Not margin but manner of defeat should worry PSG

There are no doubts about Kylian Mbappe’s ability to change the course of football matches. The French forward almost did it again on Tuesday and there is a possibility he could do it in the return-leg match in Munich on March 8th. “The most important thing is to go there and qualify, and from what I saw, that’s possible,” he said after Paris St-Germain’s 0-1 loss at Parc des Princes.

However, PSG should be concerned about how lackluster they looked before Mbappe came on. Bayern Munich currently holds a slender lead, and this time there are no away goals to rely on. A lot has to change for PSG to progress further in the Champions League.

PSG has a history of faltering in crucial moments. Barcelona, Manchester United, and Real Madrid have all benefited from PSG’s inability to close out Round of 16 games. In 2017, PSG had a 4-0 lead going into the return leg against Barcelona. Two years later, Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit, and last year, Karim Benzema scored a 17-minute hat-trick to secure a win for Real Madrid.

Gianluigi Donnarumma’s poor goalkeeping allowed Real Madrid to make a comeback last year. However, on Tuesday, Donnarumma made at least two good saves to deny Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Benjamin Pavard. Nevertheless, he should have collected Kingsley Coman’s volley in the 53rd minute. The goal scored by Bayern’s wingbacks, with an assist from Alphonso Davies, was reminiscent of Joshua Kimmich’s goal in the 8-2 rout of Barcelona in 2020.

Coman being left unmarked, Davies not under pressure, and Donnarumma’s sloppy goalkeeping summed up PSG’s performance that night. Things changed when Mbappe came on in the 57th minute, having recovered from a thigh tear sooner than expected.

Bayern had more possession of the ball and surprisingly ran more, nearly 8km more than PSG’s 110.4km, as per UEFA’s numbers. This was despite finishing the match with 10 men after Benjamin Pavard received a red card for a second booking.

Joao Cancelo and Coman comfortably switched play after Choupo-Moting had an early attempt that went over. PSG adopted a deep defensive stance, looking for a chance to counter-attack, but Neymar Jr’s inability to reach Marquinhos’ forward pass early on showed the difficulty they faced. This was despite Bayern deploying a high defensive line.

“We were a bit surprised by how much possession we had. We didn’t expect PSG to be so passive; it was a good first half,” said Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann. “The two times they really threatened, it was offside.” Both threats came from Mbappe, with one of them narrowly being called offside.

In 2023, PSG has already lost five of their last 12 games in all competitions, one more than they did in all of 2022. It can’t be said that they are struggling with the intensity of European nights, as they have also suffered defeats to Lens, Rennes, Marseille, and Monaco.

“Bayern really dominated us, and we struggled to maintain possession high up the pitch. The first half was very difficult for us,” said PSG manager Christophe Galtier. He is one defeat away from joining the list of managers, including Laurent Blanc, Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel, Carlo Ancelotti, and Mauricio Pochettino, who failed to secure the Champions League title for the club.

Galtier is the seventh manager since the Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took over in 2011. Coming into this game after defeats to Marseille (in the French Cup, also Round of 16) and Monaco, Galtier became the first PSG manager since 2011 to lose three games in a row.

Since the takeover, QSI has spent $1.1 billion on players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Messi, Sergio Ramos, Donnarumma, and Mbappe. It is worth noting that among those who left the club in search of more playing time was Coman, whose goal in the 2020 Champions League final denied PSG their victory.