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Champions League Final 2020 Preview

The qualifying stages for the 20/21 Champions League final has kicked off, but we’re still not done with last seasons tournament. The final sees German champions Bayern Munich go up against Paris Saint-Germain.

Road To The Final

Paris Saint-Germain

PSG qualified automatically for the Champions League by winning Ligue 1. They were a top seed.

Group Stage

PSG were joined in group A by Real Madrid, Belgian champions Club Brugge, and Turkish champions Galatasaray.

The French Champions opened their campaign emphatically with a 3 – 0 win over Real Madrid, with 2 goals from Di Maria, and a late goal from Meunier. Icardi’s goal gave them an away win against Galatasaray. Icardi scored two more away to Brugge, with Mbappe getting a hatrick to make it 0 – 5. In the reverse fixture Icardi got another one for the home side to win 1 – 0. Despite going behind against Real Madrid Mbappe and Sarabia equalized to make it 2 – 2. By the final game PSG had qualified, but they won 5 – 0 for the second time in the group stage with goals from Icardi, Sarabia, Neymar, Mbappe, and Cavani. PSG topped the group with 16 points and a +15 goal difference, having only conceded twice.

Last 16

PSG were drawn against Borussia Dortmund. They lost the first leg 2 – 1, with Haaland getting both Dortmund’s goals. However crucially Neymar got an away goal.

PSG would win the 2nd leg 2 – 0, with goals from Neymar and Bernat in the first half. The Ligue 1 champions went through 3 – 2 on aggregate. Both legs took place before the lockdown.

Quarter-Finals

Paris Saint Germain played tournament debutantes Atalanta in the last 8. They came within moments of elimination when they were 1 – 0 down going into injury time after Pasalic had put Atalanta ahead in the first half. Mbappe’s introduction made the difference, he was involved in the equalizer for Marquinhos and the winner by Choupo-Moting.

Semi-Finals

RB Leipzig were the opposition in the Semi-Finals, making their first appearance in the knockout rounds. PSG were the better team and went 2 – 0 up before halftime with goals from Marquinhos and Di Maria. Bernat scored the 3rd in the second half to secure PSG’s place in the final.

Bayern Munich

Bayern automatically qualified for the Champions League after winning the previous seasons Bundesliga. They were a top seed.

Group Stage

Bayern Munich were drawn into Group B with last seasons beaten finalists Tottenham Hotspurs, Runners-up in the Greek league Olympiacos, and Serbian Champions Red Star Belgrade.

Bayern beat Red Star Belgrade 3 – 0 in their opening game with goals from Coman, Lewandowski, and Muller. The following round they hammered Tottenham 2 – 7, despite falling behind early, with goals from Kimmich, 2 from Lewandowski, and 4 from Gnabry. They defeated a battling Olympiacos over two rounds with 3 goals from Lewandowski( 2 in the first and one in the 2nd. Tolisso got the 3rd in the away game, Perisic got a late goal in the home game. Bayern hammered Red Star Belgrade 0 – 6 in Serbia, with Lewandowski scoring 4, and Goretzka and Tolisso adding goals. In their final game they beat Tottenham 3 – 1, with goals from Coman, Muller, and Coutinho.

Last 16

Bayern were drawn against Chelsea. In the away leg they won 0 – 3, with goals from Gnabry and Lewandowski. The home leg took place after the lockdown. Bayern won 4 – 1 with 2 goals from Lewandowsku and one each from Perisic and Tolisso. Bayern went through 7 – 1 on aggregate.

Quarter-Finals

In a one-legged quarter-final Bayern played Barcelona in Lisbon. They went ahead through Muller but were pegged back through an own goal by Alaba. Goals from Perisic, Gnabry, and Muller made it 1 – 4 at halftime. Suarez got one back after the break but further scores through Kimmich, Lewandowsky, can two from Coutinho (on loan from Barcelona) made it 2- 8.

Semi-Finals

Bayern played Lyon in the semi-finals. Lyon had two early chances but Gnabry hit the net twice before halftime. Lewandowski finally got his goal after having a few chances.

Did You Know?

  • Bayern are on a 29-game unbeaten run in all competitions, only failing to win one of those games. They have scored an average of 3.34 goals during that time. In the champions League they have a goal scoring average of 4.2 per game this season, which is the most in the tournaments history.
  • PSG have scored in the first 30 minutes of 6 of their past 8 games, and have won the last three games they conceded first in. Angel Di Maria is unbeaten in the 17 Champions League games he has scored in.

2019/20 Domestic Campaigns

Paris Saint Germain

Ligue 1 came to a premature end this season, with PSG being declared champions after 27 games as per the rules of the competition. PSG only lost 3 games, winning 22, scoring 75 goals.

PSG lifted the Coupe de France when football returned, beating Saint-Etienne in the final. They then beat Lyon on penalties in the Cope de la Ligue final. They also won the Trophee des Champions at the start of the season by beating Rennes 2 – 1.

Their top scorer in all competitions is Kylian Mbappe, who scored 30 goals in 36 games. Pablo Sarabia and Angel di Maria have made the most appearances for the side with 40.

