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Bayern Munich have been knocked out of the Champions League by the team that they beat in last year's final. Defeat by PSG will only fuel speculation that Hansi Flick will leave Bayern to become the new Germany coach.
The implications of this defeat run deeper than Bayern Munich’s de-throning in the Champions League.
Flick will feel its effects acutely, running out of road just as the tectonic plates are shifting at the club he guided to an extraordinary sextuplet of trophies last season. Victory in Paris would have papered over the cracks of a nettlesome feud between Flick and Bayern’s sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, which has spilled into the open in recent weeks.
"My relationship with 'Brazzo' (Salihamidzic) is stable," Flick said after the game in Paris. "Nothing will change that. He has his job, I have mine. I will keep doing as I have done all season, which is why everything is stable."
Flick feels he’s earned the right to a greater say over transfers, with Salihamidzic threatened that such a move would limit his influence. And with Flick having already stated that the squad is weaker than last season – objectively true but also a thinly-veiled criticism of his colleague – the dynamic between two of the most important and opinionated figures at the club is under duress.
"I don't have an appointment with the Bayern board," Flick added. "If Oliver (Kahn) wants to talk to me then he can gladly do it. I don't know what he will want to talk about."
Defeat in Paris will do little to alleviate the tension at the top, particularly given that Flick has an immediate exit off the Autobahn. The soon-to-be-vacant Germany job offers an enticing alternative for Flick, a man well-known to the DFB (German Football Association).
The next few days and weeks should reveal whether Flick’s future lays with Bayern, the club he has taken to the pinnacle of European football, or the national team – but with Flick not distancing himself from the role as Joachim Löw’s successor, it would appear Flick may already know this result in Paris seals his fate.
"It's all about the development of the team, that is immensely important for me," Flick added during an impassioned four-minute post-game monologue in Paris. "I'm always thinking about that, because success is a constant process. With the six titles we won, we have set an incredible benchmark. Whether at the DFB or Bayern, the pressure is huge.
"Whether I'm at the DFB is irrelevant for my family. Whatever decision I make, they will support me. Having them behind me is a great feeling. I love the job and I can't imagine doing anything other than coaching."
On the field, the margins could barely have been finer in this gripping quarterfinal. Bayern traveled to Paris needing two goals without reply to keep the defense of their European crown on track. They got the first, but the second never came.
The callous efficiency in front of goal that punctuated PSG’s win in Munich a week ago was absent in the French capital. Neymar, a man who thrives in these high quality and intense contests, hit the bar and post within the space of three first half minutes - just before Bayern tilted this compelling clash back in their favor.
The goal came from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, the man with one of the most unenviable jobs in football: understudy to the best striker in the world. Robert Lewandowski’s absence was keenly felt by Bayern over the two games, but Choupo-Moting did his part with a goal in each leg. Unfortunately for Bayern, the attacking verve that usually accompanies their performances was also missing its supporting cast in Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka.
As it became increasingly clear that PSG wouldn’t score on the night, it simply became a case of whether Bayern would. With the game on a knife edge throughout, Leroy Sane produced one of his best performances in a Bayern shirt, but even his slaloming runs, killer deliveries and eye for goal couldn’t tip the scales. PSG and Mauricio Pochettino had their revenge.
Thank you for joining us tonight. I hope tomorrow is as good as tonight. Germany's European hopes are all on Borussia Dortmund now.
Bayern might have felt hard done by the referee tonight, but Benjamin Pavard knows who he is cheering for from now on in Europe this season.
Speaking of Flick, he has just done an interview with Sky in which his final answer last three to four minutes. It felt like an outpouring of the soul. Some might interpret it as a leaving speech, others an outpouring of the soul. Either way, kudos to Lothar Matthäus for helping make that possible by being respectful and open with Flick.
On the game:
"I think in the first leg in Munich we scored too few. The third goal we conceded was one too many. 2-2 would have bene enough."
