Only two clubs this European football season still have a chance to win the Continental Treble: Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.
Bayern, officially the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal champions, have assembled two of the three pieces of the puzzle; only the Champions League remains to be conquered. When the competition returns in early August, the Bavarians will be well-equipped, but also well challenged by PSG and other European giants, in this year’s single-elimination knockout rounds.
Based on performances throughout the season, Bayern is arguably the team to beat in the Champions League. Die Roten have won all seven of their matches in the competition, an unparalleled record this season. In the latter four of them, coached by Hansi Flick, they dispatched the opposition by an aggregate scoreline of 14-1. With a clinical 3-0 win over a middling Chelsea side in the first leg of the Round of 16 under their belt, they look certain to coast into the quarter-finals.
Ligue 1 champion PSG is Bayern’s only competitor in the Treble hunt, having already booked their place in the Champions League’s last eight by edging Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate. They will also play in the final of the Coupe de France against Saint-Étienne, who finished 17th in Ligue 1. With their league concluded and cup final not exactly threatening, PSG is poised to meet their fate in the Champions League.
The Coupe final on July 24 will be PSG’s first competitive match since March 11 — a gaping space of four-and-a-half months. It will be intriguing to witness what effects, if any, such a hefty footballing hiatus will have on the quality of PSG’s match performance. If the mostly dull, goal-sparse early matchdays of the Top 5 Leagues’ restarts are any indication, Les Parisiens could need some time (which will be in short supply in the Champions League) to return to top form. Alternatively, as Bayern did in May, they could emerge with guns blazing right out of the gate.
In any case, Bayern has a massive head start over Paris and every other Champions League contender in developing match sharpness with the early resumption of German football. They should be primed and purring to drive against their European foes. Their proximity to the CL trophy — they need only to avoid a meltdown against Chelsea and win three matches after that to lift it and complete the Treble — will certainly feed their ambitions.
The single-elimination path to the European Championship is a straight one, but one also likely to be laden with all manner of unique obstacles. In the tradition of grand summer football tournament knockouts, we should expect fine margins, underdog challenges, and at least a pinch of chaos as the League is played to its conclusion on neutral ground in Portugal. Should Bayern reach the quarter-finals (and, barring the unthinkable, they will), familiar juggernauts like PSG and dark horses like Atalanta and Atlético Madrid will be waiting for them.
The competition will be fierce and unpredictable, but no club will be hungrier for the hardware than Bayern. A record-equaling second Treble is almost within the grasp of Hansi Flick and his men, and if they meet Treble rivals PSG en route (and who’s kidding — we’d all love to see that happen), expect a match-up worthy of all the greatness and madness that’s come to define the 2019/20 season.