With a matchup as good as PSG-Bayern Munich in a game as big as the Champions League final, we have an array of options for preview content.
In addition to the previews from both the Bayern perspective (coming soon!) and the PSG side of things, it’s fascinating to think about who we’d start in a combined XI.
This will be one of the most difficult combined XIs we’ve put together, but also one of the most enjoyable. Or at least I hope it’s not agonizing, as there are no simple answers to questions like, “Which three players do you start up top when your options include Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry?”
Manager: Hansi Flick (barely)
First of all, he wins the all-important first name debate by a mile. Hansi>Thomas every day of the week.
As for their actual coaching jobs this season, both deserve all the praise in the world. While Bayern has dominated Germany for who knows how long, they were not themselves a year ago. Since Flick took over for Niko Kovac in early November, they’ve been absolutely terrifying, and their consistency has been remarkable. The only way to be this heavily favored against a team as good as PSG (Bayern are +110 to PSG’s +210) is to be playing out of this world.
Thomas Tuchel has impressed in his own right. He has managed a team under arguably more pressure than anyone – Man City would probably like a word, but still – to a romp through group play, followed by wins over Borussia Dormund, Atalanta and RB Leipzig. There are no pushovers in UCL knockout play, but it’d be hard to argue that they’ve had an easy path. Speaking of “not easy,” we shouldn’t downplay all the rust they had to shake off from March to August after Ligue 1 never resumed.
It was a tough call to go with Flick, but he gets the nod (the tiebreaker may or not have been the first name thing).
The formation is a 4-3-3.
Keeper: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Despite his back line giving both Barcelona and Lyon a ton of opportunities, Bayern gave up just two goals total over the last 180 minutes. Neuer deserves a ton of credit for that. It also helps the decision-making process here that Keylor Navas is injured and may or may not suit up on Sunday.
Back line: left back Alphonso Davies (Bayern), centerbacks Thiago Silva (PSG) and Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), right back Joshua Kimmich (Bayern).
This is the one area of the field where the decisions weren’t terribly difficult. Alphonso Davies and Thiago Silva are both undeniably world-class.
I went back and forth between PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe and David Alaba, but gave a slight edge to Kimpembe due to A) Alaba’s early-game catastrophe of an own-goal vs. Barcelona and B) the fact that PSG have given up far fewer opportunities than Bayern in the quarters and semis.
Kimmich is one of a number of terrifying options at Flick’s disposal, and his versatility is outstanding. PSG’s Thilo Kehrer, 23, has a bright future, but it’d be hard to justify selecting him ahead of Kimmich.
Midfield: Angel di Maria (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Thomas Muller (Bayern)
Both in the midfield and up top, there are way more players for these two teams than spots available. So I had to get creative here. Di Maria, 32, has reminded us all in the last two games of his class, so while there’s no space for him up top, we’re slotting him in our attack-minded midfield.
Marquinhos doesn’t get quite as much love as Neymar or Mbappe, but he is in this lineup without a second thought.
Muller has been turning in monster performances in huge games for an eternity, and you can’t say enough about how dangerous he and Lewandowski are in tandem. Also, the man had 21 (!!) assists in the Bundesliga this year.
Forwards: Mbappe (PSG), Lewandowski (Bayern), Neymar (PSG)
With di Maria and Muller in the midfield, this ended up being pretty easy after all. There aren’t many combined lineups that wouldn’t feature Serge Gnabry right now, but I feel good about this trio. Lewandowski has had one of the best scoring seasons in the sport’s history. Neymar and Mbappe are both, at worst, among the top 10 players in the world. There’s a case they’re both in the top five, but now’s not the time for that argument.
Summary (and prediction time!)
Counting the manager, the 12 men on this list are perfectly split between PSG and Bayern. This game has coin flip written all over it, in my opinion, and this absurd lineup reflects that.
The pick: If the line was less skewed, I’d go with Bayern, but I can’t overstate how tempting PSG is at +210 — screw it, I’ll go with PSG to win outright (I think they’ll make Bayern pay for their defensive riskiness/sloppiness). I’m going with the Parisians to finally raise a UCL trophy in a 3-2 win.