"I was hoping we might strike late. Leroy had that chance at the end and perhaps he should have gone alone rather than decided to cross the ball low."
A healthy dose of sarcasm when asked whether he had decided his future yet:
"Yes, I've just decided. We just went out in the quarterfinal..."
And then the outpouring:
"My relationship with 'Brazzo' (sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic) is stable. Nothing will change that. He has his job, I have mine. I will keep doing as I have done all season, which is why everything is stable.
I don't have an appointment. If Oliver (Kahn) wants to talk to me then he can gladly do it. I don't know what he will want to talk about.
"The last few weeks in terms of the media were not that easy. I never had anything new to say so I think you have to respect a coach when he says he doesn't want to talk about these things anymore. I have a contract with Bayern but you always have thoughts about how the future looks and if everything is working wonderfully here.
Whether I'm at the DFB is irrelevant for my family. Whatever decision I make, they will support me. Having them behind me is a great feeling. I love the job and I can't imagine doing anything other than coaching.
It's all about development the team. That is immensely important for me. I'm always thinking about that, success is a constant process. With the six titles we won, we have set an incredible benchmark. Whether at the DFB or Bayern, the pressure is huge."
Hansi Flick's Bayern Munich are out of both cup competitions now, although they look set to win a ninth straight Bundesliga title. One stat of note, they had 13 shots tonight compared to 31 in the first leg. Perhaps the game was lost there?
Manuel Neuer thinks so too. He tells Sky:
"The 1-0 result is deserved, but the result in Munich needed to be better. We wasted too many chances in the first game and perhaps conceded too many."
Meanwhile, in the PSG dressing room...
Perhaps that is an exaggeration but this game, in fact this entire tie has been fantastic from start to finish. Two sides playing exciting, risky football that allowed for quality to be on show throughout. Bayern's run may be over, but if you're going to go out then no better way to do it.
There was a moment when Leroy Sané might have won it for Bayern had he played a different ball in the box, but it was not to be. Bayern were very good tonight but just not good enough. Their Champions League defense comes to an end here in Paris tonight.
PSG break and surely the goal that ends it is here, but no Neuer slides out to clear the ball before PSG can get to it. End to end. Bayern desperate, so are PSG. Four minutes added time to come.
Di Maria walks off slowly. Ander Herrera replaces him. PSG just want to clear it now, and perhaps score a goal on the break that isn't offside.
Bayern get the ball in the box, it's bouncing around but then it's passed back to Müller. Is this the moment? No! It's blocked and either someone was offside or there was a foul. Really tense now.
It's all getting nervy as we enter the finale. Sané fires wide from the left. A chance there, albeit a half chance. Bayern push again, win a corner but before it can be taken Javi Martinez comes on up front to replace Choupo-Moting. Flick is all in now!
Mbappe breaks through behind the lines and finishes superbly, but is offside by the barest of margins. Wow. What a finish but what a moment in this tie. Bayern still alive.
Flick plays his joker, bringing Jamal Musiala on for Alphonso Davies. Alaba moves to left back. Musiala joins Kimmich in midfield, probably in a more attacking role. Psg bring on Moise Kean for Julian Draxler, who had a quiet night.
It is tight. Bayern are pushing for the second goal they need but PSG are just about holding on. The tackles are getting a little tougher. It feels a lot like the final in Lisbon last season. Can Coman be the hero again? Every minute of this has been fantastic.
Diallo cannot continue and as in the first leg, Mitchel Bakker makes an appearance off the bench.
PSG should have a goal. Di Maria's remarkably quick feet allow him to pull the ball across goal for an outstretched Neymar to convert into the empty net but it just misses his boot and Boateng clears coolly. Wow. Neymar has had some chances tonight.
Hansi Flick's side come out bursting for that second. Alaba fires wide from the edge of the box. Not five minutes played before Neymar has another chance but he fires over under pressure in the box. If xG (expected goals) is your thing, then check out Neymar's xG for the first half alone. Wow.
