By Aristo Dotse
It’s the UEFA Champions League final. It’s Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain. It is a clash of two of the current best teams in Europe and two of the aristocrats of the European game at the famous Benfica Stadium of Light in the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon.
It’s one European Cup final we have never seen before. It’s one not seen before because while Bayern are playing in their 11th European Cup final, PSG are making their first ever final appearance, after last making the semi-final a quarter of a century ago, in 1995, when the likes of George Weah, David Ginola and Rai were the kingpins in a PSG team captained by then France goalkeeper Bernard Lama.
Currently, this Paris team similarly has a star-studded team of some world class players, if not better than the team of 1995. And it is led in attack by the two most expensive players in history in Brazilian Neymar and French sensational youngster Kylian Mbappe.
They were bought in 2017 from Barcelona and Monaco respectively with the oil money of their owners from Qatar and the main, driving force behind the senseless huge amounts used in acquiring them was to win the Champions League And now, after years of monumental disappointments in the wake of those revolutionary purchases, PSG finally have the chance to lift the European Cup and they have Bayern, a huge stumbling block, standing in way. Can they make the German giants and Bundesliga champions their third German victims this European campaign after eliminating Dortmund and Leipzig – first and second runners up in Germany – in the second round and semi-final respectively?
After struggling and being lucky in overcoming Italian outfits Atalanta Bergamo in the quarter-final with a late, late turn-around in a 2-1 win, PSG came to life to make light work of Leipzig- the other surprise package alongside Atalanta in this Champions League campaign – in the semis to finally book a place in the final of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time ever. They had earlier, before corona virus forced suspension of football and lockdowns around the world in mid March, beaten Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate, winning 2-0 in Paris after losing 2-1 in Dortmund. Can they add Bayern to the list of their German victims? This is the big question that confronts coach Thomas Tuchel and his players in Lisbon on Sunday.
Truly, in Bayern, the German champions of this season and the previous seven seasons, they face a real task they haven’t faced yet this term.
PSG are facing a team that has won all ten games in the Champions League this term to equal their own record of 2013 when they last won the European Cup, and that of Real Madrid of 2015, making demolition dismissals of great sides like Tottenham (10-2 over in two matches at the group stage), Chelsea (7-1 over two legs in the second round), and Barcelona (8-2 in one-off game in the quarter-final) in the process. PSG are facing a side that currently are on the longest unbeaten run of 29 matches (28 wins and 1 draw) in any of the top five European leagues. PSG are facing a team that is playing in their eleventh European Cup final, more than any other club except 13-time champions Real Madrid, who are on 16 finals in all. PSG are facing a team that has the competition’s top scorer in Robert Lewandowski, whose 15 goals this season is the third highest for a goal-king in a single season in the history of Europe’s top club competition.
The above are reasons that define the enormous nature of the task PSG face in their bid to make Bayern their third German victims in the first European Cup final to be played on a Sunday tonight. Neymar and Mbappe are ready to ensure PSG realise their long-held ambition of winning the prestigious Champions League trophy for the first time but if they can overcome this ruthless Bayern side who are favourites to win their sixth European Cup is a matter to be seen in Lisbon.