PSG's job in opposition to Bayern solely half achieved. Can Mbappe & Co. finish it?
On Sunday it was quiet at Camp des Loges, the training ground of Paris Saint-Germain in the forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a small town west of the French capital. It was sunny, if a little chilly, and there were smiles everywhere. The 4-1 win in Strasbourg on Saturday was very positive, as it not only closed the gap to Ligue 1 leaders Lille – PSG are three points behind with six games left – but also the best possible preparation for the champions League on Tuesday meant quarter-finals, second leg against Bayern Munich.
The first leg was special in terms of drama, twists, tension, pressure and result. PSG won the Battle of Munich 3-2, but the fight isn't over yet. PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino and his players knew that the last time referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz whistled under the snow.
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There were no major celebrations in the dressing room of the Allianz Arena, just luck, relief and pride to have inflicted their first Champions League defeat on the Bundesliga giants for more than two years. Not many teams go there and win, let alone three goals, but the Parisians did it even when dominated: Bayern had 31 shots (12 on goal) on PSG's six (five on goal), forced 10 saves and won 15 corners on 64 percent of the ball.
"Sometimes you have to suffer to win big games," Kylian Mbappé told French television after the game. He was right too. The Paris-born child prodigy was the star of the night, with his seventh and eighth goals in competition this season on either side of Marquinho's clever finish. Presnel Kimpembe sat next to Mbappe in the locker room and after his performance the defender could be seen looking at the striker as if he were one of the seven wonders of the world.
To make sure PSG players don't get too carried away, when club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi walked into the locker room to congratulate the squad, he recalled that "this is only half, there is a second Halftime. " be played. "
Neymar, who was sitting next to Angel Di Maria, knew this all too well. This is the kind of game he delivered and was expected to be, and that's exactly what he did. He worked hard for the team despite not being on the scorers list and provided two perfect assists for PSG's first two goals. His work is not done either; The Brazilian striker, who was suspended against Strasbourg, spent the weekend at Camp des Loges training and working on his fitness. PSG's fate in this Champions League depends very much on him and he will have to play a big role again on Tuesday as his team will likely chase the ball all night.
Mbappe and PSG are trying to downplay the nerves and importance of the duel against Bayern Munich in Tuesday's quarter-finals, despite the fact that the team can only think about what a win would mean for the Ligue 1 giants. Marcio Machado / Getty Images
Nobody is going to admit it in the club or in the locker room, but everyone has been thinking about this second leg since the end of the first leg. Before, during and after the victory in Strasbourg, Bavaria was on everyone's lips. The club may have received a boost in squad selection: the coaching team was hoping Marco Verratti and Alessandro Florenzi, who tested positive for COVID-19 before the first leg, would be eligible, and their most recent tests were negative – a huge one Boost for the French champion. That said, Marquinhos, who dropped out after 30 minutes in the first leg with a groin injury, should have his fitness tested on Monday and is very unlikely to be able to play.
As in every other season since the club was bought by Qatar Sports Investments in summer 2011, the goal is to win the Champions League. They got so close last season that they lost 1-0 to Bayern in a final where PSG had the best scoring opportunities and it's no surprise they want another try. Eliminating the defending champion would be a warning to the teams that remain standing even after the quarter-finals. The PSG-Bayern winners will face Borussia Dortmund or Manchester City in the last four games.
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Like Neymar, Mbappe will be one of the keys – perhaps the biggest – for PSG on Tuesday. He has scored seven goals in his last five PSG games and when he was in Barcelona with his hat-trick in the round of 16, he was unstoppable in Munich. But the squad tries to stay relaxed. On Sunday, Mbappe did some gentle warm-up exercises while Moise Kean and Thilo Kehrer danced in the gym.
Sources have told ESPN that Mbappe is still considering extending his contract with the club. The conversations are ongoing and productive, according to sources, despite being merely the latest update in what may be a long saga. After the first leg, PSG sporting director Leonardo was once again quite confident in an interview with Sky Italia: "I think we will have some news that will soon make us all happy."
The fact is that successfully reaching the Champions League semifinals, which comes with a feeling that PSG can really compete in this competition every season, is a huge boost to convince him to stay. At the moment, both Mbappe and the club are fully focused on finishing the season as strong as possible. You want to win everything and be brilliant.
The fans want the same thing. Of course they are not allowed in the ground on Tuesday, but they will make a lot of noise in the Parc des Princes. Inside, they are perceived by a gigantic tifo that has not yet been revealed. The fans hope it inspires the players and gives them some strength for the entire 90 or 120 minutes.
PSG have already scored 101 goals in all competitions this season, which not many teams have done. If they can add more on Tuesday, they should be heading for the last four Champions League goals for the second year in a row – not an easy feat considering they hadn't gone that far since the 1994-1995 season. After the final defeat in the Champions League against Bayern Munich in August, their revenge is half over.
The referee in Paris will be Daniele Orsato, who also oversaw last season's final. Is that a bad omen? We'll know on Tuesday.