By: Myles Herbert
For one to say that the 2020 Champions league final would be entertaining for a random spectator would be a bit of a stretch, but for those who truly love the beautiful game, unlike the rest of this year, this game was amazing. The final was as glamorous as it was ugly which was reflected in the score line. Although PSG clearly had a plan going into the match they were not able to overcome Bayern Munich and fell on the night 1-0.
Trying to test each other from the start
Both sides desperately tried to play out of the back from the very start with neither side backing down from the approach even though it clearly wasn’t working.
Although Les Parisiens sought to keep possession one detail which was very interesting was Neymar pressing from the opening whistle. This is not a role in which we usually see Neymar, usually playing a more passive one.
Tuchel instructed the Brazilian to do this in order to cut off Bayern’s ability to pass out of the back and cut off balls to very proficient passers such as Thiago, who still ended up having a pass accuracy of 88.2 per cent.
Although Bayern were able to play out of the press; they did not capitalize on this, only producing six shots in the first 45 minutes despite having 62.3 per cent of possession.
Paredes and Herrera also did a brilliant job in the first half of keeping possession and not getting overwhelmed by Kimmich, Goretzka and Thiago.
PSG lineup and general movement
Bayern lineup and general movement
PSG's trident movement
The most obvious tactic employed by PSG was the constant change in position and movement of Neymar, Mbappe and Di Maria/ Choupo-Moting. For all but three of their champions league games this year, a 4-3-3 was employed and for the final in Lisbon, it was no different.
With the loss of Cavani and that Icardi is not being favoured by Tuchel, there were no surprises for the front three that was selected. Throughout the game Di Maria stayed out wide on the right but the other two forwards kept switching. There were four times in the game that they shifted back and forth.
At kickoff Neymar started through the middle and Mbappe out on the left, presumably to take advantage of Kimmich’s lack of pace. The first switch noticed was at the 18th minute where the two swapped after Neymar’s tireless pressing in the opening stages of the match. Then, 12 minutes later they switched back after the press was less impactful with Mbappe leading the line and Bayern looking to be more comfortable.
In the second half Di Maria was finally involved with his teammates, this time taking up the left flank as Bayern left back Alphonso Davies was able to handle the Argentinian's trickery. Mbappe took his place to challenge the Canadian as PSG were desperately trying to produce chances.
The final change in positioning was in the 80th minute when ECM came on to replace Di Maria. Mbappe was played through the middle to close out the game with the thought that Neymar would have more time and space on the wings and be able to create or score the game tying goal.
Bayern’s key to victory
When attacking from the ground doesn’t work, the sky is your new best friend. As previously mentioned, from the first minute it was evident what Hansi Flick instructed his team to do.
Although Bayern controlled the game through this method, the chances were not coming for the Bavarian side at all through the first half an hour shown in the fact they were outshot 4-2. At this point they only completed four crosses as well, far from their end game total of 23.
When you have players who are so instinctual in the box such as Lewandowski and Muller, it is necessary to be able to put the ball in scoring opportunities even if they’re not as good as you would normally hope for.
Although it wasn’t the champions league leading scorer in Lewandowski or Muller who grabbed the game winning goal, it came off a cross in the 59th minute as Joshua Kimmich floated a beautiful ball in for Kingsley Coman at the back post to secure Bayern their sixth Champions League title.