Bayern meet PSG in a battle of troubled giants
Today brings a battle of world football powers. It is the kind of match-up that could only occur in UEFA’s Champions League (well, aside from the uber-glorified ICC). The behemoth of Bundesliga, FC Bayern, versus la légende de la Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain.
Real versus Barça?
Both clubs are titans of their domestic leagues. PSG have won four of the last five Ligue 1 titles. Their only bow coming last year, edged out by upstart AS Monaco. Bayern, of course, have dominated the Bundesliga for the entirety of the 21st Century. The new century is just 17 years old at this point—or 18 depending on how one reckons the year, “2000”—but the Monster From Munich has been domestic champ 11 (or 12) of those years. Bayern are currently seeking an unprecedented 6th in a row.
Yet both clubs have also had a tumultuous summer. PSG set the whole footballing world on its ear by paying a king’s ransom to FC Barçelona for Neymar Jr. The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary, BTW, have decided to replace the phrase,”King’s ransom”, with “Neymar transfer fee” in all future editions of their definitive publication.
Just kidding…I think..?
James the 1st
Bayern also took in a Spanish import—albeit on loan—over the summer. James Rodriguez, himself the once and future king of Real Madrid. Real has won 3 of the last 4 Champions League titles. Two years ago Barça took the cup home. The last time neither Real nor Barçelona won the UCL was 2013. Arjen Robben brought the title to Bayern in style that year.
James steps onto a crowded field of strikers at Munich. He’s recently paid dividends for sure. Witness his match-clinching strike last week in league play.
But with Robben, Lewandowski, Müller and a few others besides the new guy to keep happy, manager Carlo Ancelotti has his hands full. He may be too busy managing personalities to win games.
Indeed, last time out Bayern managed just a draw at home against Wolfsburg having surrendered a 2-0 first-half lead. Fans will likely blame the “failure to win” on the presence of back-up keeper, Sven Ulreich—in for the injured Manuel Neuer—but scoring chances for the reds went wanting as well.
It is not calm waters for Bayern. The club now sits second to rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Parc de trop princes?
PSG also have begun to feel the strain of fielding a “corps célestes”. Real Madrid was always intended to be “los galacticos”, a side made up of international star players. As a matter of keeping up with their La Liga rivals, Barça too eventually became a star-spangled team. Neymar was most lately a part of such a galaxy of world class talents.
PSG seem to have determined to go that route since being acquired itself by Qatari business interests in 2011. Club president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is no doubt hoping that there will be one or more UCL trophies waiting at the end of this road.
The introduction of the Brazilian and his notorious transfer fee, however, seems to have caused dissension that is spilling onto the field at Parc des Princes. Much was made of confusion on the field over penalty kick taking privileges for the club. True or not, it has become the kind of tabloid fodder which could only serve as an unwanted distraction to PSG.
Group B as it stands
Neither club, however, showed any signs of disorganization in the first of their UCL Group B matches. Bayern handily defeated Anderlecht of Belgium, 3-0, at home in their opener while Paris traveled to Glasgow to run rampant over Celtic, 5-0.
That leaves the two powers top of the table for now. And gives each a free hand as they face one another later today in Paris.
Bayern have added veteran keeper, Tom Starke, to their UCL roster in just the last 24 hours. Starke had retired and moved into the club’s coaching ranks. He has been reactivated due to the injury to Neuer.
So penalties in this game could feature Cavani or Neymar, or Dani Alves over the ball, and Ulreich or Starke in goal…thus making whoever decided that group winners would be determined by statistical tie-breakers look like a freakin’ genius.