Bayern Munich hosts Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, and star players who joined the team in 2022-23, Sadio Mane and Matteis de Ligt, enter the arena.
With Bayern having won ten consecutive league titles, the two big-name summer recruits were brought to Munich mostly with the expectation of European nights.
Bayern returns to the Allianz Arena with a 1-0 lead after former PSG striker Kingsley Coman’s second-half goal at the Parc de Prince in the first leg, the same score and author of the goal in the 2019-20 Champions League final.
Bayern need only avoid defeat to secure a quarterfinal appearance.
But like PSG boss Christophe Galtier, Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann is well aware that defeat will leave a burn that the home championship results cannot wash away.
Nagelsmann said this after his team’s victory over Stuttgart on Saturday, saying that he hoped that it is not the result but the manner and style of our play (against PSG) that is how the season will be perceived.
The Bavarian capital will not tolerate early departures from Europe, regardless of the quality of the opponent.
In the last ten years, Bayern have been eliminated from the tournament only once before reaching the quarterfinals, in a decade in which they have won the European Cup twice.
That defeat came against eventual champions Liverpool in 2018-19, and despite winning the league and cup that season, that defeat ultimately proved fatal for then-manager Niko Kovac.
Mane’s midweek pedigree
After Bayern’s 2-1 win over Stuttgart on Saturday, Nagelsmann closed the locker room door to deliver a speech, reminding his team of the task ahead in the match against the Parisians.
I told them that we have a very important game on Wednesday and that we must bring our intensity, the 35-year-old manager told German TV channel Sky.
They are hard to beat, they are one of the best teams in Europe.
The key to this intensity and focus will be Mane, who has a habit of performing on the European stage, including scoring the decisive goal for Liverpool at the Allianz Arena that helped Bayern avoid defeat.
Mane moved from Liverpool to Munich in the summer of 2022, taking part in three of the last five Champions League finals, winning one and scoring in the other.
The striker will take the field for the first time in four months on Wednesday as he continues his comeback from the leg injury that knocked him out of Senegal’s World Cup squad.
Mane has been on the bench twice in the league since recovering from injury and, despite looking sharp, has yet to regain his best form.
It’s okay that he needs a little more rhythm, Nagelsmann said Saturday after Mane came off the bench for 30 minutes.
We’ll wait and see on Wednesday if he gets in the starting lineup.
De Ligt is focused
Behind Mane in the center of defense is de Ligt, who is tasked with shutting down PSG’s strike duo of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
After transferring from Juventus, de Ligt took a little longer than Mane to establish himself in Munich, first coming off the bench.
However, the ACL injury suffered by France star Lucas Hernandez in Qatar in November gave de Ligt an opportunity that he grabbed with both hands.
De Ligt played perhaps his best game for Bayern against Stuttgart on Saturday, knocking a goal off the line and then scoring his own at the other end of the field in a furious two-minute period.
Even though news emerged that Neymar would miss the match, the Dutch defender said Saturday that Bayern would have a tough time against the dangerous duo of Mbappe and Messi.
They are two very good strikers. It will be very difficult, de Ligt told German news agency SID.
We have to play at the highest level and be extremely focused.