Struggling PSG up against Champions League beasts Bayern

It can’t really be the Champions League knockout stages without a stench of controversy brewing in the ranks of Paris Saint Germain. Before facing German champions Bayern Munich, something feels rotten in the club with reports of outbursts between Neymar and his teammates as well as with PSG chief Luis Campos, a shocking run of form and injuries to their best players in Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.

One can’t really blame the fans if the memories of elimination at the hands of Manchester United in 2019, Barcelona (2017) and Real Madrid (2022), rear their heads again.

What’s common in those defeats, you ask? Well, in all these matches, the French powerhouse had emphatically won the first leg, only to lose their heads in the return leg and getting knocked out in the process.

This year, they will be facing a Bayern team which has had a recent upturn in form, winning their last three matches by scoring more than three goals each time. They are also the side that denied the Parisians their first Champions League trophy, defeating them in the 2020 final. A different monster in the Champions League, the Bavarians have progressed from the Round of 16 stage nine times in the last 10 seasons, a stat that does not bode well for an already shaky Ligue One leaders.

PSG, meanwhile, are having their worst run of form since the World Cup break, having already lost four times since then. Their last two matches were particularly shattering to their confidence with a 2-1 defeat to close rivals Marseille to get knocked out of the French Cup and a 3-1 hammering by Monaco in the league. Their Argentine talisman Messi played in the game vs Marseille but came away with a hamstring strain, something which kept him out of the squad for the match against Monaco.

Meanwhile, Mbappe suffered a muscle tear and was expected to be out for three weeks, which meant that he would be out against Bayern as well. But apparently, he has made a speedy recovery and both him and Messi are in the squad to face Bayern tonight. Head coach Christophe Galtier, however, was cautious while talking about the Mbappe situation saying that “we’re not quite sure if he’ll be on the team sheet.”

Stars need to show up

Fans, meanwhile, will be hoping that the French World Cup winner can make it into the team because without him and Messi, PSG have looked rather listless on the field. Neymar has had a torrid time lifting the workload and his individual game has suffered because of it, leading to a fairly toothless display in the recent loss to Monaco.

With frustration reaching boiling point, the Brazilian superstar reportedly had a go at teammates Vitinha and Hugo Ekitike after the Monaco match. Additionally, when PSG chief Campos slammed the players for failing to show aggression, Neymar and Marquinhos were unhappy with the criticism and had a war of words with him.

The superstar has downplayed the incident since then, comparing it to an argument with his girlfriend. “Yes there was a discussion, we didn’t agree with what we heard. But these things happen. Football isn’t just about love and friendship,” Neymar said.

Bayern Munich, meanwhile, are mired in an off-field controversy of their own with long-time player and captain Manuel Neuer, who is currently out with a broken leg. While the goalie has been recuperating from his injury, Bayern sacked their goalkeeping coach and Neuer’s close friend Toni Tapalovic for allegedly leaking information from the dressing room.

In an interview, Neuer had slammed the decision saying it felt like his heart had been ripped out of him, leading to Bayern Munich reportedly taking a decision to fine him £1.4million.

Bayern though have a trusted ’keeper between the sticks, having brought in Borussia Monchengladbach’s Yann Sommer who will be chomping at the bit to make an impression against PSG. The German champions will, however, miss the services of Ryan Gravenberch, Noussair Mazraoui, Lucas Hernandez and Sadio Mane but have enough firepower in their ranks to give the star-studded PSG lineup a run for its money.

PSG vs Bayern Munich (Wednesday, 1.30 AM)

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