Bayern Munich represent arguably the toughest possible opponent, particularly for PSG, who few would say are blessed with an impregnable defence.
Yet, as Lyon and Barcelona – despite their respective defeats – proved in the previous two rounds, Bayern’s set-up can allow for opportunities on the counter and that could play into PSG’s hands.
With Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe in fine form and unplayable on their day, it seems unlikely PSG won’t get chances.
While the former pair’s dazzling abilities on the ball can unlock space, Mbappe’s pace could be vital in potentially exposing Jerome Boateng.
The 21-year-old is already among the elite, and that suggests a frightening future lies in wait for Mbappe and PSG – but can they begin forging a legacy this weekend?
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) August 18, 2020
In esteemed company
Mbappe’s meteoric rise is seriously impressive – he may only be 21, but he’s already managed 34 appearances in the Champions League.
While many of the world’s greatest players might have taken a little while to find their feet at the elite level when they were youngsters, it’s difficult to claim this has been the case for Mbappe.
In those 34 matches, he’s already got 19 goals and 13 assists, meaning he’s averaging a goal involvement almost every single game.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way in this metric with 47 goal involvements. Robert Lewandowski follows on 43, Lionel Messi has 42 and Neymar is on 35.
Mbappe is next on the list despite these very much being his formative years – assuming he carries on this trajectory, all of the records could be there for the taking.
ONE STEP TO MAKE HISTORY… pic.twitter.com/Itq4Nupymi
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) August 18, 2020
When you take a look at Mbappe’s statistical breakdown for each of his four seasons in the Champions League, there do not appear to be huge changes.
In his first season with Monaco he netted six goals – though didn’t get any assists – before following up with hauls of four, four and five in the following three seasons.
That record of five is of course from nine games in the current season, and he could yet increase that.
The main change from his earliest days has been with respect to chance creation.
In 2018-19 and 2019-20, Mbappe set up five goals in the Champions League, having assisted three the season before.
Similarly, after laying on just six chances at Monaco, that figure increased to 14, then to 16 and stands at 11 so far this term.
This certainly isn’t unexpected – after all, Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco side were at their most devastating on the break, whereas PSG – with whom he has often had to play wide of Edinson Cavani or Mauro Icardi – tend to dominate possession, which in turn generally leads to more opportunities.
In 2008, my parents saved up for a quarter to offer me the first edition of the Mercurial Pink Panther worn by the great @FranckRiberyNow in 2020 I will be wearing the new version at the Champions League final. @NikeFootball pic.twitter.com/AVy53NbKDl
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) August 21, 2020
More than just explosive pace
If there’s one element of Mbappe’s game that gets more attention than anything else, it’s surely his pace.
Of course, the France star is exceptionally fast – but arguably an underrated part of his skillset is Mbappe’s dribbling.
While he may not be at Neymar’s level (either in terms of frequency or take-on success), Mbappe’s ability on the ball makes him an especially dangerous weapon when leading the line.
This season he has attempted 5.3 dribbles per game across all competitions, completing 48 per cent of those. In the Champions League, he tries 4.3 per 90 minutes, coming out on top 2.2 times every game, a little over 50 per cent.
For both metrics he measures better than the likes of Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Harry Kane, Karim Benzema, Sergio Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Champions League since the start of 2016-17.
Defenders like Alphonso Davies and David Alaba could prove an altogether tougher test on Sunday, given the Canadian’s pace and recovery skills, and the Austrian’s anticipation combined with somewhat rare speed for a centre-back.
But a match-influencing performance from Mbappe will prove he’s already among the Champions League’s most-feared forwards, and could yet become the very best.
Published 22 Aug 2020, 12:30 IST