Soccer

Champions League bold predictions: Chelsea find their goals, Bayern Munich play it safe, a surprise champion

We have returned! Three and a half months after the Champions League went into dormancy, Europe’s premier club competition returns on Tuesday with a string of matches headlined by Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern (you can follow all the action on CBS and Paramount+). Here’s what we’re looking for in some of the games this week, as well as an attempt to predict who will win it all.

PSG – Bayern: the Bavarians are reinsured

The Champions League returns on Tuesday with perhaps the most incomprehensible draw yet. For starters, between one and three of Paris Saint-Germain’s legendary attacking tridents could take to the pitch at the Parc des Princes, and the status of both Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi, who returned to training on Monday, is hung with question marks. . Neymar may be available, but in recent form it is very difficult to be sure what version of the attacking midfielder PSG will see.

They’re up against a Bayern side that tends to shy away from mundane things like a consistent tactical formula under Julian Nagelsmann, a head coach who can’t resist fiddling with lineups at European matches. Now that he has Joao Cancelo, Europe’s most positionally versatile defender, just imagine the form he could create with the ball. However, for both Nagelsmann and Christophe Galtier, the stakes are so high that experimentation for the sake of experimentation seems like an all-powerful gamble. The side that emerges victorious from this tie will immediately enter the top ranks of the opponents. The loser will plunge into a great existential crisis, perhaps one that ends in restructuring and a new coach in the dugout.

If that’s not enough to worry about Zabenerstrasse then think about what happened the last time they crossed paths with Mbappe, whose return to training was exactly as Nagelsmann predicted. Undoubtedly, the memories of the Frenchman’s visit to Munich in the spring of 2021 did not fade when situations like this, when Bayern huddled in front of PSG’s defensive line, waiting for the moment when the lock could be picked …

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Bayern squeezed PSG in their third, waiting for the right pass.

Scout/Sky Sport

…became the sheer horror of Mbappé rushing into the open field, one misplaced pass from Bayern was enough to unleash a devastating three-man PSG counterattack. Even when the Bayern defense acted correctly in this case, they still could not stop the great man from scoring a goal. No wonder, this is his competition, these are the nights when Apex Mbappe goes hunting. Even if he is not fully, he is a threat that must be put up with.

Fortunately for Nagelsmann, however, his team has already shown the ability to adapt effectively in this competition in a way that PSG can deal what the Parisians dealt to Bayern two years ago. In their 3-0 group stage win over Barcelona this season, the Bavarians thrived on counterattacks and long passes aimed at Erik Maxim Choupo-Motinga, who was surrounded by runners like Sadio Mane ready to claim knockdowns. which he created. for them. Whether their hosts play with three or four defenders, behind PSG full-backs Nuno Mendez and Ashraf Hakimi there is sure to be room for Bayern attacking forwards.

It promises to be a tense, exciting, and possibly ultimately indecisive contest, with both sides as concerned with defending against opposing attackers as they are with using their own. A moment of magic from Messi, Mbappe, or whoever Nagglesman sees as his main counter-attacking entry could decide the outcome, but it seems just as likely that we’ll resume play at the Allianz Arena next month with everything still at stake.

Want more UCL coverage? Listen below and follow House of Championsthe CBS Sports football podcast with top-notch analysis, commentary, predictions and more.

Club Brugge v Benfica: Eagles push into the top eight

Other connections do not promise such a sharp fight. Club Brugge was a group stage fairy tale, rushing to the qualifying spot over four games, stunning Porto with a 4-0 away win and then sweeping past Atlético Madrid with the authority of seasoned European rivals. Their results in the Champions League were all the more remarkable given that they struggled to defend their title in the Pro League, losing to the likes of Standard Liege and Westerlo in an attempt to claw their way into the play-offs.

For that reason, the ax has fallen on the man who took Club Brugge out of the group stage, and Carl Hofkens has been replaced by Scott Parker, a head coach who is more familiar with running away from the championship than from the Champions League. The former Bournemouth and Fulham boss hasn’t been particularly eager to rise in the picturesque surroundings of Brugge: since he took over, he’s won once, lost once and drawn five.

