It’s always a bittersweet moment for football fans when your team gets drawn against a fellow European heavyweight in the Champions League knockout rounds. On the one hand, you want your team to secure the easiest possible passage to the Final. But on the other hand, fans live for those special nights when two of the best teams on the continent collide.
That conflicting feeling would have been present among both PSG and Bayern Munich fans after the draw was made for the Last 16. That draw, which was made before the World Cup, might feel like a lifetime ago, but the doubleheader is not as far off as you might think: PSG will welcome Bayern to Parc des Princes on 14th August, with the return fixture at the Allianz Arena on 15th March.
Bayern favoured by bookies
The bottom line is that this match-up pits the second and third-favourites in the Champions League against each other. Man City have been given the nod as tournament favourites by all major bookmakers, whereas the football odds at William Hill currently quote 6/1 for Bayern Munich and 7/1 for PSG to win the trophy. As you might expect by those outright prices, that suggests Munich are favoured to progress after the two-legged tie, but it is only marginally so.
It feels like a tie that could be decided on the finest of margins. There are, of course, parallels between Munich and PSG that can impact the game. For instance, in years gone by both teams have been able to take their foot off the gas in their league campaigns in the spring to concentrate on Champions League fixtures due to holding such a commanding position. At the time of writing, neither has that luxury: PSG have Lens breathing down their necks, whereas Bayern Munich are fighting off a similar for in Freiburg. Will either coach take a gamble in resting players for the league campaign?
League campaigns could have an impact
Indeed, it’s worth noting that PSG have two ‘tough’ ties on either side of the 1st leg, facing Monaco away on the weekend before the Tuesday 14th tie at Parc des Princes and Lille at home a few days after. In the same fashion, Bayern will be looking at key league ties away to Borussia Monchengladbach directly after the 1st leg and RB Leipzig the Saturday after the 2nd leg. Both coaches will want to be in a commanding position in their respective league campaigns in order to focus fully on the Champions League.
Perhaps the main hope for Christophe Galtier will be the fitness of his preferred front three. We saw in the recent 3-1 defeat at Lens that not having two of the fabled threesome – Messi (returning from World Cup) and Neymar (suspension) – left PSG looking rather toothless up front. If they are all fit and firing come Valentine’s Day, the Paris faithful will go into the match full of confidence. And dare we say it, it will give Munich coach Julien Naglesmann a lot to worry about.
The bookmakers might slightly favour Bayern, but to many pundits this feels like a veritable toss-up. As mentioned, there seems to be many parallels between the two sides this season. Both have been playing well, top their divisions, and have a galaxy of stars to call upon. However, there have been moments of weakness for both Munich and PSG this season. Still, when two of the best clubs on the continent clash in early spring, the only thing we can be sure of is that the winning side will certainly be confident they can land the Champions League title in Istanbul in June.