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Bayern Munich eliminate PSG as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe struggle

Jan 16, 2024Jan 16, 2024

BAYERN MUNICH 2-0 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (3-0 on aggregate): Goals from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry sealed another pitiful Champions League exit from PSG

Goals from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry saw Bayern Munich advance into the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of an underwhelming Paris Saint-Germain.

The first half was a dull affair between two sides playing without risk. That was until Bayern goalkeeper Yann Sommer – signed in January after Manuel Neuer's broken leg – tried and failed to beat Achraf Hakimi and gave the ball straight to Vitinha, who shot into what appeared to be an empty net, but Matthijs de Ligt slid in excellently to block it on the line.

Bayern thought they had the lead after the break when Choupo-Moting flicked on a cross into the net but the move was ruled offside after Thomas Muller attempted – seemingly unsuccessful – to get the final touch.

The Cameroon striker did not have to wait long for his goal, tapping home after Marco Verratti was dispossessed inside his own penalty area before Bayern worked the ball into the striker to score. There was no response from the visitors, as Gnabry added a late second to seal the win. Here are five talking points from an action-packed night in Munich.

Kylian Mbappe missed the first hour of the first leg and without their star striker, the side were too pedestrian and lacking both pace and directness in attack. His introduction in Paris ensured his side finally enjoyed an attacking threat in a microcosm illustrating that he was their most important player.

Beyond his ability to score goals, Mbappe's presence entirely changed the shape of the game. The threat of his pace in attack ensured Bayern's defence sat deeper, giving PSG greater territory and time on the ball.

The striker is arguably the greatest footballer on the planet and PSG, despite all their other talents, quite simply are not on the same level without him on the pitch.

A great deal was made of the fact that Neymar would sit out the remainder of the campaign through injury and how this would impact PSG.

Naturally, the loss of the Brazilian limits their attacking possibilities but arguably his absence gave greater balance to the side. Boss Christophe Galtier switched from his normal 4-3-3 formation to a 3-5-2, beefing up the midfield with more solidity throughout.

Mbappe and Messi are two players who do little tracking back in defensive transitions, of which Neymar is also guilty of. Having three players not doing a ‘job’ has too often left PSG short in Europe in recent seasons.

PSG will not celebrate Neymar's absence but it is undeniable that they were a more functional and dependable side without such an imbalance between the front three and the rest of the side.

For Paris Saint-Germain, domestic success is a given but when it comes to judging managers – it is their progress on the European stage which is the true measure.

Having meekly been eliminated from the Coupe de France by Marseille last month and stuttering performances in the league, the pressure was on Christophe Galtier – who was only appointed in the PSG hotseat last summer.

Such is the club's economic advantage domestically, it is the Champions League knockout stages which are the season-defining games for the club. While PSG have never won the Champions League, that is their main objective, and not coming close could well prompt their hierarchy to start the search for Galtier's replacement at the end of the current campaign.

Between 2013 and 2016, Paris Saint-Germain reached the quarter finals of the Champions League in four successive seasons. It appeared that it was only a matter of time until they made the breakthrough and won their first European title.

Fast forward seven years and that still has not happened, despite PSG reaching their (only) final in 2020 and being eliminated in the last four the following season. This was the fifth time in seven seasons that they had been eliminated at the Round of 16.

Quite simply, considering the money they have spent, this represents a fairly abject failure and despite their relative dominance in Ligue 1 – that is a reflection of the barbaric financial imbalance from which they benefit. This was just the latest in a long line of European failures.

Paris Saint-Germain have an imbalanced squad, with six players over the age of 30 and multiple teenagers fleshing out their bench.

Sergio Ramos, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Marco Verratti, Danilo Pereira and Juan Bernat are now all in an age bracket which is unlikely to see any immediate improvement, while teenagers El Chadaille Bitshiabu and Warren Zaire Emery were among the substitutes.

There have been calls for years for PSG to have more of a playing identity, built on Parisian talent and less ego-centric. With months of the current season remaining ahead of the summer, there is ample time for the club to identify players to sign – and also those to depart a desperately bloated squad.