Paris: Kylian Mbappe heads to Munich fresh from a record-breaking weekend with Paris Saint-Germain and determined to lead the French giants past Bayern and into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
PSG trail 1-0 from the first leg of the heavyweight last-16 tie, after injury reduced Mbappe to a cameo appearance off the bench in that match last month.
Yet the 24-year-old France superstar did enough in his short time on the pitch then -– including having a goal disallowed for a marginal offside — to make it clear that he can swing the tie the Parisians’ way.
Since that game, the Ligue 1 leaders have recovered from a worrying slump in form to claim three straight domestic wins, scoring 11 goals in the process.
Mbappe has netted five of them, including one in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Nantes that saw him overtake Edinson Cavani and become PSG’s all-time top scorer, five and a half years after signing from Monaco in 2017.
The player who in December became the first to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final since Geoff Hurst in 1966, boasts the remarkable record of 201 goals from 247 games in a PSG shirt.
‘Leave a mark’
“Every player plays to leave a mark and so that his name goes down in football history, to not be forgotten. I think with this record that people will remember me here,” Mbappe said after being awarded a trophy by PSG in a lavish on-field presentation before an adoring crowd.
Mbappe has 30 goals in 30 games for his club this season and has a strong claim to be the best player in the world right now, even if Lionel Messi recently pipped him to win The Best FIFA men’s player award.
Messi, with 18 goals himself for PSG this season, is mainly there to serve Mbappe in Christophe Galtier’s side, for whom the absence of Neymar due to injury in Munich — and for several more months — may not matter.
Going out of the Champions League in the first knockout round for what would be the fifth time in seven seasons really would matter for PSG and their Qatari owners, however.
They lost to Bayern in Lisbon in their only appearance to date in the final, in 2020, but one of the defining performances of Mbappe’s time with PSG so far came in Munich the following year.
It was a snowy night in April 2021 when Mbappe netted twice in a 3-2 quarter-final first-leg win over Bayern in an empty Allianz Arena.
He opened the scoring as Paris went 2-0 up. Bayern pulled themselves back level only for Mbappe to score a superb winner, shaping to curl one towards the far corner only to smash his shot past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer at his near post.
“My mind is already on Wednesday’s match. We are going to Munich with the clear aim of qualifying,” Mbappe said on Saturday before playing down suggestions a PSG exit would precipitate his departure from the club.
“I don’t think this match will have an impact. If I linked my future to the Champions League, without wishing to show a lack of respect to the club, I would have left a long time ago.
“I am here and I am very happy to be here. I am not thinking about anything other than making PSG successful.”
PSG may need Mbappe’s goals more than ever in Bavaria because coach Galtier does not have his defensive problems to seek.
His side have looked their best this season when playing with three centre-backs, but the coach’s options in that sector have been limited by the loss of Presnel Kimpembe for the rest of the campaign with an achilles injury.
Captain Marquinhos came off at the weekend with a rib injury, while Nordi Mukiele was also forced off.
🎙🗣 INTERVIEW: Lionel Messi
From his World Cup win to the matches ahead with Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi looks back on this season with fulfilment!
Check out the full interview ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/lSjOcXU9Zy
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) March 6, 2023
The former, whose mobility is so important to a defence also featuring an ageing Sergio Ramos, is expected to play even if not fully fit.
Mukiele’s presence would be useful too, although Achraf Hakimi may return at right-back less than a week after being charged with rape.
PSG have said they are supporting the Moroccan while the case is investigated, and the legal proceedings do not stop the player from leaving France.
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