You may think it’s a bit early to be talking about the Champions League Round of 16, but you’d be wrong. Bayern Munich face Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the knockouts in only about a month’s time, which gives the players and coaching staff very little time to prepare. The Bundesliga hasn’t even restarted yet!
Despite this and the myriad of injuries plaguing the Bayern cause, the team doesn’t seem to bothered by the upcoming tie. Speaking to the media during the club’s winter training camp in Qatar, coach Julian Nagelsmann even suggested that his team could have the advantage due to a longer break.
“The games against Paris are 50-50. We’ll see whether we’ll be fitter in these games because our players have had a longer break — in games like that, the form of the day always decides.”
The coach even holds out hope that Sadio Mane could play in the first leg, saying that, “If everything goes very, very well, he might be able to play against Paris, but I’m not making any predictions right now. There’s a small remaining chance for the first leg.”
Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic echoed the same sentiments, adding that Bayern would “be sensible and not rush things” with regard to the player’s recovery.
Thomas Muller also acknowledges the importance of the second half of the season, but says that the team will “play better than last year.”
“The coach knows us better, we know the coach better,” continued the 33-year-old. “We made improvements. We know what the coach wants. The signs are very good. The games against Paris will be crucial.”
If any of these guys have concerns about the tie, they’re not showing it. Still, there’s a lot to be concerned about. PSG have one of the most lethal attacking trios in world football, with Leo Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar leading the line. Any one of those players is enough to sink even a world class team.
Meanwhile, Bayern are reeling from a whirlwind of defensive setbacks — Lucas Hernandez and Manuel Neuer will both miss the rest of the season with long-term injuries, while starting right-back Noussair Mazraoui has suffered pericarditis (inflammation of the heart covering) as a complication from COVID-19.
Despite all this, the vibes seem pretty good at the Sabener Strasse. Maybe things will be okay when the games roll around? You can be sure that the whole world will be watching — it’s the Champions League after all.
All quotes courtesy of @iMiaSanMia.