We have finally arrived at the main event for club football every year, the Champions League Final. It took us a long time to get to this memorable day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the round of 16 was completed in early August instead of mid-March. Each match since the round of 16 has taken place in Lisbon without fans as will the Final, which was originally supposed to take place in Istanbul. The two clubs competing for the top prize in club football: Paris Saint-Germain versus Bayern Munich.
PSG is playing in their first ever UCL Final. They broke the transfer world record in 2018 by acquiring Brazilian superstar Neymar for 222 million euros. They also bought young winger Kylian Mbappe, who had just won the World Cup, for 180 million euros. They bought these players to bring UCL glory back to Paris, however, it did not happen immediately. In 2018, Neymar suffered an injury in league play and lost in the round of 16 5-2 to the eventual champions, Real Madrid. A year later, Neymar was injured again in leg two of the round of 16 as they blew a 3-1 lead to Manchester United and lost 3-3 on away goals.
Despite rumors of Neymar leaving last summer, he stayed put and has been healthy for PSG’s run to the UCL Final in 2020. After comfortably advancing in the group stage, PSG faced adversity in the round of 16. They lost 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund in Germany as young phenom Erling Haaland scored a brace. PSG returned home and shut out Dortmund, winning 2-0 and advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016. The quarterfinals were even tougher as the UCL went to a one-match format for the quarter and semifinals. They fell behind the Cinderella Atalanta squad 1-0 in the first half and were still trailing 1-0 in the 90th minute.
It looked like another lost campaign for PSG in the UCL. However, Mbappe was subbed on in the second half and gave the club a fighting chance. Neymar and Mbappe set up defender Marquinhos for the equalizer in the 90th minute. Minutes later, Neymar found striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for the stoppage-time winner in the 93rd minute.
PSG had no such issues in the semifinals, dispatching RB Leipzig 3-0 and advancing to their first ever UCL Final. Neymar has delivered on PSG’s investment and veteran playmaker, Angel Di Maria, continues to cement himself as a club legend with a goal and two assists vs RB Leipzig. They have a lethal front line with a dependable goalkeeper in three-time UCL winner Keylor Navas.
PSG’s opponent in the Champions League Final is five-time UCL winner in Bayern Munich.
Bayern last won the competition in 2013 as they defeated Dortmund 2-1 on a late winner from club legend Arjen Robben. Dortmund had the services of current Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski who joined Bayern a year later. Lewandowski has been arguably the best player in the world this season in a year where the Ballon d’Or will not be presented due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has scored 55 goals with 10 assists in all competitions this season.
Bayern have needed him as they have had to weather some storms this season. On Nov. 2, 2019, Bayern lost 5-1 to mid-table Bundesliga club in Eintracht Frankfurt and manager Niko Kovac was promptly sacked after the match. They were four points behind the Bundesliga leaders in Borussia Monchengladbach and looking weaker than usual. Bayern instead dominated their way through the league, winning every match after play resumed in May to capture their eighth-straight Bundesliga title, a testament to the work of new manager Hansi Flick.
In the UCL knockout round, Bayern has encountered little resistance. They dominated Chelsea 7-1 in the round of 16, a tie where the matches took place over five months apart. Bayern dominated Barcelona 8-2 in the quarterfinals, a match reminding many of Germany’s domination of Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semifinals. Despite giving up early chances vs Lyon in the semifinals, Bayern still won easily 3-0 with a brace from Serge Gnabry. Lewandowski has reached his first UCL Final as a Bayern player, looking to win his first UCL championship.
This match is a battle between the German and French champions. Bayern is an all-around machine with Lewandowski, a dependable midfield with dangerous winger and a solid backline. Leftback Alphonso Davies has already cemented himself as the best fullback in the world at 19-years old. His battle vs Kylian Mbappe will go a long way to determining the result of this match.
The biggest battle will be Bayern’s backline vs PSG’s front line. PSG relies on Neymar, Mbappe and Di Maria to be the playmakers and goal scorers in their attack. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and defenders Davies, Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng will have their hands full vs the speed and creativity of PSG’s attack.
On the other side, PSG captain Thiago Silva and the rest of their backline will have the tough task of defending Bayern’s lethal attack. This will be Silva’s last match for PSG after eight years with the club.
This match will be a special one for all to witness. I believe this match will be decided in extra time. Bayern’s backline will hold just enough from Lewandowski to bury the winner in ET and Bayern win their sixth Champions League trophy.
Prediction: Bayern 2 PSG 1