The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League took a hiatus in early November, shortly before the start of the World Cup and there has been a lull for more than two months now. The Champions League, inarguably Europe’s greatest competition returns to almost half a billion viewers and millions of screens in less than a month from now.
A tournament which never fails to deliver, the Champions League has always been full of surprises and no doubt, this current spell is no exception.
So far in this edition of the Champions League, the back of the net has been found 304 times in 96 matches, averaging 3.17 goals per game, with Paris Saint Germain’s Kylian Mbappe and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah sitting at the top of the goalscoring charts with seven goals each.
On the back of a quite interesting Round of 16 draw in November, the entire football universe is set to experience some sensational match-ups in February and March. A couple of heavyweight fixtures have been thrown up for this round of Europe’s most illustrious tournament.
Defending champions and 14-time winners, Real Madrid, are heavily in the mix, as they look to add the quinzième UEFA Champions League to their trophy gallery in either Real Madrid City or the Santiago Bernabeu when they take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, a remake of the 2022 final in Saint-Denis.
This series will look at the next round of matchups!
PSG vs Bayern Munich
Our sincere apologies for not initiating the list with this real blockbuster. We’ve seen this a couple of times, in the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League campaign in Group B, in the 2019-20 final, Bayern prevailing 1-0, in the 2020-21 quarter finals, PSG getting the better of the Bavarians to reach the last four. And we’d yet see two amazing fixtures on Valentine’s Day(February 14) and International Women’s Day(March 8).
Bayern are quite a different side considering the egress of their quintessential goal scorer from Germany this season, Robert Lewandowski. But Julian Nagelsmann’s men are a pack of hungry warriors. They dismantled Barcelona twice in the group stages( 2-0 and 3-0), despite the heavy revamping of the Blaugrana squad at the start of the campaign, had no problem easing past Inter and had a cakewalk with two assuring victories over Viktoria Plzen.
Bayern are not the side to be daunted in the face of challenges as large as Paris Saint Germain. A well rounded attack consisting of Musiala, Sane, Mane, Muller and Gnabry coupled with the tactical genius of Julian Nagelsmann could prove really helpful here.
Paris Saint Germain
Paris Saint Germain had no problem trouncing Maccabi Haifa twice and balking Juventus on both home and away ground. Two draws against Benfica was enough to secure top spot for the French champions.
Paris Saint Germain are a fine side marching into the latter stages of the competition with some much vigour and gusto.
They had the greatest say, the biggest impact at the just concluded World Cup in Qatar few months ago, with two of their players, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, undoubtedly standing out from the rest of the pack. PSG often crumble when it comes to moments like this, they often fall short but pragmatically speaking, if the individual geniuses of these players could be effectively combined, then defeating the Bavarians should be very much achievable for Les Parisiens.
The two colossi have met on eleven occasions in the UEFA Champions League. With a somewhat balanced result between both sides, Paris Saint Germain have six wins while the Bavarians have five in the bag. No encounter between these two teams in the Champions League has ever ended without a winner, which means we would get to see two really intriguing, spine-tingling match-ups between the Champions of France and the Champions of Germany.
Players to watch for:
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint Germain)
Kylian Mbappe is undoubtedly the biggest name in France this season. Alongside his exemplary performance at Qatar where he scored eight goals to almost single-handedly hand France the trophy, the 24-year old has been sensational for PSG this season.
Mbappe boasts 20 goals in 23 matches for Les Parisiens this spell, the highest goalscorer for the club and plays the most crucial role to Pochettino’s side. He’s an indisposable part of the Argentine tactician’s weaponry come the Round of 16 on February 14.
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Lionel Messi (Paris Saint Germain)
Having hit the rocks in his maiden season at the French capital, the Argentine maestro has gradually regained his form at Paris Saint Germain this season where he has scored 13 times in 21 appearances, a commendable figure for a player who doesn’t play the role of a finisher.
Messi’s tally of 13 means he has already surpassed his lacklustre 11 goals in 34 appearances from last season. The seven time Ballon d’Or winner has found the back of the net four times in the Champions League this season, having played every single group stage fixture for the French club.
If Messi forms a formidable partnership with Kylian Mbappe an Neymar, they could wreak real havoc on the Bayern defense and Julian Nagelsmann’s men at large.
Neymar(Paris Saint Germain)
Joining his two colleagues, Neymar would complete a wonderful attacking trident that even the best defence would be scared of facing. Definitely, the Brazilian has not made as much impact this season as Mbappe or probably even Messi, but still he has 15 goals to his name in 23 appearances, two ahead of Messi’s season tally.
And if his injury crisis doesn’t show up again as it typically does when it’s about this period of the year, we should see the 30-year old cause a lot of headaches for the likes of Alphonso Davies.
Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich)
A teenager with so much guts, Jamal Musiala is Bayern Munich and Germany’s Kylian Mbappe. He could very well be the future of the team. Musiala looks to be making steady progress, coming gradually through the ranks to becoming one of Bayern’s most lethal attacking forces.
The attacking midfielder has scored 12 times for the Bavarians this season in 22 appearances, despite being only nineteen years old. He is however yet to score in the Champions League this season where Bayern have scored a total of 18 goals. Musiala’s days of “teenage adolescence” end barely two weeks after the first leg in Parc Des Princes and perhaps turning twenty could be his cue to reaching new heights for Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
At least that’s about where Erling Haaland started.
Leroy Sane(Bayern Munich)
Sane has played a sizeable role in filling up the gap left behind by Robert Lewandowski due to his summer move to Barcelona.
Ranked as the club’s fourth highest goalscorer this spell behind Musiala, Choupo Moting and Sadio Mane, Sane has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances for Bayern this season, including four in the Champions League despite missing two games against Barcelona and Inter Milan respectively; and five in all competitions, due to a torn muscle fibre.
Sane would no doubt be a key player in the Bavarians attempt to oust the French powerhouse when they lock horns next month.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images