Club Brugge’s Champions League performance looked like it would be difficult to replicate in Europe. Is Simon Mignolet the best shooting defender in Europe, as his expected result after shooting in the group stage would suggest? It seems unlikely, but it seems that even in Belgium they are not opponents to be feared. The same cannot be said for Benfica, who may have been relegated from Taca de Portugal by a penalty loss to Braga last week, but dominate the league where they have won their last four matches by 11 aggregate: 0. .

We have already seen that this team can transform domestic dominance into victory over the biggest teams, and the loss of Enzo Fernandez hardly seems to be reflected in their midfield. Further down the field, Gonzalo Guedes, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, made a brilliant start. In the meantime, every other European team will be watching with bated breath to see if Gonzalo Ramos, who averages a ridiculously 1.02 xG per 90 minutes in the Portuguese league, becomes the next big figure to come out of Luz Stadium (they should also keep an eye on Andreas Schelderup). All indications point to something very comprehensive in this regard.

Borussia Dortmund – Chelsea: scoring sadness begins to wane

With £110m spent on left wingers alone, it really shouldn’t be somewhat juicy to suggest that Chelsea can actually get the ball into the net, but we’re here looking at a side still behind Erling Haaland in the standings. Premier League scoring table. To make things a little worse (and this is just a little bit), Chelsea are returning to European games without a true senior striker in their squad, veteran Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has crashed out of the Champions League squad months after arriving to make room for three January signings.

It has been rather forgotten that Chelsea’s scoring problems date back before Graham Potter, that much of the excellent work Thomas Tuchel did during his appointment two years ago was to fix a holey defence. The German laid a solid foundation, but he never managed to expand the Blues’ attacking horizons, relying only on the skill of Rhys James and Mason Mount. Under Potter, the former was injured and the latter was severely out of shape, leaving him behind in a 1-1 draw against West Ham to Noni Madueque.

Chelsea insecure attack

90 minutes of Premier League

Player No penalty xG

Kai Havertz

0.35

Raheem Sterling

0.3

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

0.26

Christian Pulisic

0.2

Mason Mount

0.15

Benoit Badiashiel 0.15

But there is reason to hope that goals may come, and not just because the team that scored six goals with 11.1 xG shots after the World Cup was probably due to a bit of luck at the finish line. Borussia Dortmund’s defense may have looked stronger in their win over Werder Bremen, but it’s still a team that struggles to keep control of the game and can easily break through in transitional moments. It’s a bit of an issue when Chelsea have so many young players who can really shine in these scenarios very quickly, from Fernandez’s passing ability to the lightning-fast Mihail Mudrik through Joao Felix, who seems to thrive when the task of making quick decisions is on the go. .

Chelsea are still a long way from being a finished game in attack and that may only happen next season if the whole team hasn’t rebuilt yet when we see Potter come up with a plan that will allow the Blues to break the standard defence. . But for now, the players he has should be well-suited to dealing damage to this particular opponent.

Milan vs. Tottenham

Both of these teams are struggling and honestly who knows what Tottenham are going to produce considering their last two games have produced a crushing 1-0 victory over one of the favorites of this tournament and an absolute master class failure with 4-1 loss to Leicester City. Meanwhile, Milan snapped a four-match losing streak with a 1-0 win over Torino at the weekend. Can one of these teams meet on Tuesday? Milan seems like the more likely option. The Spurs lost midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur to injury and were left without Hugo Lloris in net, leaving them light and receptive in midfield, relying on Fraser Forster in net.

Spurs under Antonio Conte want to play conservative positional play and attack at speed. It’s pretty hard to do when you can’t stop the ball in midfield and you can’t stop it from getting into your own net.

And finally … how will this competition shake out

Reaching the last eight: Bayern Munich, Milan, Benfica,…



Source: www.cbssports.com

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