It goes without saying that Tuesday’s clash between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain is going to be the biggest game of the Hinrunde. So therefore, we got some writers together to share their thoughts on the talking points leading up to the game. What does BFW think of Bayern vs PSG 2.0?
Why does this game matter to Bayern?
TomAdams71: This match sets a massive precedent for Bayern's prospects moving forward into the Champions League knock outs. The group is still technically Bayern's to win mathematically if they produce a strong enough win, but more importantly, it’s a rematch with Jupp Heynckes’ side completely reinvigorated.
It will serve as a far better barometer for how Bayern currently stack up against Europe's elite, and they should smell blood given PSG's loss to Strasbourg over the weekend.
Grudnik: It's a matter of prestige, pure and simple. Sure, the chance to nip PSG for the group win is a motivator, but, let's be serious, that's a bit of a pipe dream. Beating the Frenchmen by a four-goal margin, a team that has only conceded one goal so far in group play while scoring 24, is somewhat unrealistic. But besting them, in the fortress known as the Allianz Arena, after the embarrassing 0-3 defeat in Paris, needs to happen, just to set things straight.
John N. Dillon: The significance of this game is primarily symbolic. Bayern’s 3:0 loss in Paris seemed to demonstrate that Bayern’s star was waning and to vindicate PSG’s newfound status as a new member of Europe’s elite. It also seemingly vindicated PSG’s outrageous transfer politics while embarrassing the one club that has insisted on avoiding the upper reaches of the transfer market.
Now Bayern want to show that all that was a fluke – a product of a bad coaching situation. Bayern need this victory to prove that they can still compete in Europe the Bayern way. The declarations made by Hoeness and Rummenigge at the annual general assembly all point toward this interpretation. The problem, of course, is that this is only one game, and it actually has no real bearing on the outcome of the knockout stage, let alone who wins the Champions League.
CSmith1919: If nothing else, it's a measure of progress. Much of the banter from inside and outside the locker room has been about the faults of Ancelotti and how ill-prepared Bayern was for that match. A win or even a tight loss is an enormous confidence boost for a team that has staked its reputation to showing last game was a fluke. Because of the Ancelotti fallout, the players definitely have more pressure on them to perform this time around.
What difference does Jupp Heynckes make?
TomAdams71: Jupp brings a sense of belief into the squad that had been missing during the opening stages of the campaign. His formations: namely switching Javi back to a CDM has provided much more stability and even flow to the squad. He's utilizing players in their best, preferred, positions, and perhaps its a bit of excellence in pragmatism, all of the players know exactly whats expected of them. That transparency has clearly shown its way onto the pitch.
Grudnik: The 72-year old has seemingly performed a miracle. He took a disjointed group of stars, slowly descending back into FC Hollywood territory, and immediately whipped them back into shape, tactically, physically and emotionally. The dude should get his own Vegas magic show.
John N. Dillon: If you subtract injuries, Heynckes makes all the difference. Nothing can be done about the absence of key players Thiago or Neuer, but Heynckes decides almost everything else. As we’ve seen over the past several weeks, he and his team have restored Bayern Munich to the top of the league table and have the team playing again at a very high level. Heynckes also has repaired or reinforced the weak areas that plagued Bayern under Carlo Ancelotti: defensive stability (think Javi at DM) and offensive fluidity: Müller is Müller again, Kingsley Coman looks like a world-beater, and James Rodriguez has proven to be a very fine no. 10. There remain serious questions about the longer-term viability of the roster – should Bayern have splashed €100 million on an expensive winger like Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez? – but I would say that Heynckes is harnessing the full potential of the lineup that Bayern have, and that potential is immense.
CSmith1919: The team appears much more confident and less restricted in the attack under Heynckes. I think Lewandowski, Muller, Coman, and James appear to be paying more creative and with more freedom under Heynckes. I’m not sure they can score enough to beat PSG without taking chances. Aside of playing smarter lineups, that’s where I see the biggest impact. Sometimes players just execute better under a coach they trust and who they know trusts them.
What will be the key duels in the game?
TomAdams71: As far as key duels ... the wide areas are going to be incredibly important. Kimmmich and Alaba, or Kimmich and Rafinha will likely once again be tasked with keeping track of the interchangeable Neymar, Mbappe, and Cavani - the three can move free flowingly at will. Bayern will also need to utilize their strength in the center of midfield. The first meeting between these two sides, Paris passed right through Bayern's midfield with far too much ease. Vidal, Martinez, and whoever else Heynckes deploys will need to remain disciplined and measure their runs forward. Vidal has been exceptional the past two weeks, he'll really need another strong performance box-to-box.
Grudnik: Assuming that David Alaba is ready to start again - and his return against Hannover seems to indicate that he is - how he handles the speed and dribble freak Kylian Mbappe will be crucial. Will he be able to keep pace with the speedy Frenchman? But, almost as important, will he manage to force Mbappe to play defense, by pushing the ball up the right flank, with - presumably - Kingsley Coman?
The same can be said about the other side, where Joshua Kimmich will have his hands full with Neymar, a level of forward that he doesn't have to deal with very often.
John N. Dillon: Neymar. Everyone will be watching Neymar, and that is somewhat unfair to his partners in crime Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani. Neymar plays on PSG’s left flank, so it will fall primarily to Joshua Kimmich and then Jerome Boateng to stop him. Kimmich has shown he can contribute consistently to Bayern’s offense, but I would not say he’s defensively as strong as Philipp Lahm was, at least not yet. He simply must have a good defensive game to shut down PSG’s most dynamic and dangerous player. And then there’s Draxler right behind Neymar...
Dani Alves vs Kingsley Coman. Coman has everything to prove in Paris. As a member of the French national team, he hopes to show his home crowd how far he has come as a starter with Bayern Munich. He will have his work cut out for him in the presence of Dani Alves, who had an outstanding performance against Bayern in September. He completely shut down James, who played that game on the left flank. If Coman can fly past Alves, he can help lift Bayern to victory and prove he is among the best wingers in the game.
CSmith1919: I think it really comes down to the Bayern midfield duo of (presumably) Arturo Vidal and Javi Martinez and how they handle the PSG midfield’s ability to facilitate to the Neymar-Calvani-Mbappe trio. The pressure those three will put on the backline is a given, so to me it’s a matter of how often Bayern can prevent the ball from advancing that far forward.
Not enough Bayern vs PSG content for you? Check out JND’s excellent preview of the game. You won’t be disappointed.
Edited by Ineednoname.