Bayern Munich v PSG: Tight repeat of 2020 final on cards
For all the attacking talent on show, a cagey affair is likely at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night, writes James Eastham...
For Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowski is absent. Serge Gnabry is expected to start as the central striker, with Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller (pictured below) and ex-PSG man Kingsley Coman behind him.
Four automatic starters are ruled out for PSG: right-back Alessandro Florenzi, left-back Juan Bernat (absent all season), plus midfielders Leandro Paredes and Marco Verratti. Colin Dagba and Thilo Kehrer are competing to start at right back. Danilo Pereira, Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye and Rafinha are the contenders for two or three positions in midfield.
Visitors' safety-first approach
This, of course, is a repeat of last season's final, and there are clues in the way that game unfolded eight months ago for what we might see at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night.
It's easily forgotten now but many observers - and certainly the betting markets - expected an open showdown when the sides met in Lisbon. Before kick-off in the 2020 final Over 3.5 Goals was trading at around evens.
From the cagey start onwards it was clear the expectation for goals was far too high. And so it turned out, with Coman's 59th-minute winner the only strike on the night.
We can't say for sure that this game will also have just one goal - or who will win this time - but there are several reasons to believe another tight affair is on the cards.
The first reason is that PSG are considering using a 4-3-3 system. This would mean the visitors sacrificing one of the four attacking players they normally field.
Latest reports suggest that Angel Di Maria may start on the bench so that PSG can get an extra midfielder on the pitch. Portugal international Danilo Pereira may play as the holding man, with Idrissa Gueye and either Ander Herrera or Rafinha either side of him.
The presence in attack of Moise Kean, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar would ensure PSG remain dangerous, but there would clearly be an element of damage limitation to Paris' thinking if they employ a 4-3-3 formation.
PSG's cautious back four
The second factor pointing towards a low-scoring encounter is PSG's full-backs. With Florenzi, Bernat and Bernat's natural understudy Layvin Kurzawa all ruled out, PSG will be forced to field one and possibly two more defensive-minded full-backs than they normally do.
On the right, youth graduate Dagba, who likes pushing forward, is an option. Manager Mauricio Pochettino, however, is likelier to opt for the more cautious Kehrer.
On the left, Abdou Diallo - like Kehrer, more of a centre-back than right-back - is an almost certain starter. He carries the ball forward fairly smoothly, but is more likely that absent duo Bernat and Kurzawa to take an instinctively protective approach.
For Bayern, the absence of Lewandowski obviously increases the chances of a low-scoring encounter. Other players in the home ranks can find the net, but the Poland front man is so dangerous and has other players running off him so effectively that Bayern are bound to be more predictable in the opposition half without him.
Low goals the smart selection
Taking all factors into account it's a surprise to see the Goal Lines set as high as they are.
Under 3.0 Goals is available at around evens. Given PSG's likely team selection and Lewandowski's absence this seems a good-value selection.
Bayern are 2.00 to win on the night, with PSG 3.8 and The Draw 4.0. These prices look about right, as does the 1.83 on Bayern to qualify. PSG are 2.18 to make it into the semi-finals.
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