For the first time since 2013, two German managers will face off against each other in the Champions League final. Last time, Jupp Heynckes’s Bayern beat Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund side as the Bavarians won the treble. This time, if Bayern win, they win the treble again, this time under Hansi Flick. However, in the opposing dugout is Thomas Tuchel who has led to Parisians to their first ever Champions League final.
Both sides are unbeaten in their last 12 however, Hansi Flick has made history. Bayern’s manager became the first manager to win his first seven Champions League matches. This makes the match up all the harder to predict meaning the smallest of margins could determine the winner.
The German champions defend with a high line. This aids their midfield whilst compressing the pitch and has Manuel Neuer sweeping behind, a similar trait to Heynckes’s 2013 side. This also suits their high pressing system. With a pacey back line, especially Davies and Alaba, this works well however, it can be exposed.
On the right-hand side is Kimmich next to Boateng, not as quick as the left side. The German pair are shielded by Goretzka who is expected to push up the pitch. Bayern are a proactive defensive side as they try to stop the attack at the source. On the right, this leaves a lot of space whilst on the left the pace means they can recover quickly.
Hansi Flick’s side are vulnerable to long balls (into the box) from either flank however, the right side is weaker. They concede more shots from the pull backs from their right side as their defence hasn’t recovered. With Neymar, Di María and Mbappé, PSG have the pace and talent to exploit the spaces Bayern leave.
Neymar dropping off will naturally mean Bayern’s defence will push up and if the German side lose possession when Kimmich is up the pitch, PSG will have space in dangerous areas for them to attack. Despite coming back from a ligament injury, Benjamin Pavard’s greater pace means it might be worth bringing him back at right back and Joshua Kimmich would go back into the midfield as he would offer more cover than Goretzka.
However, due to Pavard’s lack of fitness and match sharpness, this would be a huge risk.
Against Atalanta and RB Leipzig, Tuchel deployed two very different midfields. Against Atalanta, PSG’s midfield was more destructive as Herrera and Gueye flanked Marquinhos. In the game against Leipzig, Paredes came in for Gueye. The Argentine excelled with press breaking passes as he often passed to the advancing left back or Neymar who was dropping off.
Paredes’ progressive thinking and passing allowed Neymar to drop off in between the lines. His ability to draw opposition players in and find a man in space could be crucial against Bayern.
Ander Herrera could also play a pivotal role. Due to Thiago’s importance in distributing from deep or progressing the ball up the field, if Herrera was deployed to man-mark his fellow Spaniard, it could disrupt Bayern’s build-up play.
Although Robert Lewandowski is Bayern Munich’s main goal threat, Thomas Müller’s return to form has also made him a threat. His creativity and ability to find space can cause problems for any side.
Defensively, he is also a hard worker. If he man-marks Paredes on the right, PSG could struggle to move the ball forward. Although Marco Verratti will be fit for the final meaning if PSG play both Paredes and Verratti, Flick’s side will struggle to stop the French champions playing their way. However, in order to have balance, Tuchel might have to have Marquinhos behind Verratti and Paredes with Herrera marking Thiago. This would lead to a change in formation and probably Mbappé and Neymar up front with the Brazilian dropping deeper to create space for Mbappé.
Since Hansi Flick’s appointment, Müller has become an integral part of the side with a lot of the attacks going through the World Cup winner. When he receives the ball in space, he looks to move it onto someone in a dangerous position before finding space to hurt the opposition again. Although he often operates on the right, he can drift across the left half space and drive into the box to create a shooting opportunity.
This will cause a huge problem for PSG as they have to watch Müller but his ability to find space will make it almost impossible. Marquinhos will have to watch the German’s movement or it could draw one of the central defenders forward, leaving space for the lethal Lewandowski.
With Bernat’s tendencies to push up, Serge Gnabry could find himself in a lot of space on the right side. This will give him the opportunity to run at the left centre back, this is expected to be Presnel Kimpembe. This means PSG will have to keep Müller quiet without disrupting their defensive structure as Bayern have a lot of different attacking threats that can exploit the space.
With PSG looking for their first ever Champions League title and Bayern looking for their first since 2013, this is emphasises the importance of this game. The smallest decisions can change the game from being close to a blowout win. Both sides have wanted this title for the last few years, for one, a dream will come true.