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Challenged at home, Bayern Munich’s season faces true test in Paris

Bayern Munich travel to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday knowing defeat in the tie will represent a failed season regardless of domestic triumphs.

After Saturday’s home defeat of Bochum, Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann cut a frustrated figure and looked anything but a coach who had just masterminded another week atop the Bundesliga table with a comfortable 3-0 home win. 

“There was too little movement” the 35-year-old said, promising “if we play like that on Tuesday, we won’t go any further (in the Champions League).”

Nagelsmann even threw a little warning to his starting XI on Saturday, saying his team “only got better after the 60th minute (when) the substitutions brought fresh momentum.”

“That’s when we earned the result, not before. We have to improve before Tuesday.

Battle of superclubs

The reality of the super-club era is that domestic success will matter little for Nagelsmann — just like his PSG counterpart Christophe Galtier.

Other managers have been shown the door at Bayern for less. 

Niko Kovac was fired the year after winning the league-cup double with the side still in Champions League contention— Bayern eventually lifted the trophy later that season under Hansi Flick.  

Even big-name European specialist Carlo Ancelotti was sacked by Bayern after the club lost 3-0 away at PSG in 2017 — and that was in the group stages. 

Despite romping to their 10th-straight title in 2021-22 Bayern’s season was viewed internally as a failure due to the shock Champions League quarter-final elimination at the hands of Villarreal. 

Nagelsmann, then in his first season at Bayern, may have escaped most of the blame, but the situation will be different should the side be eliminated at the round of 16 stage this time, regardless of the quality of the opposition. 

Bayern have struggled since the resumption of the league after the winter break as three successive 1-1 draws allowed surprise challengers Union Berlin to cut their lead atop the league table to one point.

However, Nagelsmann has maintained a steadfast focus on their French opponents.  

When PSG announced Kylian Mbappe could miss the first leg after the star striker went down with injury, an unusually testy Nagelsmann accused the French champions of mind games.

“What it says on the (PSG) website is vague. If it’s not a structural injury, I can’t imagine him missing the game. I’m preparing for the match as if he is going to play,” he said.

‘It’s finally time’

Nagelsmann’s players have talked a different game ahead of the crucial clash by expressing their enthusiasm for the tie and doubling down on Bayern’s European pedigree. 

Midfielder Leon Goretzka said he was glad the wait to face PSG was over. 

“We’ve been buzzing since the release of the draw… all of Europe is hot for this game (and) now it’s finally time.”

Two-time Champions League winner Thomas Mueller backed his side “to show up, to be there”.

“When the tension rises, that’s when it matters.”

Former Man City winger Leroy Sane said his side would not be overawed by the “big names in their ranks”, saying simply “we know what to do”.

“I am always optimistic. Bayern has always delivered in this competition. 

“We know our strengths and we have to call on them. Our team consists of great footballers. We are defensively stable and up front it’s all about one thing – attack.”

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