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Champions League focus on Messi and Mbappé


Last week, during the Club World Cup, which Bayern ended up winning, I felt a certain nostalgia for our recent triumphs. It was Real Madrid most years, and when it wasn’t it was Barcelona. It’s a tournament that’s not worth much in itself, because it’s taken for granted that that the best team in the world is the winner of the Champions League, but it serves to ratify this superiority with an official title and we saw it as a decent trophy to pick up and easy to win. But Spain weren’t represented this year and the bookies don’t see us heading back any time soon. The odds are 4-1 for City and Bayern, 9 for Liverpool, 13 for PSG and Juventus… Atlético and Barcelona are at 15, Madrid at 17 and Sevilla out at 41.

Champions League returns: Barcelona vs PSG

That’s how things look with the return of the Champions League with a stellar clash to get us excited. PSG visit Barça for the biggest game of the day. When the draw was made, Barça were looking dire and we gave them little hope. Things are different now. Although, they’re lacking Ansu Fati, they’ve improved up front a great deal, starting with Messi’s humour - he finally got bored of being angry. We don’t know anything about his future, but plenty about his present, which is splendid. Around him the Barcelona attacking line has flourished. They play well together, they seek each other out, they hug each other with childlike glee after every goal. The group are giving off an awesome vibe.

All eyes on Messi and Mbappé

That said: they gift a goal per game, minimum. Piqué’s doing his best to return to the action, but until he does it won’t be the same. Araújo is out. That Barça are flimsy at the back may not be quite as serious given Neymar and Di María are out, but flimsy they are. It’s well known what a disaster it can be to lose goals at home in games like this. PSG’s attack will be led, of course, by Mbappé, who’s here (like Neymar before him) to claim the throne shared for all these years by Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, but, like Neymar before, he’s struggling on the road to lifting the crown. We’ll see if he’s compared to Messi today. I think it’ll be difficult. The whole world’s eyes are on these two.