BERLIN: Bayern Munich host Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, with the stage set for star changes from their 2022-23 signings Sadio Mane and Matthijs de Ligt.
After Bayern won ten consecutive league titles, the two high-profile summer newcomers were brought to Munich mainly with European nights in mind.
Bayern return to the Allianz Arena with a 1-0 lead after former PSG striker Kingsley Coman scored in the second half at the Parc des Princes in the first leg, the same goal line and goalscorer as in the 2019 Champions League final win /20.
Bayern only need to avoid defeat to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
But like PSG boss Christophe Galtier, Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann is aware that elimination will leave a scorch that domestic results cannot erase.
Nagelsmann said so after his side’s narrower-than-hoped win in Stuttgart on Saturday, saying he hoped it wasn’t the “result” but “the way we played (against PSG) how the season is viewed.”
Early European exits cannot be tolerated in the Bavarian capital, regardless of the quality of their opposition.
In the last ten years in which Bayern have won the European Cup twice, Bayern have only once been eliminated before the quarter-finals.
That elimination came against eventual champions Liverpool in 2018/19 and although he won the league and cup double in the same season, the stab ultimately proved fatal for then-manager Niko Kovac.
Manes Midweek Pedigree
After Bayern’s 2-1 win in Stuttgart on Saturday, Nagelsmann locked the dressing room door to deliver a speech reminding his side of the task ahead against Paris.
“I told them that we have a very important game on Wednesday and that we have to bring our intensity,” the 35-year-old manager told Sky.
“They are a tough team to beat and one of the best teams in Europe.”
Key to that intensity and focus will be Mane, who is used to appearing on the European stage, including a goal for Liverpool at the Allianz Arena that helped secure Bayern’s exit.
Mane joined Munich from Liverpool in the summer of 2022 after appearing in three of the last five Champions League finals, winning one and scoring in another.
The striker is lined up for his first start in four months on Wednesday as he continues his return from a leg injury that ruled him out of Senegal’s World Cup campaign.
Mane has played two games off the bench in the league since recovering from injury and has not yet returned to his best form despite his sharp looks.
“It’s normal that he needs a little more rhythm,” said Nagelsmann on Saturday after Mane’s 30-minute appearance from the bench on Saturday.
“We’ll wait and see on Wednesday whether it starts.”
De Ligt concentrated
Behind Mane in the middle is de Ligt, the man tasked with taking out PSG forward duo Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
Since joining from Juventus, De Ligt has taken a little longer than Mane to establish himself at Munich, initially coming off the bench.
However, France star Lucas Hernandez’s cruciate ligament injury in Qatar in November gave De Ligt an opportunity which he seized with both hands.
De Ligt played perhaps his best game for Bayern against Stuttgart on Saturday when he cleared a goal from the line before scoring himself in a furious two-minute period at the other end of the pitch.
Despite the news that Neymar will miss the clash, the Dutch defender said on Saturday that Bayern will have their hands full with the ‘dangerous’ Paris duo of Mbappe and Messi.
“Those are two very good strikers. It will be very difficult,” de Ligt told the SID news agency.
“We have to deliver a top game and be particularly focused.” -AFP
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