Bayern Munich

The German league was the first major European league to make it’s return. Bayern won every game after the restart to claim the Bundesliga title.

They beat Bayer Leverkusen 4 – 2 in the DFB-Pokal final to complete a double. However they lost the supercup to Borussia Dortmund at the start of the season.

Their top scorer in all competitions this season is Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 55 goals in 46 games. Joshua Kimmich and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer have made the most appearances for Bayern with 50.

Did You Know?

  • Bayern have previously appeared in 10 Champions League/European Cup finals
    • They won 5, in 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, and 2013. The came runner-up in 1982, 1987, 1999, 2010, and 2012.
  • This is the first time Paris Saint-Germain have been in a Champions League final. It has taken 110 European Cup/UCL games for them to get here, the longest of any finalist.

Previous Meetings

The sides have met 8th times previously. PSG have won 5, with Bayern winning 3.

Bayern Munich and and Paris Saint Germain were drawn together in the group stage of the 2017/18 Champions League. PSG won 3 – 0 in their home game, Bayern won 3 – 1 in the reverse fixture. PSG topped the group over Bayern on head to head record.

Did You Know

  • The previous UEFA Men’s Finals involving French and German sides were:
    • 1975/76: Bayern Munich 1 – 0 Saint-Etienne (UCL)
    • 1991/92: Werder Bremen 2 – 0 Monaco (CWC)
    • 1995: Bordeaux 4 – 2 Kalrusher SC [AGG] (Intertoto Cup)
    • 1995/96: Bayern Munich 5 – 1 Bordeaux [AGG] (UEFA Cup)
    • 1997: Auxerre 2 – 0 MSV Duisburg [Agg] (Intertoto Cup)
    • 1999: Montpellier 2 – 2 Hamburger SV [Agg] [Montpellier win 3 – 0 on penalties] (Intertoto Cup)
    • 2000: VFB Stuttgart 3 – 1 Auxerre [Agg] (Intertoto Cup)
    • 2002: VFB Stuttgart 2 – 1 Lille [Agg] (Intertoto Cup)

Expected Line-Ups

Bayern: Boateng is doubtful for the game. Davies appeared to pick up a knock in training but is likely to be ok. Bayern have played the same line-up in their 3 previous UCL encounters.

1-4-2-3-1: Neuer, Kimmich, Sule, Alaba, Davies, Goretzka, Perisic, Muller, Gnabry, Lewandowski.

Paris Saint-Germain: Goalkeeper Navas was injured against Atalanta and remains a doubt for the game.

1-4-3-3: Rico, Kehrer, Kimpembe, Silva, Bernat, Herrera, Marquinhos, PAredes, Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar.

Did You Know?

  • This is the 4th Champions League final where both teams were looking to secure a treble. The previous 3:
    • 1999: Manchester United 2 – 1 Bayern Munich
    • 2010: Inter 2 – 0 Bayern Munich
    • 2015: Barcelona 3 – 1 Juventus

Predictions

Here’s how 3 of our pundits think the game will go.

Sebastien (@Footballirlande)

2 – 1 PSG.

For the first time since 1998, the Champions League final will feature two teams who entered the competition as domestic champions, a reminder to the old version of the European Cup before 1992 when only the champion of each league where allowed. This is a hard prediction to call. The Bavarians have won 28 of the 29 last matches. Robert “The scoring machine” Lewandowski has scored 34 in the Bundesliga 15 in the Champions League (so far). Against Lyon in semi-final he did not provide his best match but still had his name on the scoresheet. Bayern has impressed as a team and individually. Not only the Polish striker but Thomas Muller, 30 years old is still a poison for the defense, Serge Gnabry demolished the Lyon defense on Wednesday and supersonic Alphonso Davis, only 19 years old and already one of the best left back in the world. PSG have hammered Leipzig in semi-final. This game looked like a last 16 of French cup against Ligue 2 side. Unfortunately for the neutral TV viewers Leipzig suffered from a lack of experience. For the final, how can Bayern’s centrer back’s duo Boateng-Sule or Boateng-Alaba could stop the fantastic triumvira Mbappe, Neymar, Di Maria? Lyon did have their chance, showing that Bayern are not indestructible.

Rodg

4 – 2 Bayern or 3 – 2 PSG

This game will ultimately come down to who’s defence comes out on top. Likely to be a much more exciting final than last year and I do expect goals from both especially if their stars continue the form they are in. Neymar is probably the best player between the teams and if he shows up I think Bayern won’t be able to stop him especially if they defend like they did against Lyon. Bayern have a mental edge and I think will shade it but if PSG are inspired defensively or set up tactically perfect and make no defensive mistakes I think they will come out on top. There should be at least 5 goals though so sit back and enjoy.

