, it will lie on the Spaniard’s shoulders to press Kimmich instantly as soon as he receives the ball out wide so he has no time to get it out of his feet and into the box. This could quite easily result in a booking for the well-carded 27-year-old, who has already picked up nine bookings this season across all formats (three in the CL).

At an appealing 3/1 with Betfred, this could potentially be a profitable selection for this game.

Man-mark Muller 

Potentially one of the most underrated footballers of our generation, Thomas Muller has been a revelation for Bayern Munich this season. It seems as though the Germany international, who is still only 30 years of age, has been around for centuries and this time out he has really helped Bayern reach an even higher level. 

A quite frankly mind-boggling 26 assists has partnered 14 goals in all competitions for Muller this term, but one of the main reasons why he is so effective is due to his positioning during 90 minutes and his ability to drift between the lines, evading marking from his opponents. 

Muller’s ‘strongest’ position is still yet undetermined; he is one of the most versatile footballers in the world, adept at playing wide on each flank, in the pocket behind the striker as an attacking-midfielder, or up-front as either a number 9 or second-striker. More often than not, he does a little bit of everything which is how he is constantly so effective. 

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Against Barcelona, Muller essentially had a free role in the middle with the Catalans failing to pick him up. He floated between the lines; registering five key passes, two shots on target, two goals and an assist - receiving a perfect 10 rating from football statistics website WhoScored.com in the process. 

To stop Bayern, Thomas Tuchel’s side simply have to stick someone on Muller at all times - possibly the tough-tackling defender-turned-midfielder Marquinhos - in a bid to keep the German assist-king quiet and neutralise one of the Bavarians' key threats. 

Get in behind

The final point I want to explore is getting in behind Bayern’s back-line. Lyon were the first team to do this and found some joy, with some wasteful finishing costing the Frenchmen in the end as they lost 3-0 and were knocked out of the competition. 

However, the pace and directness of Karl Toko Ekambi and Memphis Depay gave Bayern a scare, with the latter squandering a good chance early on when the scoreline stood at 0-0 and Ekambi hitting the woodwork. 

It is abundantly clear that if you sit off and invite pressure from this Bayern side they will cut through you like a knife through warm butter; the better option is to fight fire with fire, take the game to them and go all-out attack.

In the end, Lyon just didn’t have the power or composure to complete the job but Paris Saint-Germain are a hugely different side featuring two of the best (and quickest) forwards in world football. 

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar’s speed and directness could be the game-changer here; Bayern are not used to getting turned, so if the Frenchman can utilise the pure speed of those two players in behind each channel then there is every chance that they can catch them on the back-foot. 

Both of those players have the capabilities to keep their cool in front of goal and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Mbappe continue his fine form with another goal here against Bayern - that’s priced up at 6/5 with Paddy Power.

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