Bayern Set to Stem the French Resistance at the Champions League Final

The hastily-concluded competitions will never seem satisfying, after an exciting final of the Europa League, which perhaps should be renamed the Sevilla Cup, tonight we will hopefully enjoy an equally thrilling UEFA Champions League Final at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.

Bayern Munich and PSG are worthy finalists, although part of me still thinks Timo Werner's departure from RB Leipzig to Chelsea before the end of his team's unprecedented cup run skewed his team's fortunes.

A Leipzig v Lyon final would have been a great day for the underdog, but the 3-0 scorelines in both semis suggest the cream rose to the top.

Estadio da Luz

Bayern look the sharper of the finalists and with their European pedigree will begin as favourites. It will be their eleventh European Cup final, against their opponents' first.

It is hard to believe PSG have never reached the final before but capital cities tend not to dominate at football - think Liverpool, Manchester, Munich, and Barcelona.

Ligue 1 has historically been the weakest of Europe's big four leagues and a French club has only won it once - Marseille in 1993. History is not on their side.

What is different now of course is the Qatari money behind PSG - millions from the state-owned Qatari Sports Investments, which recruited the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, two star attackers in anyone's estimation.

PSG's transformation has left them open to criticism as an artificial construction, a soft power play-thing for a controversial regime, but looking around at football clubs' owners, one is tempted to say 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

Deloitte calculated PSG have the fifth-highest revenue of any club in 2020, although in overall value are rated only 11th in the world by Forbes. Bayern come fourth in both lists, appropriately for a German business. 

Bayern's financial stability sits in stark contrast to 'new money' PSG splashing the cash. They are a more traditional organisation with former players as directors but they are also closely tied via their supervisory board to big German corporations like Adidas, Allianz and Audi (interestingly not local Bavarian brand BMW) and Deutsche Telekom.

One of their premium commercial sponsors is Qatar Airways.

Germans manage both teams, with Thomas Tuchel and Hans-Dieter Flick squaring up tonight to compare their reputations as world-class coaches.

Flick's transition from Jogi Low's Germany assistant to top-level club management has had a flying start, winning the Bundesliga and German Cup and reaching the Champions League final in less than a full season.

Bayern look awesome going forward and their defence and goalkeeper are solid too - they arrive at the final on a 29 match unbeaten run. There has been no side so skilled at creating attacking angles in the last third this season. Defending against this Bayern side requires complete coverage and invigilation of the channels and spaces.

So the odds must be on a German victory. Robert Lewansowski has scored a whopping 51 goals this season and in Serge Gnabry, Thomsas Muller and Ivan Perisic he has three razor-sharp providers.

What gives PSG hope though is that they have real pace on the counter from Angel Di Maria, Mbappe and Neymar, who are all good dribblers to boot.

When Bayern lose the ball in the last third they will have a chance if they can get the ball forward quickly enough. There is no mystery to PSG's method - they will look to their fast forwards to score. The question is how much Bayern will temper their attacking instincts in fear of this Achilles' heel. 

We can probably expect Tuchel's team to play the underdog and start deep in the hope of springing effective transitions but they may be encouraged to go on the front foot if they sense Bayern have changed their game-plan at all.

As a neutral, we just hope two open and attacking sides can forego their fears in Portugal.

The last thing we need after such a disrupted season is for two naturally attacking teams to sit back and be cautious in the culmination of a most awkward and unusual season.

Even if the stadium is empty we deserve to see some goals tonight.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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