Editors Note:

Everybody In The Office Thinks Rodg Is A Wanker For Sitting On The Fence

Ron

5 – 3 Bayern

The most obvious thing I can say is there will be goals. There is no way this is going to be a boring 0 – 0. Bayern are far from indestructible, and PSG will cause them problems. They coughed up chances against Lyon, which Mbappe or Neymar would likely put away. Mbappe in particular could cause problems with his pace against Bayern’s defense. However, the Germans are very well organised and have more quality around the park. Kimmich and Davies provide threat out wide, Muller is unplayable right now, and Lewangoalski can’t stop scoring. PSG have scored in their previous 34 UCL games, a goal here would set a new record for goals in consecutive games at major UEFA European tournaments. Bayern will benefit from German proficiency, they’ve had more time to prepare, whereas PSG had to play two cup finals and then 2 quick knockout games. This feels like it could be either of these sides’ year, but Bayern look ominous. PSG may go in front at some stage, but Bayern are set-up better and can out work the French champions in midfield. It may well be a classic.

PSG vs Bayern Munich: Champions League Final Preview and Prediction
(Image: SportCo.io)

Kick-off is at 8pm. We’ll have updates throughout the evening.

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A Chance For A Reset

The Global Pandemic has brought about unprecedented havoc on the rugby world. I remember being at Leinster vs Lyon in the champions Cup last January, and it all seemed so straight forward. The season would go on until June (later than usual due to the World Cup), then there would be the usual internationals, break preseason, everything starts again, Autumn internationals, Six Nations, normal season, lions tour, and so on. We go all go for a pint or a coffee or a non-stimulating beverage afterwards and talk rugby. But unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way.

Rugby World Cup Fixtures: The Japan 2019 match schedule
(Image: World Rugby)

The Pro14 season will resume about 2 months after it was supposed to have ended. The will be two rounds of games, then on to the semi-finals of the league and the knockouts of the Champions Cup. In fact there will be plenty of rugby in Autumn with the Six Nations, the Rugby Championship, and this new tournament involving the 6 nations sides and Fiji and Japan. But this may be the wake up call that was needed for World Rugby.

Revamped Internationals

The Six Nations is outdated, and the Rugby Championship is too small. There’s are potential fixes to both those issues.

Knock down the ring fence around the Six Nations and open it up to other European sides. That doesn’t mean kick Italy out, more likely it means add two teams and make it the 8 Nations. I’ve written about this before for Harpin’ On Rugby. The most progressive way forward is to expand the top tier of European Rugby and have promotion and relegation, both automatic and through play-offs. That way different teams get a sample of life at the top table. As for World Cup Qualification, the top teams that don’t automatically qualify can meet in a round-robin tournament in June or November. This also allows for greater player-rotation.

As for the Rugby Championship, it looks like part of that will be addressed. Japan and Fiji are set to be added, in a long overdue expansion. The next step should be adding a 2nd tier. Canada, USA, Tonga, and Samoa made up the Pacific Nations previously, while Hong Kong and Namibia are the next best Asian and African teams respectively. Those 6 teams could play-off in a 2nd tier, with the Rugby Americas Championship (which does have a 2nd tier), the Asians Championship, and Rugby Africa Cup (which is also tiered) acting as qualifiers. The top 2 Americas teams (outside of Argentina XV) get into this 2nd tier, there could be a play-off between the net best Asian and Oceania team, and the winners of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup could qualify. The winner of this 2nd tier could play the bottom side in the Rugby Championship for a place at the top table. This way more teams have a route to top level rugby.

As for yearly internationals, they should be varied. A quarter of a top tiers teams test matches should be against Tier 2 or lower opposition. When Ireland go to one of the big Southern Hemisphere Nations, they should play against another side outside of the top tier 2. Then in November, instead of playing a Six Nations side, play a Rugby Europe team. Smaller teams need more game time and top level exposure. But how do we fit in domestic rugby.

Sort Out The Leagues

The Pro14 really is a global competition. But it needs some improvements. Every team should play an even number of games for starters in the regular season. I’d propose a 10-team league, with the top 6 going to the knockouts. That’s 18 games. Then we have a 2nd tier with teams from around Europeans smaller rugby nations, and the bottom 4 Pro14 sides. I’d recommend the same for the Premiership and Top14 too. Smaller leagues ultimately mean more games.

What about derbies? It would be possible to have some weeks spare for the Pro14 sides to still play enough derbies each season, have an Irish cup, a Welsh Cup, and a Scottish and Italian Cup. If not, have them play in the preseason.

Open Up Europe

I’m sure that heading will get some fiery comments by people who don’t realize this is a rugby article.

The Continental Shield was scrapped, meaning we are now without a 3rd tier. Why not use this as an opportunity to revamp European Rugby. Make 20 teams 24 again, have 6 from emerging European rugby nations (such as Georgia, Russia, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Germany). Comparing it to football, one of the best parts of the European Cup is the away trips.

Same with the 2nd tier, 24 teams, 6 pools of 4, the teams from the big 3 leagues and some emerging teams. Then add a third tier, with the remaining/newly promoted teams in the big leagues and the rest of the top Emerging European teams. That way the European Cup truly becomes a continental competition.

Take On The World

The World Cup needs changing too. An even number of teams in each group would be a start. And again, a second tier competition. That way the competition could still have midweek games without unfair turnarounds.

There’s a lot there and it’ll take time. But rugby needs to become a real global game, rather than a game that’s played in different parts of the globe.

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