Catch your breath! What a half. Tight, tense, tactical and completely terrific. The match exploded when Neymar hit the woodwork three times in five minutes only for Bayern to go down the other end and take the lead. Bayern need just one to progress.
Incredible. Just as PSG's pressure couldn't be greater, Bayern take the lead. David Alaba gets a shot away from the left hand side of the box, Navas' save sends it into the air and Choupo-Moting rises highest to bungle it in somehow. Bayern are halfway there!
Neymar bamboozles Lucas Hernandez but Neuer and the post combine to keep out the Brazilian's shot. Bayern get the benefit of the doubt from the referee and then Neymar delivers more outrageous skill before curling an effort onto the bar. Not long after that, he hits the post after Mbappe squares it to him in the box. What a sequence!
Sané gets a chance to shoot on the edge of the box but gets it wrong. Should he have done better? Joshua Kimmich drills wide minutes later. Chances finally coming for Bayern, but then Neuer makes an incredible save to deny an unmarked Neymar in the box. What a game!
PSG looked stable but there have also been some antics. Di Maria gets a bang on the knee and is asked if he needs a doctor, he does but then two minutes later he is surging forward at the heart of a PSG counterattack that ends without a chance. Bayern plugging away but PSG's threat on the break remains.
A few neat twists and turns shows both Neymar's best and worst sides in the opening quarter of an hour. He made the difference in Munich. Will he do the same again in Paris?
Bayern have started aggressively here but have yet to fashion a real chance. Then Manuel Neuer has to make a huge save to deny Neymar in the box. Tense and tight, as you'd expect.
"In the box, I expect determination and absolute concentration in front of goal," Hansi Flick told Sky just before kick referring to Bayern's two goals from 31 shots in the first leg. Still can't believe they lost that game.
Bayern need two goals, at least, tonight to progress. Can they do it? It's a big ask but would you really write Bayern Munich off?
Leon Goretzka is not fit in time and so Bayern have to reshuffle. It looks like David Alaba will move into midfield. Kingsley Coman is fit though and starts.
Julian Draxler starts again for PSG, who are without captain Marquinhos (injured).
Bayern XI: Neuer - Davies, Boateng, Hernandez, Pavard - Kimmich, Alaba - Sané, Müller, Coman - Choupo-Moting
PSG XI: Navas - Diallo, Kimpembe, Pereira, Dagba - Gueye, Paredes - Di Maria, Neymar, Draxler - Mbappe
There might be no fans in attendance tonight, as has become the norm in the pandemic but PSG fans have made sure their players know they are being supported. A huge choreo reading "Allez Paris" is in the stands. Even if you don't speak French I think that one is pretty clear.
What a different game, tie even this would have been had Robert Lewandowski been fit. Bayern Munich's Polish striker sends his support from afar as he continues to work on his return to fitness. I don't know about you but do you think he really believes Bayern can win tonight?
The two bosses both had their press conferences yesterday. Hansi Flick lamented his side's profligacy in the first leg but said Lucas Hernandez, Jerome Boateng, Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman should all be available for at least some part of the match.
"We know we have to score at least two goals. It will be a tough task, but these are the games we play football for. We want to cause a mini upset in Paris. Of course, we'll be delighted if we manage that," he said.
Mauricio Pochettino labelled Bayern "the best team in Europe" and said that he considers them "favorites" despite the first leg. He called for unity from a squad who have crumbled at key moments in this competition in the past.
"I spoke about the collective attitude to keep the ball, but also the aptitude. We'll need both of those things tomorrow. Barça is in the past. Bayern is tomorrow's match, up against the best team in the world. It's obvious that a team such as there's will try to cause us problems. It's in such moments that we need to show strength, solidarity and solidity."
PSG brutally exposed Bayern Munich's defensive frailties in snowy Munich last week as precious away goals from Kylian Mbappe (x2) and Marquinhos left the Germans with a mountain to climb.
