We witnessed it all in the Quarter finals. And judging by what we have seen so far, the semifinals will be nothing short of spectacular and a tactical geek's paradise. So first up we have two tactically sophisticated powerhouses that have been impressive all season.
While PSG won Ligue 1 in a convincing fashion, Leipzig came up short domestically. Leagues extending to a whole season tend to be tough and take alot out of the team both physically and mentally. Ligue 1 was a foregone conclusion even before the COVID 19 pandemic while Bundesliga still had to be decided after the break. For all their efforts, Nagelsmann and his side looked slow after the break. Momentum seemed to have been lost. They had too many draws that led to them loosing the chase. Bayern were just a bit too consistent.
But this is a tournament. Preparations for a tournament are different. Knockout rounds can be a lottery sometimes and when you have a European club competition amended into a one match World Cup style format, any team on their day can win or loose a game at any given time. And that's been the case with Pep's Manchester City and Simeone's Atletico Madrid. The latter having lost to an absolute dominant performance from Nagelsmanns side
For RB Leipzig, the Champions League offered a path to redemption. But more than that, a path to glory that has been on a fast forward track ever since Red Bull took the club under their wing. Their rise to the top has been unstoppable and the titles seemingly inevitable. So will they be able to beat a vibrant PSG side trained by another German?
Ever since his appointment Thomas Tuchel has been very methodical in his approach to the dressing room, the players and every game they have played. The initial months had been tough but Tuchel's been able to make sure every player understood his philosophy. And it's finally showing. PSG have never looked so determined.
Their biggest example was the manner in which they won against Atalanta. Neymar, a player who's always injured in the big games, not serious enough with his discipline... came to life and demonstrated physical and mental resillience. They missed Verratti but that didn't matter. Neymar did the job. In the end their perseverance paid off dividends. PSG won the quarter final. This is their first appearance in the semifinal and all credit goes to their coach.
Tuchel will again be missing a few key players. Keylor Navas and Verratti's absences leave a big gap against a side that is moves faster in transition with the ball through the middle of the park. But Kylian Mbappe will be fit. And Tuchel will most definitely use his pace around the flanks where his side will find gaps on the counter. He'll be playing a modified 4-3-3 allowing Neymar the freedom to roam and create chances. It's a fluid system.
Nagelsmann likes twisting his tactics during the match. His Leipzig side were switching between 3-3-3-1 and a 4-2-3-1 time and again against Atletico Madrid. But the most important aspect of that system was how the players knew their duty at every moment. It's arguably the most fluid system in Europe and we'll have another glimpse of that fluidity on show in the semi final.
This match has the makings of a classic. We have stars on display. We have top level team work. This could go all the way. Having said that, this is also a game where the first goal might not matter much. Its a game of goals.
Tuchel will be missing Keylor Navas and Verratti and that could work in Leipzigs favor. PSG dominated possession against Atalanta but it could be the other way around this time. Leipzig will control most of the game but it depends on whether they can finish their chances and take it to the next level. This will be close.
Prediction: 3-2 extra time win for RB Leipzig.