The following scenario has happened so many times before in recent years in the UEFA Champions League: a team takes a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first leg and is then battered in the second. Barcelona, with better finishing in the previous round, could have put away PSG in one half in the Round of 16; however, that didn’t come to pass and Bayern Munich played the French champions tonight, losing the game, 2-3. Now, Bayern must pull off a miraculous result, especially considering their leaky defense, to turn it around in the second leg.
Let us take a look at the team’s problems, how Bayern can turn this around and why I believe this team will turn the tie around.
Bayern plays aggressively; Bayern plays a high-line; the team is supposed to defend as a unit. I understand that. However, I strongly believe Manuel Neuer should have done better for the first goal. Neuer makes that save nine out of ten times; today happened to be the day he didn’t make that save. Perhaps the snow affected him; we know, from the game against Arminia Bielefeld (3-3 in Munich), that Bayern doesn’t fare too well in the snow.
The second goal is squarely on the defense. How Marquinhos manages to slip away and beat the offside trap is beyond me; this is not a new problem — however, it is a huge issue. Bayern plays a high-risk and high-reward game; that does not mean world class defenders such as David Alaba (partially guilty for one, if not two goals), Niklas Süle (positioning for the second goal) and Jerome Boateng (guilty of needlessly giving away possession from time-to-time) should defend poorly every chance they get.
No world class side should be conceding three goals at home. At Parc des Princes, without Robert Lewandowski, this result could be considered a success — at the Allianz Arena, however, it is nothing short of a disaster.
All season long, we have waited for the defense to improve. Clean sheets are rare and when they come by, they come because of the opposition’s profligacy rather than Bayern’s excellent defending. Take the Leipzig game during the weekend for example — Leipzig was on top for the first 15 minutes in the second half and better finishing from Dani Olmo among others, would have seen them at least take a point from that game.
There is something seriously wrong when a team with world class defenders struggles every time a quality attacker faces them. It is not as if teams haven’t shut out PSG this season — ask Monaco, particularly Niko Kovac, or ask Lille.
Fatigue is an issue in this long season of course. Niklas Süle was out for much of last season with a long-term injury and is settling back into the game this season; Benjamin Pavard also had a somewhat lengthy recovery period last season and was out of form for most of this one. I understand that.
But three goals? Three? That just should not happen.
I am looking at Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman here. I feel for Sané considering just how many games he has played in the past three weeks or so, but as soon as Sané got the ball, I knew he would beat the defender, possibly cut to the by-line and then look for a pass. Sometimes, I wish he would just shoot! The moniker Arjen Sané requires a level of selfishness which young Leroy does not have. He really needs to improve his decision-making abilities in the next six days. He could probably do with a day off as well.
The same criticism can be labeled at Coman. However, Coman was not a record-breaking transfer from an English side and as a result, considering the price tag that he came with, Sané is supposed to deliver in games such as today. A certain Arjen Robben took matters into his own hands in 2009/2010 against Manchester United in the second leg; in a 3-2 loss in Old Trafford, which guaranteed Bayern’s passage to the semifinals on the away-goals rule, he hit a memorable volley from the edge of the box. Sané could learn from that.
That being said, Coman has been the Bavarians’ best winger for much of this season but his decision-making is beginning to resemble pre-2020 Coman again. There needed to be more quality deliveries into the box. That didn’t happen tonight. Thomas Müller and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting were waiting eagerly but saw almost nothing from the wingers; instead, it was left to Benjamin Pavard and Joshua Kimmich to deliver the quality balls that the wingers are supposed to provide for goals.
Also, why on earth does Bayern have so much trouble scoring from corners? The team isn’t exactly lacking in height.
Speaking of corners, let’s talking about finishing.
Müller scored one, but perhaps should have scored two. Alaba should have scored. Sané should have scored. Benjamin Pavard could have done slightly better with his volley. Choupo-Moting should have had another one. Alphonso Davies should have taken some shots instead of choosing to pass. It’s endless. I hate bringing this up but this game took me back to 2012. The Bavarians had 35 shots in that final compared to the opposition’s nine. They had 31 today. They couldn’t score enough in both. They paid the price in both.
Speaking of Davies, let’s talk about Hansi Flick. Flick gets his tactics right almost every time. But today, his choice to leave Davies on the bench might have cost the team. I understand why he chose to start Lucas Hernandez at left-back — in the Champions League final last season, Davies had a poor game. Hernandez is the more conservative of the two options. However, if you are going to live and die by an offensive approach, then you might as well take the road less traveled and play the most offensive lineup you can play.
