Half-time: Leipzig 0-2 PSG
Leipzig have been nonplussed by the French champions. They need to come up with a Plan B. They have played with the fearful knowledge that they could be slaughtered if they attack with too much gusto, but their running out of options. It’s going to take something extraordinary to prevent PSG reaching the Champions League final for the first time. They’ll get there in style if the second half continues like the first.
45+2 min: Kimpembe booked for blocking Poulsen’s run after the forward flipped the ball past him and tried to chase it. Can Leipzig us the freekick to give themselves a lifeline just before ht break? No.
45+1 min: This is like a Ligue 1 game. PSG are in total control.
44 min: Mbappé in the right-hand side of the box. He waits for Neymar to arrive at speed in the middle and then rolls the ball into his path. Neymar hits it on the run … just wide of the near post!
GOAL! Leipzig 0-2 PSG (Di Maria 42)
Leipzig self-destruct! Their goalkeeper tried to pick out a teammate 25 yards out but instead gifted possession to PSG. When a pass was pinged towards Neymar in the box, the Brazilian showed wonderful skill and awareness to flick it over to Di Maria near the penalty spot. Di Maria took one touch to control it and then slid a shot under the embarrassed Gulasci. PSG have one foot in their first ever Champions League final!
41 min: PSG are a class above at the moment. Leipzig can’t get the ball off them, and the German side are still wary of committing too keenly to the press, lest PSG surge into the spaces they leave behind them.
38 min: Neymar skins Klostermann and surges into the box … until Mukiele comes to the rescue for Leipzig.
37 min: PSG do as they please with the ball for a spell. Then Silva aims a long pass towards Mbappé, who can’t take it down in the box.
35 min: Kehrer accelerates past Nkunku down the right and is then tripped. Freekick to PSG in a useful crossing position. Neymar spots that the goalkeeper is anticipating exactly that – so instead of crossing, he fizzes a wicked curler towards the near post. The keeper’s in a panic! Fortunately for him, it hits the outside of the upright and bounces wide!
32 min: PSG look supremely comfortable at the moment. This is not a great advertisement for energy drinks.
30 min: Leipzig are not pressing when PSG play the ball around the back. That suits PSG fine. They’ll dink it about for as long as they please. The onus is on Leipzig to come get it but they don’t want to open themselves up too often just yet.
28 min: PSG engage in another bout of ball-keeping. Eventually they work it wide to Kehrer on the right. He shakes his cross wide.
26 min: Olmo drops an inviting ball over the top for Lalmer to chase. He does well to force his way into the right hand side of the box and then pulls the ball back for Poulsen … who lashes a shot just wide!
24 min: Angeino flights a dangerous corner towards the back post. Poulsen leaps between Marquinhos and Kehrer but can’t get a clean connection.
23 min: Freekick to Leipzig in a dangerous position just outside the D and a little to the left after Kimpembe trips Olmo. Sabitzer opens fire … but it hits Silva in the wall and flies out for a corner.
21 min: A promising Leipzig attacks breaks down when Olmo mislays a pass.
19 min: Silva is receiving treatment in the PSG goalmouth after banging into Sabitzer at a corner.
17 min: Leipzig are in danger of being blown away. Herrera spots a clever run by Mbappé and slips a dainty pass through to him. The striker shoots first time from eight yards but the keeper closed him down well and made a fine save.
15 min: It’s not quite cruise control but PSG are looking comfortable. They’ve been knocking the ball around since the goal, and Leipzig can do nothing about it. They’ve been uncharacteristically passive so far.
GOAL! Leipzig 0-1 PSG (Marquinhos 13)
Neymar is taken down by Lalmer after a short corner. Freekick to PSG near the left-hand angle of the Leipzig box. Di Maria curls in a delicious delivery. Marquinhos runs on to it in blissful freedom and jumps to glance a header into the bottom corner from six yards. It’s the perfect start for PSG!
11 min: Di Maria delivers an outswinging corner from the left. Marquinhos meets it about 10 yards out, and his header takes a deflection on its way wide.
10 min: Mukiele halts a run down the left by Bernat with a strong and precise sliding tackle.
9 min: Sabitzer tries his luck from long range. He meets the first criteria by getting his shot on target but it never looked likely to bother Rico, who welcomes the chance to ease himself into the game.
7 min: Trouble in the Leipzig box again as Kulacsi has a kick charged down by Neymar. The ball spins loose to Mbappé in front of goal! But the referee blows for handball, having spotted that it was Neymar’s arm that blocked the kick.
6 min: Oh my! Neymar is put clean through by Mbappe. Dashing into the left-hand side of the box, the Brazilian pokes the ball past the advancing keeper … and just past the post! It’s a bad miss!
4 min: Leipzig threaten for the first time. Upemeanco sprays a nice ball wide to Olmo, who feeds a low pass from the right to Nkunku. THe former PSG forward turns on the edge of the area and fires off a shot but it loses power after being deflected off a defender. And Nkunku was offside anyway, it transpires.
2 min: Silva tries a long high ball from inside his own half towards Mbappé at the edge of the opposing area. The keeper strides off his line to make a comfortable catch.
1 min: Leipzig v PSG is go! The Parisians take kickoff and begin stroking the ball around until Herrera is pestered into ceding possession after 26 seconds.
The teams saunter out on to the pitch, one by one. Leipzig go first, since they’ve been designated as the home team for the purpose of formalities. Now both sides stand to solemnly observe the official Champions League jingle. That never stops being farcical.
By the way, you might not be aware that next season’s Champions League has already begun: and Celtic have just taken the lead in their preliminary round tie against Icelandic opponents.
