We have finally arrived. After having the competition paused thanks to the coronavirus, the time has come to anoint a new champion in what is arguably the most prestigious tournament in the world. Before the game kicks off (3 p.m. ET in the USA), here’s a quick primer to bring you up to speed.
The final match will be played at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon, Portugal. Changes were made to the format of the tournament in light of the pandemic. Quarterfinal and semifinal matches, normally a two-leg tie, were changed to a “win and move on” format. Beginning with the quarters, all matches were played between two stadiums in Portugal. This mirrors moves by other leagues (like the NHL and NBA) to create a bubble type venue to limit potential exposure to and spreading of the virus.
The last two teams standing hail from Germany and France. FC Bayern Munich is a perennial European powerhouse. They’re the winningest club in the German Bundesliga and regularly work their way deep into the tournament. Despite that consistency, an appearance in the Final has eluded them for the last 7 years, when they defeated German rival Borussia Dortmund to lift the trophy in 2013.
Their opponents are debutantes at this ball, having never reached the Final in their rich club history. Paris Saint-Germain has dominated Ligue 1 recently, winning the title 7 of the last 9 seasons (finishing as runners up the other times). It took them 110 games in this competition to finally earn a chance at glory.
How They Got Here:
Bayern stomped their way to this match, winning every time they took the field. They scored 42 goals while only conceding 8. Only once in the entire tournament did they fail to score at least 3 goals, and three separate times they managed to score 6 or more. The pause in action because of the pandemic didn’t slow them down at all. When games resumed in August, they picked up right where they had left off. They finished off Chelsea 4-1 (7-1 on aggregate), utterly embarrassed Barcelona 8-2, and took care of Lyon 3-0 in the semi-final to punch their ticket. Many consider them to be the most dominant team in Europe at the moment.
While not as dominant as their German competition, PSG managed to handle the run-up to this final with aplomb themselves. They only dropped points in two matches (a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid and a 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Round of 16 match). In their final match before the competition was paused, they rallied to defeat Dortmund 2-0, securing their advancement 3-2 on aggregate. Once the action picked up again, they took care of Atalanta and RB Leipzig – earning them their first Final appearance, and today’s date with Bayern Munich.
What to Watch For:
First and foremost – GOALS.
Many people (particularly in the US) complain that they don’t like soccer because it’s a low scoring sport. Given the firepower of these two sides, a 0-0 scoreline likely won’t last long. The German strike force is led by Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski. Together, they’re already the most prolific scoring duo in tournament history. Lewandowski would tie Ronaldo’s single-competition scoring record with two goals and would have the record all to himself with a hat trick. The Parisian side has a pretty impressive attacking threat as well. Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi lead the team with 5 goals each in the tournament, and they’re joined by players like Neymar and Angel Di Maria in the attack.
David vs. Goliath
Will newcomer PSG be able to “slay the beast”? Given the difference in experience between these two sides in this game, it will be interesting to see how this will play out. The defense for PSG has been stout all throughout the tournament, but will it be up to the challenge? Since the team was bought by Qatari Sports Investments, their main focus has been securing this title. While proving dominant domestically, the club and its owners are desperate to make their mark on the UEFA stage as well. Now is their chance to do just that.
So – who ya got?
Full disclosure. I’m a Manchester United fan, so I haven’t been paying TOO much attention to this competition this season. However, I tuned in enough to know that it has all the ingredients necessary to make for an exhilarating, competitive final match. Personally, I’ll be watching for the most “meme-able” Neymar moment. (Side note – the dude can flat out play, there’s no denying it. Hopefully, he’ll just go out and do that, and maybe his reputation will finally primarily be about his talent and not his histrionics). In the end, I think I’d have to give the edge to Bayern Munich. I just think their momentum and dominance coming into the match will be too much for the French side. I think Lewandowski will draw even with Ronaldo for the goal-scoring lead, and we’ll spend the rest of the match on the edge of our seats, waiting to see if he’ll claim it for his own. Final score: 3-1 Bayern.
Enjoy the game!
- / 12 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.