When Davies came on, his impact was palpable. PSG’s defense suddenly looked more unsure of themselves and the game changed.
Even with the defensive lapses in mind, overall Bayern played well. They stuck to their game, generated enough chances and, on another day. Had Neuer made an early save, might have won this game. While I criticized Sané and Coman early on, both gave the PSG defense a hard time tonight and, on another day, might have been rewarded for their efforts. Had Lewandowski been present, Bayern would have scored a few more of course.
I also want to add that watching Bayern is quite joyful, even when the team is behind. Having been around during some rough years for this team, I cannot emphasize enough just how exquisite the players’ touches are. They play with so much flair; at times today, my heart was in my mouth as Bayern tried to play out from the back, but, they did so successfully more often than not, playing inch-perfect passes along the way. There were numerous times that the team was the slightest of touches away from equalizing; it didn’t happen today but it might happen next week.
It is easy to forget, especially after a defeat, the strengths of a team. This performance was easy on the eye moving forward; all it lacked was a few more goals.
On the flip side, this game proved just how much Lewandowski has been atoning for the sins of a ridiculously poor defense. Nonetheless, Choupo-Moting showed that he can handle being the man up front. In many ways, he is a less tenacious version of Mario Mandzukic. When Leon Goretzka went off, you might have thought that the game was over; but Bayern improved without one of their midfield linchpins.
From last season’s Champions League final, we know that Bayern can get away with holding a really high line. Today’s line was high but not quite as high as the one from that final. We also know that Bayern can keep clean sheets (with some luck) in big games. It is unlikely but it can happen.
The team also learned that they can generate enough chances without Lewandowski. I do not know why Bayern didn’t attempt more shots from the edge of the box (PSG did do a good job of defending shots); perhaps, if they do so in the second leg, an early goal might be in the cards.
More importantly, Bayern finally paid the price for poor defending and risky play; however, they paid the price in the first leg of the tie. At 0-2 down, I had fears of being down by four; PSG had put four past Barcelona in the first leg. However, down 2-3, the door for a fight back is left just about ajar.
Bayern will turn it around in the second leg
At 2-2, I thought to myself that if any team can come back from a deficit, it is Bayern. 2-3 down was a bridge too far, though. Nonetheless, PSG has been at the end of a few remarkable comebacks.
Manchester United lost 0-2 at home in the 2018/2019 season against PSG and turned it around in the second, winning 1-3 in France. Barcelona turned it around in historic fashion too against PSG after losing the first leg by four goals in the 2016/2017 season. In that season, Bayern turned around a 1-2 deficit against Real Madrid to push the tie into extra time in Madrid. Had UEFA bothered to apply the offside rule equally to both sides, Bayern might have won that tie.
This team is fatigued; it was missing its two best finishers (Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry) tonight and lost a third finisher in Goretzka to injury. And yet, the team generated so much offensively. Bayern will take the lessons from this game. They will adjust prior to the second leg.
The good thing is Bayern has plenty of experience having had to fight back from deficits all season long; they did it today although they fell just short. Do not expect Bayern to change their approach. Expect a higher line. Expect more urgency. But also, expect better defending because Davies will start.
Sometimes, luck runs out in big games. While Marco Verratti was a big miss for PSG tonight, they had their two most talented finishers on the pitch tonight. Bayern has been deeply affected by injuries, losing, arguably, the most important player in the side (although I would argue that the most important piece is Joshua Kimmich).
If Bayern gets an early goal, things could get interesting in Paris. Expect Bayern to learn their lessons from tonight. I am still hoping to see a Bayern-Real Madrid final.
And if nothing else, PSG will always be the team Bayern beat to win a sixth European Cup. And we can enjoy the exquisite soccer Bayern has displayed since Flick took over for seven remaining league games.
Do you think Bayern can turn it around? If yes, please do let us know your thoughts below; I hear optimism makes the world go around and is good for the soul. If not, (gently) let us know your thoughts as well. And as always, thank you for reading!
What will happen against PSG on Tuesday?
This poll is closed
PSG will win comfortably and win the tie
Bayern will win the game but lose the tie
Bayern will do enough to win the tie
The game will go to ET. Don’t ask me what happens after that.
Bayern will win it in ET
PSG will win it in ET