“I fancy a Leipzig upset here with the news that Gueye is out,” hollers Patrick Wills. “He’s provided pace, aggression and defensive nous to a PSG team that was top heavy in recent years and has performed brilliantly in the competition thus far, winning the ball in key areas and allowing Neymar, Di Maria, Mbappe to flood forward at will. Paredes and Herrera are both solid players but a little one paced, they’re at risk of getting overrun by a very slick Leipzig team if the Parisians’ star front three doesn’t click (always a massive if, of course). Tuchel v Nagelsmann should be a cracking tactical battle on the sidelines accordingly. Can’t wait.” I agree the midfield battle will be interesting but am not convinced Gueye will be as badly missed as all that; he’s really only two top games in this tournament so far (one v Madrid, one v Dortmund) and wasn’t so hot against Atalanta. Also, Paredes, while not as dynamic as top-form Gueye, is a better passer. Verratti is the really punishing absence from PSG’s midfield.
“Leipzig was the centre of the East German uprising in 1989 but fell into a ruinous state after reunification despite its proud historical traditions of music (Bach and the Gewandhaus orchestra) so even the team symbolises a renewal of pride in a city searching for an identity,” writes Nigel Moore.
“Forget the PSG or Leipzig line,” bawls Phil Thorp. “It’s two bald blokes fighting over a comb. Whoever wins will have their arse handed to them by Bayern on Sunday night.” You say that, but Bayern played Leipzig twice in the Bundesliga this season and couldn’t beat them either time. Unlike Lyon, incidentally, who took four points off Leipzig in this tournament’s group stages and are facing Bayern tomorrow …
“This is a genuine enquiry for yourself or any Eurofooty boffins who might be following,” begins Stephen Carr. “In terms of PR, public image and the like, what line do PSG and Leipzig take? We’ve seen the ‘anti-establishment’ narrative City have taken – especially recently in the CAS appeal – and I was wondering how these other two nouveaux riches upstarts went about their business?” PSG are going for the glamour vote: watching a PSG game is supposed to satisfy the same yearning as being court-side at a Lakers game or mentioned in a Kardashian tweet. Leipzig fancy themselves as the savvy young whizzes who have the money they need to strut their stuff with style. That’s about the gist of it, I think. Up to you whether you buy it or not.
This is Neymar’s time to shine
The Brazilian left Barcelona to step out of Lionel Messi’s shadow, they said. Well, Messi made a laughable spectacle of himself the other night and is now back with his fellow entertainers at the Nou Camp circus. Neymar, meanwhile, looks to have been given a free role by PSG today: he has been brilliant form, combining his skills and imagination with a mighty team ethic: the game is his for his taking: will he seize the moment?
“With RB Leipzig’s youthful fizzy pop-fuelled vitality and Paris Saint Germain’s petrodollar-driven impatience to win the Champions League, this match feels like a football version of the soap opera The Young and the Restless,” announces Peter Oh. “Cue passion, ego, betrayal, lust, pomp, glitter, revenge, and a crying scene.” I’d ask you to elaborate on the lust and glitter but perhaps this is not the place.
Leipzig make one change to the lineup that started their semi-final win over Atletico Madrid – and it’s to bring in another Frenchman: defender Nordi Mukiele joins his compatriots Upemeacno and Nkunku in the side that will attempt to take down PSG. As noted here by a man of taste and wisdom, what a scrumptious irony it would be if, after years of domination in Ligue 1, PSG were dumped out of Europe by French opponents.
As for PSG, they were never going to leave out Mbappé – but can he last the whole match? Di Maria comes back into the side, too, as Icardi drops to the bench. Paredes replaces the injured Gueye.
Leipzig: Gulacsi; Mukiele, Upamecano, Klostermann; Lalmer, Sabitzer, Kampl, Angelino; Nkunku, Poulsen, Olmo
Subs: Mvogo, Tschauner, Orban, Haidara, Forsberg, Lookman, Adams, Schick, Hasltenberg, Ramos, Borkowski, Wosz
PSG: Rico; Kehrer, Kimpembe, Silva, Bernat; Marquinhos, Paredes, Herrera; Neymar; Di Maria, Mbappé
Subs: Bulka, Innocent, Choupo-Moting, Icardi, Sarabia, Kurzawa, Diallo, Draxler, Gueye, Dagba
Referee: B Kuipers (Ned)
Hello and welcome. We’re going to have a new Champions League finalist this year but which one of these teams will it be?
Paris Saint-Germain have been trying to get there for a heck of a long time: they made it to the semi-final once before but it’s taken them a record 25 years to reach the last four again despite gigantic investment from Qatar since 2011. It looked like their campaign was going to end in tears and opponents’ laughter again when they fell behind to Atalanta in the last round but a late two-goal salvo suggested they are not going to go down easily this time. And they have even more firepower available to them now thanks to the return from suspension of Angel Di Maria and the readiness of Kylian Mbappé to start. PSG have scored in 33 consecutive Champions League matches and there’s no reason to expect them to stop now.
But can they keep out Leipzig? That’s the big question, especially since the injury to PSG’s first-choice keeper, Keylor Navas. Leipzig are a young and slick team committed to attack. With exciting talents throughout their side – such as the 21-year-old French centreback Dayot Upamecano and the Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer –, they certainly have the potential to blast their way into the final just 11 years after their club’s formation. To do that just after selling Timo Werner to Chelsea would be quite a thing and would possibly make PSG rethink their whole model, or just lie down and softly weep.
It’s up for grabs now. Bring on the goalfest.