Bayern dominated proceedings for long periods, registering 31 shots to the Parisians' six, but without Robert Lewandowski (injured) and Serge Gnabry (Covid-19), only took two of their chances.
Headers from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Müller brought Bayern level at 2-2 before Mbappe scored his second of the game to put PSG in the driving seat.
Bayern will have to win by two clear goals at the Parc des Princes to progress, while a 3-2 win would lead to extra time.
Not good. Just like in the first leg, Bayern will be without top scorer and world player of the year Lewandowski — as well as Gnabry, who is still recovering from a coronavirus infection. Choupo-Moting is likely to start again up front, but he will have to be more clinical if Bayern are to have a chance.
And there are problems further back, too. Leon Goretzka faces a late fitness test which, should he fail, could see David Alaba move into midfield in his place, leaving another hole in defense.
Niklas Süle is already out; but Jerome Boateng should recover from a slight knee problem suffered against Union Berlin at the weekend. If not, Javi Martinez could be pressed into action in the back four.
Regardless of the personnel, Bayern have been noticeably vulnerable at the back this season, no more so than during the first leg against PSG.
"We didn't look great with the goals we conceded," lamented Thomas Müller post-match, referring to the high lines and sloppy marking which were ruthlessly exploited by Mbappe, Neymar, Julian Draxler and Angel di Maria.
Not that it's a new phenomenon. "Bayern have had defensive problems all year," said former defender Dietmar Hamann. "They've not been at 100% concentration all season."
Indeed, compared with the 2012-13 treble-winning season under Jupp Heynckes, when Bayern conceded an average of 0.6 goals per game, this season's average stands at 1.2. In other words: double.
"Irresistible, unstoppable, merciless."
That's how Monday's Kicker magazine described the phenomenon which is Kylian Mbappe — who, along with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, the magazine called "not of this world."
The Parisian scored goals number 26 and 27 in his 43rd Champions League appearance in Munich last week. Last month, on March 21, he already became the youngest player ever to reach 100 goals in France's Ligue 1, aged just 22 years and 91 days and having played just 142 games. He also has 16 goals in 42 games for his country, for whom he has already won the World Cup.
In this season's Champions League, no player runs with the ball more often that Mbappe, who averages a dribble every 14 minutes. And an incredible 62.7% of them are successful.
No wonder that the suitors are lining up for the forward, whose contract is up in 2022. "If he wants to be a truly world class footballer, then there can be no other club than Real Madrid," opined former German World Cup winner Lothar Matthäus, who believes Mbappe could be "the new Ronaldo" in the Spanish capital.
Then again, even Real may baulk at a likely asking price of €250 million ($297 million). Not that PSG, owned by the sovereign wealth fund of the state of Qatar, will want or need to sell. "We are confident that we will soon extend both Mbappe's and Neymar's contracts," sporting director Leonardo told Sky Italia last week.
"Next question." That's how Hansi Flick has been responding to reporters' questions about his future at Bayern Munich and his strained relationship with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic this week, with the head coach cutting an increasingly irritated figure.
The dispute is rooted in differences of opinion over transfers and squad planning going back to January 2020, with Flick and Salihamidzic not seeing eye-to-eye on various personnel issues, including the departure of Thiago Alcantara, failure to reach deals with David Alaba and Jerome Boateng, and the underwhelming recruitment of Bouna Sarr and Marc Roca.
Having won all six trophies on offer last season, Flick may feel he has nothing left to prove at Bayern, especially within a hierarchy in which he feels he doesn't have enough control. He wouldn't be out of a job for long, with the German FA (DFB) reportedly keen to install Flick as Joachim Löw's successor in charge of the national team.
"We are absoutely convinced that we want to work with both [Flick and Salihamidzic]," insisted Bayern president Herbert Hainer on Sky television on Sunday, attempting to play down the crisis behind the scenes.
But he wasn't fooling anyone, with one veteran reporter commenting: "FC Bayern have been more like the old FC Hollywood recently."